Perhaps it was inevitable that, after last week’s full-tilt episode of Happy Valley (BBC One), this one would feel a little flat. For the first time in this series, I’m not writing a five-star rave. Maybe it’s also my Yorkshire bias coming out again because, good as James Norton is in this show, the episode involved him talking an awful lot and his grasp of the accent isn’t the greatest.
But writer Sally Wainwright also changed the rules this week, those rules being that 1) a vein of pitch black humour runs through the dialogue, especially when it comes to Sarah Lancashire’s character, and 2) every scene involving Tommy Lee Royce (Norton) should chill the blood.
Now – and this is perfectly understandable, given that her life is in danger – Sgt Catherine Cawood has no time to be witty. She’s struggling to hold it together as one thing piles on top of another: Royce on the run; an allegation of racism and bullying from a dim officer who fell for a joke about hiring an alien life force liaison officer; and the discovery of Joanna Hepworth’s body.
When Ryan told his grandmother that he loved her, she could only muster: “What’s brought that on?” And Catherine was cruel to her sister, Clare (Siobhan Finneran), branding her an empty vessel with an “idiotic, dependent personality” and a moron for a partner. She’s right, of course, but Clare is also immensely kind-hearted.
In this episode, Catherine was less likeable than before, although of course we are still rooting for her. More cruelty came from Ann Gallagher (Charlie Murphy), who informed poor Ryan of the full extent of his father’s crimes. This was a big scene for Rhys Connah, the teenager who plays Ryan, but he handled it admirably.
As for Royce, he cut a rather pathetic figure, hiding out in a filthy safe house and going starry-eyed at Knezevic’s offer of a new life in the sun. But one minor complaint for the episode: why is Catherine driving around the place without police protection, when her superiors know there’s a madman out there with her in his sights?
All the pieces are being put in place for this week’s finale. We will find out whether Ryan really plans to join his father, or whether he is trying to set him up; whether Faisal (Amit Shah) will be caught for Joanna’s murder, and how that storyline fits into the whole. And, of course, who will emerge alive from the climactic showdown between Cawood and Royce. This Sunday can’t come soon enough.