Happy Valley, BBC1 - TV review: As gritty, heart-wrenching and brilliant as ever, but forget happy families

It may be billed as a crime drama, but it's the domestic scenes centred on family life that make the series such an absorbing watch. 

Daisy Wyatt
Tuesday 09 February 2016 23:52
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Kitchen sink realism: 'Happy Valley' is jam-packed with drama in every scene
Kitchen sink realism: 'Happy Valley' is jam-packed with drama in every scene

Sally Wainwright's Happy Valley returns for a eagerly awaited second series. Heralded as the best drama of 2014, the Bafta-winning show starring Sarah Lancashire as brassy police sergeant Catherine Cawood looks set to be as gritty, heart-wrenching and downright brilliant as before.

With psychopath Tommy Lee Royce now behind bars (and sporting a new haircut) – the tables are turned on Catherine, who discovers a rotting corpse in a garage after giving her usual lip to some Yorkshire lads. The body turns out to be Royce's mother, which puts Catherine in the firing line after she was found to have left abusive messages on the victim's answerphone shortly before she died.

Even if you didn't recognise War and Peace's James Norton as skinheaded Royce, chances are some of the new cast will look more familiar. Kevin Doyle, who was last seen as Downton Abbey's hapless butler Molesley, stars as the equally unfortunate DS John Wadsworth. He becomes a victim of revenge porn at the hands of his mistress, Vicky, played by Scott & Bailey's Amelia Bullmore.

Drama is jam-packed into every scene of Happy Valley, and yet it is so easy to relate to. Not many of us have a recovering heroin addict for a sister, but we have all had to explain something difficult to a child when asked questions such as, “what's an alcoholic?” It may be billed as a crime drama, but it's the domestic scenes centred on family life that make the series such an absorbing watch.

The dialogue is natural, the plot is tightly written and the performances are outstanding. And the well-timed pauses make Happy Valley a stand-out drama. The break-up scene with Vicky rolling out DS Wadsworth's belongings on to the pub table in a devastating silence is a case in point. I can only predict great things for this second series.

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