Happy Valley S3 E4 recap: Catherine Cawood's fate sealed?

Happy Valley S3 E4 recap: Catherine Cawood's fate sealed?

Updated: 2 months, 4 days, 20 hours, 13 minutes, 18 seconds ago

While optimists like myself have been hoping for a fun Happy Valley spinoff series (ideally a Nepal-based backpacking adventure, starring Catherine and Clare Cawood and their unresolved issues only), others – some might say realists – have come up with a very different ending for the BBC drama.

You guessed it, dear reader: they think Sarah Lancashire’s beloved ‘Sarge’ is doomed to die at the end of season three. Which makes a lot of sense, considering her archnemesis Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton) is finally free and at large.

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First, some context. 

In episode four of the third and final season of Happy Valley, we saw Tommy – as well as his ominous back tattoo (Ryan’s name? On a sword? Smells like a revenge thing to us) – somehow escape a crowded courtroom, hightail it to Rico’s Newsagents, disguise himself as a courier, and calmly cycle to freedom. 

Now, we know that Ryan (Rhys Connah) is still safe with Catherine’s ex-husband Richard Cawood (Derek Riddell). For the time being, at least. 

But what of Catherine herself?

Happy Valley season 3: the posterThe poster for the final season of Happy Valley has given viewers plenty to think about.

How is Catherine spending her last few days until retirement?

It was a relatively chilled episode for Catherine, who spent a lot of time reminding us all about her impending retirement.

“On Thursday, you can kiss my ample arse goodbye,” she said at one point.

Joyce (Ishia Bennison), meanwhile, revealed that she had collected “£2,175 and sixpence” in a whip-round – but Catherine  insisted that she didn’t want a leaving ‘do of any kind. And, of course, she returned her spare uniform, too.

So far, so normal. Except… 

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Well, considering everything we know about Hollywood cops working the beat in the days leading up until retirement, it really feels as if the Sarge has only gone and signed her own death warrant. 

Let’s talk about retirony

Retirony – a portmanteau of retirement and irony – refers to that cinematic trope which sees anybody in a dangerous job who’s only a few days away from retirement doomed to die before the final credits roll.

It’s a trope that we all know and love, making it into everything from the most recent season of The Handmaid’s Tale to Bad Boys For Life (that poor old police chief never saw that assassin coming). 

Hell, the concept of retirony even made it into an episode of The Simpsons once, when Chief Wiggum revealed his plans for life after the force.

“Well, you know how it is with cops,” he said matter-of-factly. 

“I’ll be shot three days before retirement. In the business, we call it retirony!”

Is it any wonder, then, that so many Happy Valley viewers believe the constant references to Catherine retiring mean that she won’t make it that far? And that the leaving ‘do she’s so desperate to avoid will, y’know, turn out to be her funeral?

“They keep bringing up Catherine’s retirement which means she isn’t making it to retirement,” tweeted one.

Another added: “So with all this retirement talk are both Tommy and Catherine gonna end up dead…”

And still one more said: “Something is telling me Catherine won’t be getting this retirement party.”

Hmm. Throw in the dark fan theory surround this season’s creepy poster (it involves a final showdown between three key characters, if you’re interested), and it doesn’t look too good for Catherine, does it?

Reasons to be hopeful

Personally, this writer thinks that it’s highly unlikely the series will end with Catherine’s death: after all, retirony is rarely played straight anymore since it has become such a well-known and joked about trope, so it seems Happy Valley writers might just playing with our hearts and emotions. 

Plus, I’m honestly banking on that aforementioned Happy Valley spinoff series, because I need an intense drama about the Cawood sisters reconnecting over a globetrotting roadtrip already, and I need Catherine to get a happy ending.

And, judging by reactions on Twitter, everyone needs a happy(ish) ending to this series, if only to put the ‘happy’ back into Happy Valley already. Otherwise it really is the falsest of advertising yet…

Happy Valley season three continues on BBC1 on Sundays at 9pm

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Images: BBC