Happy Valley Set the Standard for the Modern Mystery Drama (2023)

Happy Valley Set the Standard for the Modern Mystery Drama (1)

Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown; Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley; Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in True Detective (Photos: HBO/BBC; Primetimer graphic)

Since the one-two punch of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, British mysteries have been one of the island nation’s greatest exports alongside Shakespeare. The genre has long informed American procedural shows, both consciously (see: Rian Johnson's Benoit Blanc film series, a direct updating of the Christie drawing room murder mystery) and subconsciously (see: every emotionless Sherlock-esque detective in history). However, nothing has changed the landscape more than Happy Valley, rightly viewed as a landmark turning point in the storied British mystery, helping usher in an era of working-class realism to the genre and spawning imitators on both sides of the pond.

British shows are rarely canceled as much as they simply are never renewed — Sherlock, for instance, was never put out to pasture so much as Cumberbatch, Freeman, and Moffatt eventually moved on. The practice has meant shows can return after years off the air, should the creator have an idea for a new set of episodes. In the case of writer Sally Wainwright, that’s now occurred twice, first with her award-winning 2012 seriesLast Tango in Halifax, which returned in 2020, and now with 2014’s Happy Valley, whose third and final season was released in the U.K. in January 2023, and now comes to AMC Networks, premiering simultaneously on AMC+, Acorn TV, and BBC America on May 22.

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Happy Valley’s return after seven years dormant is partially due to AMC Networks, which announced it was co-producing the show’s final season with the BBC back in 2021.The decision to stream it across multiple variations of the programmer’s niche holdings is a sign of how highly the production studio thinks of its acquisition, as well it should. American detective series aren’t as class-conscious as those on the other side of the pond, but Happy Valley’s focus on those living paycheck to paycheck resonated with U.S. audiences and inspired countless variations on its gritty views of law enforcement in American police procedurals.

Wainwright’s drive to create Happy Valley ironically stemmed from what she saw as the “Americanization” of British police procedurals in shows like Luther and Law & Order UK, which seemed to behave as if a mystery series had to follow the hallmarks of what Americans recognized as policing in order to hit it big. (As Wainwright told The Guardian at the time, “Most cop drama [British writers] see is American, and they want to be like The Wire or whatever.")

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However, it was the very Britishness of Happy Valley’s attitude towards policing strategies that made it so unique and so realistic, even if its initial success, like many British shows that hit it big in the United States in the mid-2010s, was an accident of Netflix timing.

The first season premiered in April 2014 on BBC One and was quickly scooped up by the streaming service that August, when Netflix still had the landscape mostly to itself and the “Netflix bump” was a relatively new phenomenon. The series also had multiple things to help raise its profile within Netflix’s all-important algorithm, including a stellar cast playing the central trio, all of whom American PBS audiences recognized. Sarah Lancashire, from the aforementioned Last Tango in Halifax, starred as PC Catherine Cawood, Siobhan Finneran from Downton Abbey played her sister Clare, and James Norton from Grantchester was counterbalancing his hot priest persona with the first of what would wind up being a slew of villain roles as rapist Tommy Lee Royce. Season 2, which followed in 2016, featured guest star turns by Harry Potter's Matthew Lewis and Shirley Henderson, plus another Downton vet, Kevin Doyle.

But the series also was different from other procedurals that came before, and not just because it was the rare female-led (and female-centric) crime drama at a time when those were still mainly the province of men. It also did away with the dashing middle- to upper-class detectives in expensive suits and polished shoes who have populated British mysteries from Hercule Poirot and Lord Peter Wimsey in the Golden Age to Adam Dalgliesh and Endeavour Morse in more modern series. Instead, it traded out the stereotype for a low-level, working-class Police Constable in Hi-Vis vests and boots, putting someone on the front line as the central heroine.

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The series was far from the first to add dirt and grime in the name of “prestige.” Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder had already been doing it for years with comic book movies, George R.R. Martin and HBO mixed it with fantasy to create Game of Thrones in 2010, and Steven Knight married the concept to period dramas with Peaky Blinders in 2013. However, Wainwright went a step further, teaming with retired Huddersfield PC Lisa Farrand, who brought a level of realism to the violence and bloodshed, adding the sort of on-screen details only first-hand experience in policing could provide and an insider’s view of the moral gray area most law enforcement find themselves working in. It turned the series into the poster child for the "gritty crime drama."

