1 December 2023

Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) in the “Happy Valley” series, created and written by Sally Wainwright.


In the United Kingdom, Sergeant Catherine Cawood is a national treasure, just like Miss Marple or Emma Peel – a fictional woman who embodies and idealizes certain virtues and a historical moment in the same gesture. Policewoman in uniform in Halifax, Yorkshire, Catherine Cawood also enjoys the privilege of being carried by an actress, Sarah Lancashire, who infuses her with rare power and complexity.

The time has come to say goodbye to the heroine of Happy Valley. After a long hiatus – the first two seasons of this BBC series were broadcast in 2014 and 2016 – the six episodes that we discover on Canal +, from March 20, lead the sergeant to the end of the race , begun almost ten years ago, in a finale that maintains the balance between police procedure and family tragedy, while keeping the promises of catharsis that bear – and rarely hold – the last chapters.

Read also: “Happy Valley”: gray mine and black humor in the north of England

We met Catherine Cawood the day after the release of Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton), a petty crook who stands out from his peers for his advantageous physique and his sociopathy. Royce had been convicted of drug trafficking, but not for the rape of Cawood’s daughter, who had killed herself a few days after the birth of the child resulting from this crime. Ryan was raised by his grandmother in the dark about the circumstances of his conception and his mother’s death, surrounded by hostility from other family members except Clare (Siobhan Finneran), the Katherine’s sister. The two women watch the child grow up unable to help but seek in each of his transgressions the traces of his paternal heritage.

This melodramatic family plot, which draws on both Charles Dickens and Ken Loach, feeds Happy Valley with an emotional energy that most detective series lack.

Restorative font

This third season makes judicious use of the years that separate it from the previous one. Ryan is now a teenager, in secret from his grandmother, he reconnected with his father, detained in a prison in Leeds, the large neighboring city. Catherine Cawood is days away from retirement. This perspective does not prevent her from maintaining a rhythm of work and methods that would exhaust anyone but herself.

To its nature as a family drama that painstakingly explores a part of the parental burden – the fear of having raised a monster – which has rather been staged in the cinema (We Need to Talk About Kevinby Lynne Ramsay), Happy Valley adds a representation of police work that is utopian. Admittedly, Catherine’s colleagues are imperfect. But the police in Halifax, in this Yorkshire which bears the scars of deindustrialisation and the terror sown by the ripper which raged in the 1970s, are presented as a public service, the most eminent representative of which is, of course, our heroine.

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