Happy Valley: Critics call last episode ‘one of the greatest finales ever seen’ as episode scores five star reviews and 7.5million viewers – the largest rating for a UK drama since Line Of Duty
Critics have lined up to heap praise on Sally Wainwright’s Happy Valley finale, with Sunday night’s episode earning five star reviews across the board.
The BBC drama came to a close after three seasons and 18 episodes, with fans and critics alike hailing the final episode as ‘one of the greatest finales ever seen on British television.
The Daily Mail’s Jan Moir called the episode ‘as moving and unexpected as it was thrilling and thought-provoking, with moments of choking emotion as well as flashes of humour.’
Lucy Magan writing for The Guardian praised ‘surefooted’ creator and writer Wainwright who t’ook us through to neat but truthful resolutions to every part of the story.’
Carol Midgley for The Times agreed, declaring ‘Hats off to Wainwright for avoiding a spectacular, shoot-out showdown. The genius of this was the low-key, domestic smallness of it.’
Anticipated finale: Critics have lined up to heap praise on Sally Wainwright’s Happy Valley finale, with Sunday night’s episode earning five star reviews across the board
Fans also flooded Twitter with praise for the unexpectedly subdued finale.
Sarah Lancashire’s lead performance as Sgt Catherine Cawood was lavished with praise as her final showdown with James Norton ‘s Tommy Lee Royce (or as she described it ‘a bit of a tussle’) was deemed the perfect way to end the series.
While many fans were expecting a high-octane conclusion, and perhaps even Catherine’s demise, Wainwright’s decision to pivot her finale around a 15 minute long kitchen table war of words between Tommy and Catherine left viewers in awe.
‘A stand-off worth waiting for – no guns, no knives, no punches but a battle of words which Catherine badly needed to say. Superb stuff by Sally Wainwright a tour de fore turn by Sarah Lancashire & a whirlwind of emotion from James Norton. What a finale,’ declared one viewer.
Others hailed Sarah’s performance, with a fan deciding that ‘she deserves all the BAFTAs, Golden Globes and Oscars and it still won’t be enough.’
‘I already feel sorry for any drama or actress up against Happy Valley and Sarah Lancashire at next year’s BAFTAs. Forget it it’s over, you haven’t got a chance,’ agreed writer Emma Kennedy.
Overnight ratings show the final episode was watched by an audience of 7.5 million viewers, with a 41.6% share.
This is the highest ever overnight figure for Happy Valley, and the largest overnight rating for a drama on UK television since May 2021, when the Line of Duty series six finale aired.
The end: The BBC drama came to a close after three seasons and 18 episodes, with fans and critics alike hailing the final episode as ‘one of the greatest finales ever seen’
Lead: Sarah Lancashire ‘s lead performance as Sgt Catherine Cawood was lavished with praise as was creator Sally Wainwright’s script
Chilling: Carol Midgley for The Times said: ‘Hats off to Wainwright for avoiding a spectacular, shoot-out showdown. The genius of this was the low-key, domestic smallness of it’
Producers were said to be so desperate to keep the show’s climax a secret that they filmed five different endings to ensure no spoilers would leak from the set.
One source close to the show said: ‘The scripts were seen by those who needed to see them but even they haven’t given away how things will come to an end because the scenes were filmed in different ways.’
The Happy Valley source told Katie Hind for The Mail On Sunday: ‘From the beginning of the planning of series three, Sally and her team wanted to end the show in a sensational way and give viewers an ending they won’t forget. She also didn’t want any spoilers to ruin things.
Happy Valley finale reviews
Lucy Mangan writes: ‘Brutal, tender, funny, compelling and heartbreaking to the last – there is nothing left to do now but look back on and bid all its denizens and their creator an awed farewell.’
‘Don’t doubt Wainwright” was the lesson of the finale. As surefooted as any fell-walker – and aided by a cast without a weak link – she took us through to neat but truthful resolutions to every part of the story. It had redemption, justice, bitter laughs and fire in its blood.’
Carol Midgley writes: ‘Hats off to Wainwright for avoiding a spectacular, shoot-out showdown. The genius of this was the low-key, domestic smallness of it, Catherine’s epiphany being that Ryan wasn’t like Tommy at all. Nurture had beaten nature.’
Anita Singh writes: ‘In truth, it was not the most gripping episode of this series. But it showed everything we loved about Catherine Cawood: her toughness, her vulnerability, her sense of humour.’
‘Happy Valley sounds so bleak on paper, with its storylines about drugs, rape and murder. But at its core is the love that Cawood has for her family. Wainwright gave us what we wanted: a happy ending for a character who truly deserves it.’
Ruth Lawes writes: ‘For a drama that hasn’t held back on misery, despair and brutal deaths (see Sophie Rundle’s Kirsten McAskill’s horrifying murder), it had seemed unlikely that Catherine would walk away unscathed.
But the lack of physical violence – Tommy and Catherine didn’t even touch – made their exchange all the more gripping.’
Jan Moir writes: ‘The last of Killing Eve, the final Game Of Thrones, don’t even get me started on The Sopranos. All that time invested, all that concentration, only for the denouement to be as disappointing as a slammed door.
Happy Valley was not like that. Happy Valley did not disappoint.
In fact, Happy Valley provided one of the greatest drama finales ever seen on British television; as moving and unexpected as it was thrilling and thought-provoking, with moments of choking emotion as well as flashes of humour.’
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