The resulting show didn't shy away from the blood, sweat, and dirt of grunt police work, and the initial six episodes contained scenes of the casual brutality law enforcement experience daily and become inured to,though it made sure to leave just enough to the imagination so those moments would earn a mid-level rating.Its working-class focus also put casual law-breaking as part of the landscape in plain sight, along with the fight against drug addiction and the easy money in corruption. It also lent credence to Catherine’s running fear that her grandson Ryan,a child of rape, would follow in his dad’s footsteps and turn to a life of crime. This apprehension reflected one of the series's themes, that of nature vs. nurture.However, by rooting the series within the lower class milieu, the series drove home the circumstances Catherine can’t seem to lift her family out of, no matter how many bad guys she puts away.

By the time Season 2 arrived in 2016, Happy Valley was already changing the way U.K. TV police procedurals were conceived. BBC Studio’s emerging writers' ScriptWorks program began recruiting retired law enforcement, giving opportunities for those who have experience inside the system to write and create these shows. Even shows that had previously not used insiders to help inform their shows, like Line of Duty, started consulting with them. American shows were now also racing to catch up with their British brethren, as series like True Detective, a Southern gothic spin on what Broadchurch was doing, hit big on HBO. Even Law and Order’s Dick Wolf took a page from Happy Valley, consulting with veterans for his CBS ensemble show FBI.

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In 2021, years after True Detective’s arrival on HBO, Line of Duty’s Jed Mercutio produced Bloodlands, an Ireland-set procedural based on the history of the Troubles. At the Television Critics Association that January, writer Chris Brandon cited True Detective’s sense of place as his inspiration in creating an Irish-centric mystery, bringing things full circle.

Happy Valley’s extensiveinfluence can be seen today in award-winning series like 2021’s Time and 2022’s The Responder. Meanwhile, in the U.S., HBO premiered the limited series Mare of Easttown, a cross between True Detective and Happy Valley, which star Kate Winslet has suggested HBO is holding open for a second season, shouldseries creator Brad Ingelsby comeup with a new story worthy of telling. How very British of them. While we wait, Season 3's Stateside debutis a well-timed reminder that a decade after it began, Happy Valley still sets the standard for the competition.

Happy Valley Season 3 premieres May 22 at 3:01 A.M. ET on AMC+ and Acorn TV, and at 10:00 P.M. ET on BBC America. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

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Ani Bundel is an entertainment writer covering everything from celebrities to movies to peak TV when she's not tweeting or Instagramming photos of her very fuzzy cats. Her other regular bylines can be found atPBS/WETA's Telly Visions, where she co-hosts a weekly podcast by anglophiles for anglophiles, CNN Opinions, and MSNBC Daily.


What is the plot of Happy Valley? ›

In Halifax, West Yorkshire, Catherine Cawood is a divorced police sergeant with two children. She is still trying to recover from the suicide of her daughter, which happened eight years ago. Catherine is raising her grandson, Ryan, who was born as a result of her daughter being raped by Tommy Lee Royce.

Is Happy Valley on Netflix or prime? ›

Watch Happy Valley | Netflix Official Site.

Where is Happy Valley set? ›

Where was Happy Valley filmed? The drama set in the Calder Valley has used a number of locations across Halifax and the wider West Yorkshire area as a backdrop during its third series.

What channel is Happy Valley on? ›

BBC One - Happy Valley.

What happens in the end of Happy Valley? ›

While Catherine did save Tommy from burning alive, he was then placed in a coma. In the final moments of the episode, Catherine gets a text from Mike confirming that Tommy has died.

What is the meaning of Happy Valley? ›

She revealed of the origins of the name Happy Valley: "I always work closely with police advisors, who are old police officers who have worked in the area, and one of them told me that is what they call the Valley because of issues with drugs.

Can I watch Happy Valley in the US? ›

Right now you can watch Happy Valley on fuboTV. You are able to stream Happy Valley by renting or purchasing on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, and Vudu.

How do I get BBC iPlayer in USA? ›

Here's how to watch BBC iPlayer in USA:
  1. Sign up for one of the VPNs mentioned below (we recommend NordVPN).
  2. Download and install the app, making sure to get the right version for your device's operating system.
  3. Connect to one of your VPN's British servers.
  4. Sign in to BBC iPlayer and try loading a video.

