TV review: Happy Valley, BBC One
Watchable but unsubtle cop drama with inexplicable acclaim lying in its wake
After the unrelenting grimness of its first series, writer Sally Wainwright promised some funnier moments across Happy Valley’s follow-up batch. In this context, a gentler touch means a tormented copper and her recovering alcoholic sister chatting about the former having to smash an injured sheep’s brains in to put the fluffy thing out of its misery. Still, after the brutal human kidnapping, rape and murder scenes of its 2014 debut (which led it to being named the top TV programme of the year by the Guardian), a spot of animal destruction might well be considered as light relief.
But have no fear, it’s not long before we’re plunged back into the show’s trademark misery with cancer, blackmail, human trafficking and funerals (times two) in there as the all-too ironically titled show gets into its stride. Indeed, calling it Happy Valley is a sign of the occasionally unsubtle writing and direction on display. Series one was called into question by some for the horrifically graphic violence perpetrated on the female characters: this time around, the brutality has been dialled down a smidge, only for some of the women to become cardboard cut-out villains instead.
Amelia Bullmore just slips over the top as a scorned woman with mad eyes who serves lamb (rather than bunny) for her adulterous bloke. And Shirley Henderson almost reprises her Moaning Myrtle Harry Potter role as a timid-spooky womanchild who seems to be plotting some form of vengeance on behalf of a convicted killer. Similar to that other overly acclaimed British cop drama, Line of Duty, Happy Valley likes to think it’s more clever and sophisticated than it actually is.
Still, one fun game to play during the show’s more mundane moments (and there are a few) is ‘spot the ex-Corrie regular’. As well as lead actress Sarah ‘Raquel’ Lancashire, I counted three others with the bonus addition of Angela ‘Daughter of Donald’ Pleasence who appeared in three episodes back in 1968. None of this is coming from memory, I should hasten to add.
Happy Valley starts on BBC One, Tuesday 9 February, 9pm.