Happy Valley Season 3 Review 2023 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
It’s been over seven years since we first watched Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) list off the details that make her seemingly ordinary life extraordinary to a drug addict having a bad trip in a public playground. Since then, we’ve watched her battle both her own demons and the criminals that put the peace of her small town in West Yorkshire in jeopardy. We’ve stayed along as she comes head to head with the vicious man who she deems solely responsible for her daughter’s suicide, and through it all, we have remained in awe of just how brilliant Happy Valley continues to be.
There was only a year and a half between the events of the first and second seasons, although that didn’t stop the plot from offering plenty of character development for both the main and supporting cast. In Season 2, Catherine still doesn’t feel at ease despite putting away Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton) in prison. Her grandson Ryan (Rhys Connah) is getting more inquisitive about his father, and an obsessive fan of Royce’s infiltrates Ryan’s school to mend their relationship. But Season 3 is a different ballpark altogether, taking place seven years after the events of the second season. This was a conscious decision by production to allow Rhys Connah, the actor who plays Ryan, to grow into a teenager. Ryan is now 16, Catherine is coming up to her retirement, and life seems somewhat quiet. That is until a major betrayal from someone close to Catherine brings Tommy Lee Royce back into her life, much closer than ever before. We have the usual subplot of a seeming everyman getting himself into way more trouble than you would think possible for the Northern English suburbs. Familiar? Yes. Repetitive? Never in Sally Wainwright’s book.
These types of BBC or ITV detective procedurals are never the top titles called to mind when considering the best of TV. It’s always an HBO show set in the White House or amongst the mafia, with much greater stakes than a policewoman with a vengeance. But Sally Wainwright’s downright mastery pushes past all that. The stakes of Happy Valley have never been about the criminals that Catherine’s job puts her up against. It’s the emotional and personal spiderwebs that permeate this broken family, past, present, and even future. Catherine is still haunted by Becky’s death, she constantly questions what is right for Ryan, and is paralyzed by the fear that despite all her nurture, nature will ensure Ryan ends up like his father. It’s real, familial, human issues that, through a razer-sharp script and phenomenal acting, make it feel as though the entire world is on Catherine’s shoulders. And for that and so much more, Happy Valley is just as deserving of your time as The Sopranos or The West Wing.
Season 3 is entirely aware that its audience has been waiting for it, and it delivers on both that and as a farewell to these characters. Everyone is given their own traumas, and grievances, but also joys as the episodes unfold. Ryan is dealing with pressure from home, the prison where his father is, and school. His football coach’s (Mark Stanley) marriage is the basis for the everyman subplot, with a money-struggling pharmacist (Amit Shah) selling illegal pills to an abused housewife (Mollie Winnard) leading to a tragic end for the most undeserving of it. That’s what Happy Valley has always been about though. The world’s victims are always the people who least deserve it — nothing is fair here. The big-wig criminals remain on top while those struggling to get by are met by the ugliest threats and even ends. The source of light remains in Catherine’s sister, Clare (Siobhán Finneran), but we see a side to the character that the first two seasons kept shielded.
One of this season’s most interesting changes is the perspective of Tommy Lee Royce. In Seasons 1 and 2, you only view the story from the eyes of Catherine — and those are some disgusted, hateful, and vengeful eyes. Seven years later, the show makes the really interesting decision to move away from that and allow the audience the space to ponder this man’s morals for themselves. Do they make him out to be a victim? Absolutely not. But Happy Valley does let you ruminate about this man’s life, the choices he’s made, and how he got to where he is now. It’s a total change to what we’re used to, making Catherine and Tommy’s dynamic one of the most interesting in modern television.
As mentioned, there are two crucial things that put Happy Valley above a lot of shows: its script and its cast. Seven years on, the actors only get better. Finneran, as Clare, knows exactly what her character is needed for, but she also adds a welcome dose of nuance. Clare may seem like the gullible, clueless sister, but Finneran ensures that her character is so much more than that. James Norton, who has become nothing short of a star in the time since the show first began (he had a supporting role in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women and has lent his talents to other quality British series), keeps up with the script’s change of pace with Tommy. Again, he does not turn him into a misunderstood hero, but he does make it easy for the audience to question how much we really hate this character.
There is one performance that is one for the TV history books — and that is, to no one’s surprise, Sarah Lancashire. She inhabits this character with such ease it truly is hard to believe that it’s acting. Catherine is put on one of the most dizzying, devastating, and emotional rollercoasters in this season, and Lancashire hits every single note. Her usual cool, calm, collected demeanor when attempting to put a wiseass in his place is still on full display. But as she reckons with the choices she’s made in her life, we see a deeply human vulnerability.
We’re sometimes scared of Catherine, but Lancashire always makes sure that we remember that at the end of the day, she is just a mother, grandmother, and policewoman who is doing the very best she can. Without any spoilers, Lancashire and Norton finally get some screen time together again, and it makes for one of the most tense, compelling, and downright unmissable finales in TV history. Luckily, Lancashire is still on our screens as Julia Childs in Max’s series about the famed chef, Julia, which has been renewed for a second season.
Happy Valley may seem, on the surface, like a cozy British procedural to curl up with after a stressful day. If you didn’t already realize that isn’t the case from the first two seasons, Season 3 will make it clear. It’s a profound look at family, morality, and the harshness of life. We’ve waited seven years for it to arrive, and every single second was worth the wait.