Happy Valley – Not your usual dramatization of violence against women.
Who watched the third series of Happy Valley?
I had watched the previous series with mild interest but didn’t really WATCH it if you know what I mean but something about this third and last series got me tuning in every week and getting caught up in all the hype about it.
So I went back and watched the first two series on iplayer. I don’t generally like or watch anything that has any degree of violence against women. I feel that in so many of our award winning, acclaimed dramas, the default premise is usually violence against women and I have always struggled to see this as ‘entertainment’!
But Happy Valley is different. Yes, there is violence against women, lots of it, brutal and graphic but it isn’t done in a gratuitous way. It doesn’t focus on the violence against women. It focuses on the pain and trauma and life changing devastation that women experience post separation of domestic abuse. It focuses on women fighting back. Being stronger, making a difference. The women characters in Happy Valley are ‘normal’ women. They are make up free, fully clothed! with bloody noses and black eyes. They wear their physical scars with pride almost, and play nastier and dirtier than the abusive men they are coming up against.
The lead character, Catherine Cawood, played by the amazing Sarah Lancashire. Catherine is a hard nosed copper, not always politically correct!, with a tough exterior. Yet we see her in her private moments. Devastated by her daughter’s suicide as a result of Tommy Lee Royce’s abuse towards her years before. A fiercely protective grandmother who is so clearly suffering from PTSD and who cries, often, in private. Determined that Tommy will not hurt her family any more.
And what can I say about the absolutely phenomenal ( in my opinion) actor, James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce. A vile, sadistic, narcissistic, violent and abusive man who treats women as if they are something he trod in and murders at a drop of a hat.
And yet, in the final episode. I felt sorry for him!! Not just me. I read with interest the many hundreds of social media posts from women also saying they felt sorry for him and couldn’t understand why? This last episode, where Tommy ‘forgives’ Catherine and tells her he genuinely loved her daughter, gave me flashbacks! It made me cry! But it wasn’t until after it had finished that I thought about it and realised why it had given me flashbacks.
It was my ex! and every other woman’s ex abusive partner. There were so many times when my ex partner looked at me, crying and said how much he loved me. How he forgave me for ‘winding him up’ or for ‘making him hit me’! And Yeah, I always felt sorry for him. Mad isn’t it?
What is their ‘love’? I have always believed that in his own way, my ex partner did love me. I truly believe he did. But I also knew his ‘love’ was not what my love was. It wasn’t what most peoples definition of love was. His love was about control. Being in control and having power. Maybe partly formed by his own difficult childhood and upbringing but let us not forget that abusers do not ‘lose’ control. They are very much in control and this a choice!
The writer of this drama, Sally Wainwright, is a very talented woman. She managed to capture the struggle women experience to survive abuse and violence and how despite all the odds they get back up and come back stronger and determined to turn their negative experiences into something positive to help others. But, for me, the star of this show is James Norton.
It is, in my opinion, a very talented and exceptional actor who has the ability to play the part of a sickeningly abusive, vile psychopath, who in a flash, can make his audience feel sorry for him and want to reach out and help him. As did Catherine. Despite everything, she tried to save him by putting the flames out that engulfed him in the final scenes.
Much the same as so many of us do, in our own abusive relationships.