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Farewell to the “battleaxe” of Happy Valley

Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood

It was “brutal, tender, funny, compelling and heartbreaking to the last”, says Lucy Mangan in The Guardian. There’s nothing left to do but bid Happy Valley an “awed farewell”. Sarah Lancashire, who inhabits the role of no-nonsense cop Catherine Cawood so fully it is “impossible to imagine anyone else in it”, and series writer Sally Wainwright are “drama’s equivalent of Victoria Wood and Julie Walters”: separately, they are brilliant; “together, they are invincible”. Last night’s 70-minute finale had “redemption, justice, bitter laughs and fire in its blood”. But Happy Valley’s real greatness was in its masterful, “pin-sharp depictions” of the violence women meet from men throughout their lives, from a “profoundly, unreservedly, unapologetically northern, middle-aged, female point of view”. “Farewell, then, to our magnificent valley girl.”

I too used to love the “waddling battleaxe” Sergeant Cawood, says Camilla Long in The Sunday Times, taking down baddies and calling people “stupid, hopeless, or ‘a wankatron’”. But the truth is that this last series of Happy Valley has been sub-par. The final episodes were stuffed with “unlikely motives” and “far-fetched consequences” – from Tommy Lee Royce, a “pimp-rolling psycho” who inexplicably dressed like a “centrist dad from Kettering”, to an “Asian-stereotype pharmacist” who was improbably linked to Cawood because he happened to have clobbered the wife of the man who taught her grandson football. “It’s Midsomer Murders with diazepam.” Of course, fans will never admit this: having become so invested, they “can’t climb down now”. But in the end, the series perfectly summed up Britain: “funny, wry and cynical”, but lacking ambition and culminating in a confused mess.