Leading crime writer BORIS STARLING devises a chilling spin-off for Happy Valley
There will be no more Happy Valley. Both the show’s creator, Sally Wainwright, and its star, Sarah Lancashire, are adamant that Sergeant Catherine Cawood’s story is done, and no amount of critical acclaim or stellar viewing figures (more than 11 million have already tuned into last Sunday’s finale) can change that.
But after a week that saw John Cleese announce the reboot of Fawlty Towers, is this really the end of the road for the Calder Valley and all who live and die there?
Catherine’s retirement dream may have come true, hightailing it to the Himalayas in her ancient Land Rover. But for fans desperate for more of their Happy Valley fix – in the mould of how TV’s Morse had a spin-off with Lewis – there could easily be a sequel series.
One character in particular could take up Catherine’s baton: her teenage grandson, Ryan.
Happy Valley will be taught to university students after 7.5million tuned into watch Sergeant Catherine Caywood and Tommy Lee Royce’s final showdown
Here’s how the first episode of Happy Valley season 4 (or, Ryan’s Ridings, if BBC programmers wished to give the Yorkshire-based show a new name), in 2030 might unfold…
In last Sunday’s finale, Catherine’s boss, DSI Andy Shepherd, mistook Ryan for a recruit. ‘There’s something about you…’ Shepherd said, to Ryan’s evident pleasure.
And there is indeed something about Ryan. Despite having psychopath rapist Tommy Lee Royce for a father, he has turned out a fine young man. He willingly told the police that he had been in contact with Royce, he had the presence of mind to take a picture of one of Royce’s associates on a station platform, and his instincts about his predatory PE teacher, Rob Hepworth, were spot on.
Indeed, last week, interviewed on breakfast TV, Rhys Connah, the 16-year-old actor who has played Ryan since the first series in 2014, said: ‘If Sally Wainwright came to me and said, “Do you want to play Ryan seven years on, when he’s a police officer?”, I’d do that in a heartbeat.’
So, trying to adhere to the themes that have made Happy Valley so special – how bereavement and addiction cast ripples through so many lives, how mundane circumstances can spawn the most appalling barbarity, and how the human drama underpins everything else – here’s how the first episode of Happy Valley season 4 (or, Ryan’s Ridings, if BBC programmers wished to give the Yorkshire-based show a new name), in 2030 might unfold…
Now 23, Ryan is a rookie Detective Constable in West Yorkshire Police, having secured a place on the force’s sought-after accelerated detective training course. He is paired with DSI Shepherd, who is himself nearing retirement and has specifically requested to mentor the young lad.
Rhys Connah (pictured), the 16-year-old actor who has played Ryan since the first series in 2014, said: ‘If Sally Wainwright came to me and said, “Do you want to play Ryan seven years on, when he’s a police officer?”, I’d do that in a heartbeat’
Shepherd gives Ryan a pep talk, saying that this job will take it out of him on a deep level and that he will never be able to unsee the things he sees. Ryan gently replies that he’s already seen and done more than most.
They are called to the brutal murder of Martin Pearson, a high-flying London lawyer who had a second home in the popular and picturesque town of Hebden Bridge.
‘Bloody offcumdens,’ Shepherd says, using the local word to describe outsiders, ‘buying up all the good houses.’
On the surface, Hebden Bridge is gentrified, full of vegan cafes, baristas and sourdough ciabatta – ‘rubbish bread, way too porous, doesn’t keep all the runny eggs and fat juices in’, as Ryan says, in a no-nonsense phrase redolent of his beloved gran Sergeant Cawood.
But both he and Shepherd know the reality of how most people live away from the tourist trail, and how much the intermittent presence of rich people antagonises many locals.
The murder victim’s widow, Saskia, traumatised not just by his killing but by the realisation that this isn’t the chocolate-box idyll she had thought, shows the police where the graffiti ‘f*** off back to London’ had been spray-painted on their wall.
Ryan and Shepherd interview a couple of youths who had been harassing the Pearsons and have also been in trouble before for their involvement in the county lines drug trade, but the youths have an alibi and the police have to let them go.
In last Sunday’s finale, Catherine’s boss, DSI Andy Shepherd, mistook Ryan for a recruit. ‘There’s something about you…’ Shepherd said, to Ryan’s evident pleasure
Ryan finds that some of the uniformed officers are mildly hostile to him for having been fast-tracked and not worked his way up through the ranks of operations functions such as neighbourhood policing or blue-light response.
Working late one night, Ryan has the chance to access on the police computer the file of his father, Tommy Lee Royce. He knows much of what his dad did both to his mother Becky and grandmother Catherine – he raped Becky, who killed herself six weeks after giving birth to Ryan, and almost killed Catherine – but Ryan’s also aware that many of the worst details will have been kept from him.
He agonises about whether or not to look, but eventually curiosity gets the better of him. He’s horrified by what he finds, but it’s too late to undo. Perhaps DSI Shepherd had a point after all.
Ryan goes for a drink with Cesco, his best mate from school who’s now working in a gym. As so often happens with former schoolmates, their paths are subtly but irrevocably diverging, but they have so much history together that their friendship endures.
