Everything goes to hell in Catherine’s life and work in the season finale of Happy Valley. Hang on for the ride! There are spoilers everywhere.
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) was asked to tell Nevison (George Costigan) about Ann’s rape. She does. She also tells him that nobody knows where Lewis and Tommy (James Norton) are.
Kevin is in prison. Ashley is free. Ashley is shot during a traffic stop by a person on a motorcycle who speeds away. Presumably this murder is done by one of the drug dealers up the line that Ashley ratted on.
Tommy abandoned the apartment with its two dead bodies and broke into a narrow boat sitting on the canal. His stab wound isn’t healing and he’s in bad shape. He follows Catherine and Ryan (Rhys Connah) around all the time and sees where they live.
Clare (Siobhan Finneran) is planning a birthday party for Catherine. The Gallaghers are to be invited. Clare talks to Catherine’s son Daniel (Karl Davies) about whether or not he thinks she should invite his dad and his dad’s new wife Ros. She makes the huge mistake of telling Daniel that Catherine and Daniel spent a couple of nights together recently.
The birthday party is a disaster. Daniel drinks too much and confronts his father about being with his mother. He curses Ryan and calls him the thing that shouldn’t be.
He blames Becky for her own problems because she was no good and because she liked Tommy and hung around with him. He confronts his mother for things she said right after Becky’s death and claims that she feels guilt, not grief, over Becky’s death. After he’s spewed 8 years of resentments all over the party, everyone leaves.
Catherine winds up her birthday by having a fight with Clare. The finishing touch.
The next day Catherine reports back to work. She’s demanding with her superior officers about things they have not done as part of the investigation and hunt for Tommy Lee Royce. She has a long list of things that should be done. They promise to get them done. After a few more days of inaction and frustration, Catherine actually turns in her badge and quits.
A mailman reports a smell in an apartment building and the police find the two murdered guys Tommy left to rot.
Big mistake number 2 for this episode is that Catherine and Clare decide that Ryan will be allowed to ride his bike to school.
The moment Tommy sees Ryan without Catherine around he approaches him. Ryan says, “I’ve never had a dad.” He follows Tommy to the boat. They talk about going for a ride as soon as Tommy gets some petrol. Tommy makes Ryan promise not to tell. Ryan asks to come back the next day.
The next day Ryan shows up at the boat with a friend. When Tommy gets angry that he told, Ryan says, “He didn’t believe me when I told him I had a dad.”
Day number 3 of knowing where his dad is sees Ryan return alone to the boat.
Tommy, who is feverish and sick looking, shows Ryan a container of petrol. He tells Ryan it’s time for him to go and he wants to take Ryan with him. He doesn’t want to leave Ryan with his granny – that’s no fate for a lad of his. He’s talking in cloaked language but he intends to kill himself and he’s going to kill Ryan at the same time.
Tommy won’t let Ryan go home. The crazy conversation beside the container of gasoline drags on for so long that Clare calls Catherine about Ryan being late. She learned from Ryan’s friend that he’s been visiting his dad down at the canal. Catherine rushes toward the canal, calling for all sorts of backup and help. Clare rushes to the canal as well. They arrive first. Clare holds Catherine back from charging into the boat until backup arrives.
Ryan is finally starting to realize his dad is up to something bad. His fear shows in his eyes and he wants to get away. Tommy grabs him and pours gasoline over them both. When Ryan screams, Catherine runs in.
Catherine is able to overpower Tommy. Ryan runs. Catherine throws Tommy down and kicks him repeatedly. He begs her to kill him. Instead she foams him with a fire extinguisher and kicks him a couple more good ones. The backup arrives and Tommy is carted away.
Catherine takes her badge and her sergeant’s stripes back when they are offered.
Catherine and Daniel talk, apologize, make up. There is hope for their relationship to heal.
The final scene is lovely. Swelling music, Catherine alone on a hilltop with the wind and the sun. She’s finally free to just breathe, be whole.
The last scene might have been less final feeling, less of a conclusion to Catherine’s story, had the writer and the cast and crew known that Happy Valley would get renewed for another season. But they didn’t, so what we got was more like a happy ending than the usual cliffhanger that takes you into the next season with anticipation. No matter – Catherine is a great character and I’m thrilled she will be back.
I love the fire extinguisher foaming by Catherine taking us into the first episode and taking us out of the 6th episode. Nice detail.
Sarah Lancashire and Siobhan Finneran are exceptional together. I hope both sisters return for season 2. Catherine without Clare wouldn’t be the same. Having Clare gives Catherine a place to be human, vulnerable, normal. I know Siobhan Finneran is busy with other shows and Sarah Lancashire is busy with Last Tango in Halifax, so I hope the scheduling can all click. Strange as it seems to an American that a full season of a British show is only 5 or 6 episodes, it does have the advantage of enabling the actors to make quite a few different shows in a year’s time.
I want to offer kudos to James Norton on his great performance as a truly evil man. I’m glad there are actors who willingly take the parts they know will make the audience hate them. On the other hand, it’s wonderful to see someone we loved to hate elsewhere, like Siobhan Finneran’s Mrs. O’Brien on Downton Abbey, show up here in a much more likeable role.
This drama was powerful and visceral and real. Congratulations to all the people involved in making it extraordinary. And thank you to Netflix for bringing it to American audiences.
All images from Happy Valley © Red Production Co.