Happy Valley returns to the BBC for season three

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Sarah Lancashire as Cathrine Cawood in Happy Valley season 3

Happy Valley might not be the best title for this hit crime drama. It’s not about a Chinese takeaway and nor does the Calder Valley, where it’s set, seem a particularly happy place. Not in a show dealing with violence against women, rape, suicide, addiction, broken families… But with powerful storytelling, fantastic lead characters and thrilling investigations in each series, viewers are glued when Happy Valley is on. No wonder it won the BAFTA for Best Drama Series in 2015.

The first two series ran in 2014 and 2015 respectively, but then the show disappeared from our screens. Now, fans are rejoicing because season three has been announced. This final series will begin airing on Sunday, 1 January 2023 at 9pm, on BBC One. There have been rumours that it may appear on iPlayer before then – watch this space.

Years have passed but Sergeant Catherine Cawood, played by the star of the show Sarah Lancashire, is still a cop the Calder Valley – the Hebden Bridge area near Halifax in West Yorkshire. Now close to retirement, she deals mainly with heroin addicts, prostitutes, petty criminals and anti-social teens. When a decomposing body is found in a drained reservoir it links to organised crime in the area. More than that, there is a connection to Tommy Lee Royce – the last person in the world Catherine wants to deal with.

Played by James Norton, the menacing Yorkshire badman is serving a sentence for kidnapping and murder, which he committed during season one of the show. His beard and long hair do nothing to soften him.

James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley season 3

A great deal of the third series will focus on Ryan, who is Royce’s son by Catherine’s daughter, Becky. Catherine believes that Royce raped Becky, leading to Becky’s suicide not long after Ryan was born. Catherine still holds Royce responsible. In the first two series, Ryan’s curiosity about his father as an eight- and nine-year-old troubled Catherine nearly as much as Royce’s creepy attempts to contact his son and disrupt the stable life she has given the boy.

Now Ryan is 16 and, still played by Rhys Connah, he has his own ideas about his relationship with his father, which will cut against the grain with Catherine. She knows what Royce is capable of and wants Ryan to stay well away from him.

Rhys Connah as Ryan Cawood in Happy Valley season 3

Alongside Sarah Lancashire and James Norton, Siobhan Finneran turned in excellent performances in series one and two of Happy Valley. She returns as Catherine’s sister, Clare Cartwright, a recovering alcoholic and former addict. Despite her issues, she has been key to Ryan’s upbringing and a support to Catherine. Once again, dual stories will be in effect – with Catherine on the one hand helping investigate a murder and fighting drug traffickers, and on the other protecting her grandson Ryan from his violent father.

The reason it’s taken six years for a new season to arrive is, according to the makers, because they needed time for Ryan to grow up before the next chapter in the story could develop. Happy Valley was created, written and directed by Sally Wainwright. Season three will consist of six hour-long episodes.

You can watch Happy Valley seasons one and two on the iPlayer in the UK, and on via if you’re in the US, Canada and other territories.


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