Happy Valley 2 with Sarah Lancashire

Happy Valley series 2 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Catherine (SARAH LANCASHIRE) - (C) Red Productions

Cut above: Catherine (Sarah Lancashire)

Sarah Lancashire is back in a second, gripping series as the fearless small-town cop

★★★★½ BBC1, Tuesday, 9 February, 9pm

SO FAR this winter we’ve had new series of Midsomer Murders and Death in Paradise. Both are hugely popular, marvellous entertainment, lovely settings – and ever so dull.

Returning Vera and Shetland are decent whodunits, lovely settings, etc. Endeavour 3 is perhaps the best of the comeback bunch.

But now we’re getting down to the good stuff. The much talked-about The People v OJ Simpson arrives this month, along with Better Call Saul 2, The Night Manager – and the second series of the superb Happy Valley.

Writer/creator Sally Wainwright did something distinctive with the crime format in series one. The story of small-town police sergeant Cath Cawood – the awesome Sarah Lancashire – was much more than a cop procedural.

Tommy Lee Royce returns

As anyone who has previously been immersed in Last Tango in Halifax or Scott & Bailey knows, Wainwright’s stories offer living, breathing characters whose lives can be ordinary, profound, flawed and funny.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 02/02/2016 - Programme Name: Happy Valley series 2 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: **EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL TUESDAY 2ND FEBRUARY** Catherine (SARAH LANCASHIRE) - (C) Red Productions - Photographer: Ben Blackall

Rock and a hard place: Catherine deals with a sheep

The good news is that series 2 picks up nicely where the first concluded, offering a further mesh of compelling narratives. The BBC now issues a long decree about what should be mentioned in previews such as this, so I’ll stick precisely to what is mentionable.

Catherine is getting back to rebuilding her life, now that the vicious Tommy Lee Royce – James Norton, fresh from War and Peace – is behind bars. However, his hatred of Catherine is resurrected when he learns she has discovered a rotting body…

Sarah Lancashire is again very believable in the emotionally challenging role of a police officer battling to be a good family member and cop in the drug- and poverty-hit Calder Valley of West Yorkshire. As we know from series one, her daughter committed suicide after being raped by Royce, and as she endeavours to bring up her daughter’s son, Ryan, this heartache comes back to haunt her in series 2. 

Shirley Henderson and Amelia Bullmore

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 02/02/2016 - Programme Name: Happy Valley series 2 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: **EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL TUESDAY 2ND FEBRUARY** Clare (SIOBHAN FINNERAN), Neil Ackroyd (CON O'NEILL) - (C) Red Productions - Photographer: Ben Blackall

Old mates and more? Clare (Siobhan Finneran) and Neil Ackroyd (Con O’Neill)

What makes Catherine so riveting a character is that, if she ever saw someone in distress on the street, she would always step in to help whatever the risks, where it is often easier to walk on by. This would be the case whether she was in uniform or not, and it is a trait that can bring her a lot of grief.

We learn more about her here – that she has received the Queen’s Medal for Bravery following her confrontation with Royce, that as a teenager she effectively brought up her sister, Clare, following their mother’s death.

The opening episode starts with Catherine chasing sheep rustlers, of all things, and having to put one of the sheep out of its misery with a rock. As her sister Clare says: ‘I don’t know how you do it.’ Meanwhile, Clare’s old school friend Neil sums up Catherine well: ‘I was always terrified of her.’

Shirley Henderson, who will be fondly remembered by fans of the Harry Potter films, turns up as a creepy acolyte of Royce, and Amelia Bullmore (a prominent player from Scott & Bailey) also makes an interesting switch of character by playing a dangerous spurned lover here.

The Corrie connection

Returning characters also include businessman Nevison Gallagher (George Costigan) and his daughter, Ann, the kidnap victim from series one (Charlie Murphy).

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 02/02/2016 - Programme Name: Happy Valley series 2 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: **EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL TUESDAY 2ND FEBRUARY** Vicky Fleming (AMELIA BULLMORE), John Wadsworth (KEVIN DOYLE) - (C) Red Productions - Photographer: Ben Blackall

Twisted relationship: Vicky Fleming (Amelia Bullmore) and John Wadsworth (Kevin Doyle)

Wainwright, a former writer on Corrie, has shrewdly recruited many of the best former performers from the soap, enhancing Happy Valley‘s down-to-earth feel. In addition to Sarah Lancashire and Amelia Bullmore there’s Siobhan Finneran (Clare), Katherine Kelly (as CID officer Jodie) and Julie Hesmondhalgh (as deceived wife Amanda).

There will be bigger, flashier crime series around this year, but few will be as engrossing as Happy Valley.

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