It took seven years for the majestic third and final season of Happy Valley to air, but the wait was well worth it. This crime series is unlike any other, with elements of humor, bluntness, tenderness, and terror. It was so captivating that for six weeks, it brought back the idea of watching a show together as a collective audience. This added to the thrill and tension of the show. Sadly, this is most likely the last we will see of Catherine Cawood, but I can’t help but hope for an Indiana Jones-style adventure in the Himalayas. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic way to conclude the series.
After three installments, the intense battle between Sgt Cawood (played brilliantly by Sarah Lancashire) and Tommy Lee Royce (portrayed by James Norton), the man who had assaulted her daughter, finally came to a climactic end. There may have been some anxiety leading up to this moment. It is rare for shows to have endings that live up to the expectations of viewers, and there have been many disappointments in TV history, especially when the anticipation is high. As the final episode approached, viewers speculated on various possibilities for the outcome. Who would betray whom? Would Ryan take after his mother or his father? How would Catherine and Tommy sever ties for good?
In the end, the series defied some of the more extreme theories. There were no extraterrestrial beings in Calderdale, Ryan did not murder his father, and Clare did not sacrifice herself. The finale was dramatic but restrained, culminating in a confrontation at the kitchen table that severed Catherine and Tommy’s verbal connection. While there was a final burst of action, the fact that it was not the central focus is a testament to the exceptional writing and performances. “We had a bit of a scuffle,” Catherine casually remarked afterwards. “I won, obviously.”
Other plotlines were tied up nicely and justice was either served or on the brink of being served. In addition to getting rid of the “twat-faced bastard” and “wankatron” for good, the other villains in Happy Valley received their comeuppance. Hepworth, the abusive teacher, was caught with indecent images. Faisal, the pharmacist, looked like he would be caught for the murder of his neighbor, Joanna, who was also Hepworth’s wife. And the organized crime ring run by the Knezevics seemed to be falling apart. Good prevailed over evil, which was well-deserved after all these years.
There were many intense moments throughout the story. Tommy changed his appearance from resembling Jesus to that of a practical Outward Bound instructor, and his daring escape from custody was thrilling. However, Happy Valley truly shone in its quieter scenes. Catherine’s relationship with Ryan was complex and tense due to her knowledge of the dangerous Tommy Lee Royce. Even a small comment about the temperature of a portion of stew carried a great deal of emotional weight. When Ryan professed his love for Catherine and she responded with surprise, it was a raw and genuine moment. The acting, like the writing, was impeccable from beginning to end.
Typically, the standout moment did not occur during the main confrontation, but rather in an earlier encounter. In the second episode, Catherine followed her sister Clare (played by Siobhan Finneran) on what was supposed to be a trip to Leeds, but ended up being a visit to Sheffield where Tommy Lee Royce was incarcerated. As Catherine trailed her sister, we were subjected to nearly 10 minutes of intense discomfort and tension, almost unbearable, that was only interrupted by a phone call to a woman eating alone in a cafe. Clare struggles to deceive about her whereabouts while Catherine watches through the window as the ultimate betrayal unfolds before her. Both Finneran and Lancashire delivered exceptional performances. Who would have guessed that a simple “Hiya” could be considered one of the greatest lines in modern TV history? That’s just Sally Wainwright for you.