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  • Writer's picturePaul Gainey

Happy Valley

After spending six weeks glued to the TV every Sunday night as Sarah Lancashire's stunning performance made us both cry and crack up in quick succession, Happy Valley's third and final season came to a cathartic close at the weekend.

A firm frontrunner for best show of the year, Sally Wainwright's drama gave the universally-loved Catherine Cawood a fitting send-off, pushing Lancashire's acting range past its BAFTA-winning boundaries once again and giving the public one last showdown between the black-eyed bobby and the nation's most-hated nemesis, Tommy Lee Royce.

Having tied up the show's various loose-ends from its previous five gripping episodes, Happy Valley's last instalment has already become hallowed television to devout drama fans.

While Ryan getting to know his dad, Clare and Neil's betrayal of Catherine, and Tommy Lee Royce's criminal antics have been the driving narrative force of season 3, those intense scenes were regularly punctuated by the drama between recovering addict Joanna Hepworth (Mollie Winnard), her abusive, controlling husband Rob (Mark Stanley) and their pharmacist neighbour Faisal (Amit Shah), who was illegally supplying her with diazepam and starting to crack due to his growing criminal operation.

Despite being the cliffhanger of episode 3, which saw Faisal murder Joanna in a fit of rage and frame her violent husband for the crime, the side-story was resolved off-screen in a few lines of dialogue between Catherine and DSU Andy Shepherd (Vincent Franklin) – which, after a season of watching the vulnerable Joanna be manipulated by these men, felt like an injustice.

Although we watched the police interrogate the repulsive Rob, confronting him with hard evidence regarding his regular physical abuse of Joanna, Andy informs Catherine that they actually arrested him after finding indecent images of students on his phone.

Meanwhile, Joanna's murderer Faisal barely appears in the episode, as Catherine tells Andy that he had been supplying illegal diazepam to those in the area and lives next door to the Hepworths – shifting suspicion onto him for Joanna's death.

Happy Valley's main focus on Catherine, Clare and Becky highlighted how the show's brilliant women were the driving force behind it, hitting home how the finale was all about bringing the resilient detective some closure after the traumatic events of the last decade.

Even keeping Tommy Lee Royce's death off screen, letting the viewer know with just a text from Mike (Rick Warden) to Catherine, deprived the narcissist of the attention he's always craved.

Happy Valley may have missed the mark with its brief wrapping-up of the Joanna-Rob-Faisal storyline, but you can't deny that the drama rightly placed Catherine front and centre, acting as one final love letter to the complicated character who's come a long way since convincing a drunk man not to set himself on fire in the first-ever episode.

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