Happy Valley (by Sally Wainwright) – S1 E01 summary: Act 1

What is interesting after watching this and reading the screenplay are two things:

  1. The writer only reveals the name of the antagonist (Tommy) at the end of the act in the script and on screen. Whereas on screen we can expect to have information held back from us, Sally Wainwright expertly withholds his name from us in the script as well.
  2. We know that this Tommy Lee Royce has been released, because we hear it several times, from Catherine, Richard and Clare. But we don’t know what the fascination is, who he is, and what he has done… yet.
  3. Tommy is the main antagonist of the trilogy, but arguably not the main antagonist of the episode, which goes to Kevin Weatherill. Yet his name stated marks the end of Act 1. ‘Tommy, do you wanna cup of tea?’ Now we know that this is the man everyone is talking about.
  4. The opening scene is a man threatening to set himself on fire. Everyone seems to hear about it, so it seems quite important, but Catherine doesn’t consider it worth talking about. In fact, it has nothing to do with the plot that unfolds. Is it possible that Sally Wainwright knew the end of season 3 even though she wrote season 1 a full 8 years before season 3 and foreshadowed the 2023 climax in episode 1 of season 1 in 2014?

Below is a summary of scenes in Act 1.

  1. PARK – 0.00 – 2.36 (2.36)

Catherine Cawood tries to stop a youth from setting himself on fire. So we open with a kind of save the cat scene. During the scene we instantly learn Catherine has a wicked sense of humour. Told to keep the kid engaged in conversation, introducing herself, Catherine tells the youth (and us) “I’m Catherine, by the way. I’m 47. I’m divorced. I live with my sister, who’s a recovering heroin addict. I’ve two grown-up children: one dead, one who doesn’t speak to me, and a grandson, so…” And we the audience have Catherine’s life in a nutshell. This is, in fact, a clever technique by the writer. As the season continues we learn that the ‘one dead’ and ‘a grandson’ are pivotal to the main story. An active question we are left asking ourselves is ‘why is her grown up child dead?’ 

What do we learn about Catherine in this scene? She is caring. She is witty, with a dark sense of humour. She has a complicated family life. 

  1. Opening Credits: 2.36 – 3.04 (0.28)
  1. NEVISON GALLAGHER’s OFFICE – 3.04 – 5.28 (2.24)

This scene introduces us to Kevin Weatherill who asks his boss Nevison Gallagher to give him a pay rise to cover his daughter’s school fees for a private school. We learn from the dialogue that Nevison Gallagher did not attend a private school ‘a clever kid will do well wherever they go – look at me.’ We learn that Kevin is the accountant.

  1. STREET – 5.28 – 6.46 (1.18)
  1. Richard asks about the kid who set fire to himself (he didn’t).
  2. Richard tells Catherine the local newspaper is going online so he’s losing his job. 
  3. He asks Catherine out. 
  4. He tells her Tommy Lee Royce has been released.
  1. RYAN’s SCHOOL 6.46 – 7.54 (1.08)

Ryan’s teacher asks Catherine to speak to her. Tells her Ryan has been aggressive and using unacceptable language.

  1. Catherine’s HOME 7.54 – 9.21 (1.27)

Clare mentions the youth setting fire to himself. Catherine tells her 

  1. Richard has asked her out 
  2. Ryan is in trouble at school.
  3. Tommy Lee Royce is out of prison.
  1. WEATHERILL’s HOME 9.21 – 9.59 (0.38)

Kevin Weatherill talks to Jenny (his wife) about being refused a pay rise. Jenny tries to be positive and reassuring. Kevin can’t hold it together. 

  1. GALLAGHER’S HOME 9.59 – 11.06 (1.07)

Family dinner. Nevison talks to his wife, Helen and daughter, Ann, about Kevin wanting a pay rise. Father-daughter friction between Nevison and Ann. He quips that paying for Anne’s private education was a waste of money – “might as well have pissed it up against the wall.”

  1. RESTAURANT 11.06 – 13.13 (2.07)

Catherine and Richard have dinner. Richard moans about being too old to change career. Richard asks about the kid setting fire to himself again. Catherine really doesn’t want to talk about work. She advises Richard to write a big story about drugs to sell to the national papers, then asks if Richard knows where Tommy Lee Royce is staying.

  1. RICHARD’S CAR 13.12 – 14.03 (0.51)

Richard and Catherine kiss. 

  1. WEATHERILL’S BEDROOM 14.03 – 15.16 (1.13)

Weatherill moans about Nevison as he puts Jenny, who is suffering with MS, to bed. Jenny is positive. Weatherill is self-deprecating and negative. Weatherill is bitter that he doesn’t own half of the company. He feels like he is is being shafted.

  1. CEMETRY 15.16 – 16.10 (0.54)

Catherine is looking at Rebecca’s grave stone. Clare and Ryan arrive. Ryan notices old pens left on the grave of Sylvia Plath Hughes.

  1.  COWGILL’s CARAVAN PARK 16.10 – 17.49 (1.39)

Ashley Cowgill greets Weatherill, Jenny and their daughters. Cowgill says he has worked out wheelchair access for Jenny to play table tennis. Weatherill groans about how wealthy Cowgill is compared to his own situation.

  1. OUTDOORS WALKING 17.49 – 18.43 (0.54)

Catherine speaks to Clare about where Tommy Lee Royce may be living.

  1. CARAVAN PARK 18.43 – 21.22 (2.39)

Two young men lift sacks of cement as Cowgill watches. Weatherill presents Cowgill with a cheque and sees a bag of cannabis fall out of the cement bag. Weatherill says he won’t say anything. The men stare fiercely at Weatherill. Cowgill coerces him into going for a beer. It is interesting to note that in the screenplay the two men are referred to as two men. Then, when LEWIS is named, Tommy Lee Royce’s character is still only referred to as the the OTHER MAN. So, just as when we watch the scene, we don’t know that this man is the released prisoner (and main antagonist of the entire trilogy) Tommy Lee Royce, who both Clare and Richard (and Catherine) have been talking about, also, when we read the script, we don’t know that this ‘other man’ is significant. The script withholds information, just as the scene on our screens does.

  1. CARAVAN PARK – BAR 21.22 – 23.30 (2.08)

Weatherill proposes Cowgill make half a million from kidnapping Ann Gallagher. He explains the backstory and why he hates Nevison Gallagher so much.

  1. CARAVAN PARK 23.30 – 24.32 (1.02)

One of the men (Lewis) tells Cowgill he doesn’t like the new fellow. Cowgill says to give him a break. He’s been inside for 8 years, and only just got out. Now we hear Cowgill call the ‘other man’ by his name. “Tommy, wanna cup o’tea?” Now we know this is the one Catherine is worried about. But we don’t yet know why.

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