How many seasons of Happy Valley are on Netflix? ›

It's been dubbed one of the best shows on TV right now, but since it left Netflix in 2021, you're probably wondering how to watch Happy Valley in the US. You're in luck. The BBC crime drama first debuted in 2014 and has amassed a dedicated fanbase over the span of just two seasons.

Is Happy Valley based on a true story? ›

The true story from Hebden Bridge that inspired Sally Wainwright to write Happy Valley.

What house was used in Happy Valley? ›

Holdsworth House Hotel commented: We have seen a huge amount of interest in our social media posts with regards to the filming of Happy Valley at Holdsworth House Hotel. In spring 2022, the crew arrived at Holdsworth House to film a scene for series 3, episode 5, where Richard Cawood goes to meet Darius Knezevic.

Does Happy Valley still exist? ›

"You can have too much of a good thing." The third season of Happy Valley will also be the show's last – and the creative team behind the hit series have insisted there are no plans for a future revival.

Where can I watch Happy Valley Season 3 in USA? ›

Currently you are able to watch "Happy Valley - Season 3" streaming on DIRECTV, AMC Plus Apple TV Channel , AMC+ Amazon Channel, AMC+ Roku Premium Channel, AMC+, Acorn TV, AcornTV Amazon Channel or buy it as download on Apple TV, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, Vudu.

Is Happy Valley coming back to Netflix? ›

Unfortunately for Happy Valley fans, season 3 will be the final instalment of the drama, with tonight's finale being the series last ever episode.

Is BBC iPlayer free? ›

BBC iPlayer is a free service, but your mobile operator may charge for the data you use on their network.

What did the text message say in Happy Valley? ›

Happy Valley's final episode ended with a final sting in the tail, when as Catherine paid a visit to daughter Becky's grave, she got a text message which read 'TLR dead. Hospital just rang," as a slight smile spread across her face.

What happened to Claire in Happy Valley? ›

Her life spiralled out of control due to alcohol and heroin addictions, but Clare has turned her life around, and spends her time trying to help others in need, and also helps Catherine in raising Ryan. Clare had gotten involved with the wrong crowd, and ended up as an alcoholic and heroin addict.

What happened to the teacher at the end of Happy Valley? ›

Matija and Ivan

Matija (Jack Bandeira) and Ivan (Oliver Huntingdon) are arrested for false imprisonment, money laundering, and assisting in the escape of Tommy Lee Royce.

Why was it called Happy Valley? ›

The show's title comes from a local nickname for Calder Valley, where it is set and largely filmed. Wainwright was born in Huddersfield and raised in nearby Sowerby Bridge, which are both locations featured in the series.

What is the origin of the name Happy Valley? ›

8 Only the name “Happy Valley” was used in selling land for that area. A simple reason why could be because there was no official name for the area and the farmers living there were just notably happy people. Another explanation could lie in events that plagued the community at the start of the 20th century.

Where did the term Happy Valley come from? ›

History. The name Happy Valley was given to the area in the Great Depression-era of the 1930s since it was generally not hit hard financially by the depression because of the presence of Pennsylvania State University.

Why did Netflix remove Happy Valley? ›

While Netflix may have exclusive rights to a series, making it fall under the label of a Netflix Original, those rights have a time limit. When the licensing agreement runs out, Netflix could lose rights to the series. This was the case for Happy Valley, a BBC show which was streaming exclusively on Netflix.

Did Happy Valley leave Netflix? ›

It's been dubbed one of the best shows on TV right now, but since it left Netflix in 2021, you're probably wondering how to watch Happy Valley in the US. You're in luck. The BBC crime drama first debuted in 2014 and has amassed a dedicated fanbase over the span of just two seasons.

Who plays Winnie in Happy Valley? ›

Happy Valley (TV Series 2014–2023) - Angela Pleasence as Winnie - IMDb.

Can I watch BBC on Amazon Prime? ›

Where To Watch BBC Select. BBC Select is a BBC streaming service available to stream on Amazon Prime Video Channels, the Apple TV app or The Roku Channel.

Do Americans have BBC iPlayer? ›

BBC iPlayer is only available for UK residents, so if you live outside the country, the content on the platform will not be available to you. That is unless you get a reputable VPN – it can change your IP address and make it look like you're from the UK.

Can you live stream BBC in America? ›

Watch what's live on BBC America now. Never miss new episodes from your favorite shows, reruns and movies. Stream online for free with your TV Provider today.

