Happy Valley - BBC1, TV review: 'Sarah Lancashire shines in this bleak but brilliant crime drama'


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The Independent Culture

Another week, another visit to Unrelentingly Bleak Valley, or Happy Valley, as it's known in the TV schedules – that ironic title being the only heavy-handed thing about Sally Wainwright's excellent six-part series. Last Tango in Halifax was a triumph, but this might be even better. As the series progresses, it's possible to discern how Wainwright is sketching and shading a picture of not just one woman, but an entire Yorkshire community.

Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) is the rock of her troubled family, of the police station where she works and of this show. So when the gruesome death of a colleague early on in this episode appeared to be pushing her over the edge, it added an extra level of tension to an already nerve-shredding show. She was having disturbing hallucinations of her dead daughter, and hearing a ringing in her ears. Get it together, Catherine! We need you to catch the kidnapper, rapist and now murderer Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton) and it's tribute to Wainwright's involving characters that by this point in the series we're almost as wild for vengeance as Catherine herself.

Tuesdays from 9pm to 10pm on BBC1 is now a traumatic time for everyone. Still there is one cause for celebration – that writer Wainwright and actress Lancashire have found each other. No one does weary virtue quite like Lancashire and no writes lines for Lancashire as well as Wainwright. When Catherine arrived home from this terrible day at work, to be greeted by an ill-deserved attack from her young grandson, her sister expressed concern. "I'm fine," said Catherine. "I've got punchbag tattooed across my forehead, but other than that..."