Ryan tries to bring up his worries after reading the Royce file, that despite everything he will still have inherited his father’s warped malevolence, sitting like a cancer inside him, just waiting to detonate. But he’s too confused and embarrassed to express himself properly, and Cesco doesn’t really understand or know what to say, so after a while they just go back to the safer shores of gossip, banter and football.
Rob Hepworth, Ryan’s old PE teacher, was convicted not just of possessing indecent images of children, but also of the murder of his wife Joanna (which, in fact, was carried out by pharmacist Faisal Bhatti). Hepworth is serving his sentence in HMP Wakefield, nicknamed the ‘Monster Mansion’ due to the high number of sex offenders and murderers there.
He is a Rule 43 prisoner, kept in segregation for his own safety, but another prisoner has circumvented the restrictions and beaten him to within an inch of his life. It’s an offence sufficiently serious to be referred to the police rather than handled within the Prison Service.
Shepherd and Ryan visit Hepworth in hospital, where he is under armed guard.
Remembering Joanna’s description of her husband’s tactic – ‘pick a fight with a lad at school, usually one without proper parenting at home, knock their confidence, then be the person to pick them up and turn their life around’ – Ryan still instinctively refers to him as ‘Mr Hepworth’, which Shepherd clocks and for which he admonishes him afterwards.
Hepworth still maintains he was innocent of his wife’s murder. He asks for news of his daughters, Florence and Poppy, who are living with his mother, Jane.
Dead mother, violent father, living with their grandmother – it’s all a bit close to home for Ryan.
DSI Shepherd in Happy Valley, played by Vincent Franklin
As part of their programme to gain experience, the new detectives are asked to choose an old, closed, serious crime case to study. Ryan opts to look at Hepworth’s, and when Shepherd says this is a bad idea because Ryan will be biased, Ryan turns that back on him: ‘That’s why I want this one, because I know I’ll have to filter out my prejudices and concentrate only on the evidence.’ Shepherd is impressed by his reasoning. Ryan reads the file carefully, and finds plenty of anomalies that don’t necessarily stack up about Joanna’s murder: A lot of circumstantial evidence, exacerbated by Hepworth’s history of coercive control, but nothing absolutely concrete that ties him to the murder beyond reasonable doubt.
In particular, much was made of the testimony of the actual killer, Faisal, about Hepworth’s aggression when Hepworth ran into the back of Faisal’s car not long after Joanna had been killed (but before her body had been discovered).
Ryan goes to interview Faisal. Though he was never caught for Joanna’s murder, he was convicted of illegally selling prescription drugs and sentenced to a year in prison. He served half of that with time off for good behaviour, but can never practise as a pharmacist again and now works in a supermarket.
His wife Anisha has divorced him and restricts access to their children as far as possible. Faisal attends the birthday party of Maira, one of his now teenage daughters, but he is largely shunned, and the extravagant presents his wealthy former in-laws give Maira simply reinforce his breadline pariah existence.
On his next shift at the supermarket, he steals some tranquillisers from the pharmacy section when a new employee who doesn’t know his history is on duty.
Local crime lord Darius Knezevic has lived up (or down) to his ‘Teflon Darius’ reputation.
His trial for the murder of fellow gangland thug Gary Gogowski, brought partly on Royce’s evidence, collapsed in farcical scenes when the defence successfully argued that Royce’s own testimony, given after he had taken an overdose of pills and drunk most of a bottle of whisky before setting himself on fire, was deeply unreliable.
Local crime lord Darius Knezevic in Happy Valley, played by Alec Secareanu
Knezevic has restyled himself as a legitimate businessman, though he’s still running drug-dealing and people-trafficking operations. As Catherine once memorably put it, ‘New Jersey has the Sopranos, Halifax has the Knezevices.’
Knezevic is also now a local politician on Bradford City Council. This is something he had been aiming for, and he’s using his position to abuse planning regulations and take backhanders from developers.
He’s also still angry at Royce for having killed his brother, Zeljko, but since Royce isn’t around any more, Knezevic directs his anger at Royce’s only known living relative – Ryan.
The police discover that one of Knezevic’s companies had been in dispute with murder victim Pearson over plans to build an incinerator near Pearson’s home. Being a lawyer, Pearson had been adept at working the planning system to continually stall the application, and Knezevic was becoming ever more agitated by this.
Shepherd and Ryan go to interview Knezevic, who is equal parts charm and understated menace. They also discover CCTV footage of a man going to visit Pearson shortly before he was killed. The man’s face can’t be seen on the recording, but Ryan recognises the gait and an item of clothing. It’s Cesco.
Rather than tell Shepherd who the man is, Ryan goes to see Cesco on the quiet and presses him for details. Cesco reluctantly confesses that he’s been working as hired muscle off and on for Knezevic – he has a steroid habit linked to his gym weight-training, which he needs to fund and gyms don’t pay well – and Knezevic likes the fact that Cesco has a regular job that won’t attract too much attention.
Cesco denies killing Pearson, saying that he only went to give him a fright. Ryan doesn’t know whether to believe him or what to do, and this is how the first episode ends – Ryan caught on the horns of a dilemma as to what he values more. His career and justice, or his closest friendship?
Boris Starling created the crime series Messiah, which ran for five seasons on BBC1.