Is Happy Valley on BBC America? ›

When Happy Valley's third and final season aired in Britain earlier this year, it was a smash with both critics and viewers. It's now come to our screens on BBC America, Acorn TV and AMC+.

Can I watch Happy Valley on BritBox? ›

Happy Valley Series 1-3 | BritBox.

Is Happy Valley on Acorn? ›

Acorn TV | Happy Valley Season 3 | Premieres May 22

"[The] gloriously human and narratively thrilling drama. Monday May 22, on Acorn TV.

Who was Catherine Cawood based on? ›

Lisa Farrand bears a striking resemblance to Happy Valley heroine Catherine Cawood. And the similarity may be no coincidence as the former Huddersfield PC is believed to have been the inspiration for Sgt Cawood. Lisa and Happy Valley creator Sally Wainwright were friends at junior school.

What is Catherine Cawood's personality? ›

Catherine Cawood is a woman ruled by grief and revenge, as one would be enduring the hell she has endured. This makes her a bit of a live wire, it makes her rash. She's also not always the most pleasant person on earth – she lacks tact, she's blunt, she's savage. But these things make her well rounded and human.

What should I watch after Happy Valley? ›

Happy Valley: If you loved Sally Wainwright's thrilling crime drama, here are 8 more classic series to get stuck into
  • Last Tango in Halifax. BBC. ...
  • Band of Gold. ITV. ...
  • Clocking Off. BBC. ...
  • Nurse Jackie. Showtime. ...
  • Unforgiven. ITV. ...
  • Scott and Bailey. ITV/Red. ...
  • Sherwood. BBC. ...
  • A Confession. ITV.
Feb 7, 2023

Where was the last episode of Happy Valley filmed? ›

The third and final season of Happy Valley filmed largely in the Calderdale area, at locations in Halifax, Hebden Bridge, Mythomolroyd, Luddenden, Ripponden, Sowerby Bridge and Wainstalls.

Where is the farm in Happy Valley? ›

Where is Happy Valley set? Happy Valley is set in the Calder Valley, which can be found in West Yorkshire in the north of England. The show's creator Wainwright was born in Huddersfield and raised in Sowerby Bridge in Calderdale, explaining the setting.

Is Ryan in Happy Valley the same actor? ›

Ryan is played by Rhys Connah. Now 16, Rhys was part of the show when he was just eight years old, as Happy Valley made its debut back in 2014. As well as being in the most watched drama on TV, Rhys has also appeared in mini series The White Princess as Teddy, alongside Killing Eve's Jodie Comer.

Where was Happy Valley in Africa? ›

Purchase options and add-ons. Happy Valley was the name given to the Wanjohi Valley in the Kenya Highlands, where a small community of affluent, hedonistic white expatriates settled between the wars.

What happens to Ann in Happy Valley? ›

Ann is then a victim of kidnap after one of Nevison's disgruntled employees arranges to have her held hostage in order for Nevison to give £500,000 for her release. During her time in captivity, she is assaulted by Tommy Lee Royce, who plans to murder her before she is found and rescued by Catherine.

Why is there no more Happy Valley? ›

As for Wainwright herself, she echoed the same sentiment while speaking to Radio Times magazine and stated that they made a "definite decision that this was going to be the final season". She said: "Just because it's been successful, we weren't going to let it drift on until it became a pale shadow of itself."

Will there be a season 7 in line of duty? ›

There is no official Line of Duty season 7 release date, and as it stands, there has been no green light from the BBC for further episodes. However, rumours started circulating in December 2022 thanks to The Sun, which suggested a three-part special run of episodes is in the pipeline.

Where can I watch full episodes of All American Season 3? ›

Currently you are able to watch "All American - Season 3" streaming on Netflix, Netflix basic with Ads or buy it as download on Apple TV, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, Vudu, Microsoft Store.

Is All American Season 3 on Hulu? ›

WILL ALL AMERICAN SEASON 3 BE ON HULU? Nope. Sadly, All American Season 3 won't be available for next-day streaming on Hulu. New episodes are, however, available live and on demand via an active subscription to Hulu + Live TV.

Where can I watch Happy Valley from the start? ›

Happy Valley seasons 1-3 are available to watch on BBC iPlayer now. If you're looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide and Streaming Guideor visit our Drama hub for more news and features.

How can I watch BBC TV for free? ›

BBC iPlayer - Watch BBC One live.

Where can I watch BBC shows online for free? ›

BBC iPlayer - all movies and tv series online.

How much does a BBC account cost? ›

Having a BBC account lets you watch and listen to programmes on BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds, comment on articles, add favourites, play games, write reviews, save recipes and lots more! Signing in is quick, free and easy and you should stay signed in for two years on each web browser or app.

What did Tommy do to Becky in Happy Valley? ›

In spite of his many abhorrent crimes – the murder of Kirsten McAskill, the rape of Ann Gallagher, his brutal attack on Catherine Cawood and the tragedy that initiated this whole sorry saga: the rape of Catherine's daughter Becky, which was the catalyst for her suicide – his misery was far from cathartic.

What happens to Anne in Happy Valley? ›

During her time in captivity, she is assaulted by Tommy Lee Royce, who plans to murder her before she is found and rescued by Catherine.

What happens to John in Happy Valley? ›

Then in the second series ended with Catherine's colleague, detective John Wadsworth, who was driven to murder and ended up throwing himself off a bridge.

Who was the bad guy in Happy Valley? ›

Happy Valley's Tommy Lee Royce, played by James Norton, is voted the UK's top TV villain. He terrorised UK viewers for nine years on Happy Valley and Tommy Lee Royce has been voted the nation's top TV bad guy.

What happened to Catherine's daughter in law in Happy Valley? ›

After six-weeks of giving birth to her son, Ryan, she had hanged herself in her bedroom and left a note stating whom the father was and how her situation had occurred to have her very own father, Richard to find her stone cold.
Becky Cawood.
Rebecca Cawood
8 more rows

What did Tommy do to Catherine in Happy Valley? ›

Viewers saw twisted murderer Tommy, played by James Norton, break into Catherine's home after escaping prison and then fleeing from the gang he had been working with. But by the time he reached Catherine's house he was bleeding badly and seemed unable to physically attack her as he had done in the past.

What did he do to her daughter in Happy Valley? ›

Tommy raped Becky and she then fell pregnant with their child. She was too worried to tell her mother and only told her parents once she started showing but only said it was a one-night stand.

What did Tommy do to Ann? ›

Royce rapes Ann while guarding her and having been given the order to kill her, takes her to the cellar of his mum's house where he intends to keep her as a sex slave before murdering her.

What happens to Lewis Whippey? ›

Lewis is a young lad who has recently been released from prison, who is taken on by Ashley Cowgill.
Lewis Whippey
Portrayed byAdam Long
First AppearanceSeries 1 Episode 1
Last AppearanceSeries 1 Episode 6
Cause/ReasonKilled by Tommy
6 more rows

What happens to Kevin in Happy Valley? ›

After killing her, he then tried to pin her death on another criminal, who was responsible for a series of murders in the area, but ended up being found out by his own colleagues; leading to dramatic scenes as he jumped off a bridge in the final episode.

Do they find out John killed Vicky? ›

John emotionally confesses to killing Vicky on the bridge outside the police station before jumping to his death. In Catherine's personal life, we find out that Cecily Wheland is actually Frances' dead sister and subsequently, she is arrested for fraud.

Do they save Ann in Happy Valley? ›

As the police treat her attack as attempted murder, in hospital, Ann confides in her that Tommy Lee Royce raped her and asks her to tell Nevison, but not Helen, who is dying of cancer. Ann eventually recovers and joins the police.

Does Ann get rescued in Happy Valley? ›

However, Royce returns before Ann is freed and overpowers Catherine, but she and Ann manage to escape. Catherine fights for her life in hospital after Royce's attack, which police are treating as attempted murder of a police officer.

What did the bad guy do in Happy Valley? ›

James was showing off his trademark blond hair from the first series, which saw him kidnap and torture Ann Gallagher in a horrifying campaign of assault. The star also shared some pictures of his on-screen son Ryan Clark [Rhys Connah] as a young child actor, pulling some funny expressions in his school uniform.

Is James Norton Edward Norton's brother? ›

He has two younger siblings, Molly and James. At age five, Norton and his parents saw a musical related to Cinderella at the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts (CCTA), starring his babysitter, which ignited his interest in the theater.

Who is Claire's boyfriend in Happy Valley? ›

Neil Ackroyd


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