Hasta la vista, Tommy Lee Royce: Our Happy Valley finale theories
After five Sundays of spectacular swearing, sibling betrayal, sinister plotting and – most importantly – stews, Happy Valley is about to air its last ever episode. One of the best British dramas of the 21st century returned after a seven-year break on New Year’s Day this year, and over the past few weeks writer Sally Wainwright has served up something well worth the wait, with Tommy Lee Royce crashing back into the lives of the Cawood family with a renewed ferocity.
The new season opened with Tommy (James Norton) behind bars, serving a life sentence for multiple murders. Before long, we discovered that his impressionable son Ryan (Rhys Connah) has been visiting him for years, unbeknownst to his grandmother, Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire).
To her horror, Catherine discovered that her own sister Clare (Siobhan Finneran) and Clare’s partner Neil (Con O’Neill) were the ones taking Ryan to visit Tommy behind her back. The couple tried to insist that Tommy just wanted to get to know Ryan, but it soon became clear that he was after a lot more than that.
Cut to last week’s penultimate episode, and Tommy has escaped from prison (on a bike, ingeniously disguised in red Lycra) and is trying to convince Ryan to run away with him to sunny Spain. Meanwhile, Catherine and her fellow police officers embark on a wild goose chase to find him. Tommy is out to get Catherine, and is on the hunt for a gun. Put simply, it’s all a mess.
So what will happen next? Will Tommy’s plan work? Or will Ryan do the right thing? And will our precious Catherine make it to her long-awaited retirement?
Here are our theories ahead of the finale...
Ryan saves the day
Episode five had audiences screaming at the TV for Ryan to stay the hell away from the newly escaped Tommy. But I think we’ll be watching that closing scene, of the pair of them talking in a video game chatroom, in a different light come this Sunday’s finale.
Fresh from learning some cold hard truths from Ann, Ryan appeared to have a newfound admiration for his grandmother, Catherine. “I love you,” he told her, seemingly out of the blue, to which she replied: “What’s brought that on then?” Hours later, he was speaking to his murderous father online, and discovered he wants to whisk him away from Yorkshire to the Spanish sunshine.
While it might have appeared as though Ryan was mulling over whether he should go or not, my prediction is that he’s already decided to shop his father in. It seems likely that Ryan, in his immature way (he’s 16, let’s not forget), will think he can plead to his dad’s softer side, which us viewers know doesn’t exist. I’m betting he will turn down Tommy’s invite to Marbella – hopefully before he realises the extent of his father’s vendetta against Catherine. This will anger Tommy, who will show his son his terrifying true colours.
The series will end months later (more predictions on what will go down below) after Ryan has completed his forthcoming GCSEs, following which he’ll join Catherine on her post-retirement trip to the Himalayas. “Sorry it ain’t Marbella, love,” she’ll say in her classic Cawood tone, as they belt up and drive off into the rain-flecked, cloud-ridden horizon. Jacob Stolworthy
Ann takes revenge
No one will be forgetting the blistering monologue that Ann Gallagher (Charlie Murphy) delivered to Ryan any time soon. In season one, Ann was abducted and raped by Tommy. The daughter of local billionaire Nevison Gallagher (George Costigan), she had been the target of a ransom plot by Nevison’s disgruntled accountant, Kevin Weatherill (Steve Pemberton).
In episode five of the latest series, Ann gave a speech to Ryan about his father, saying: “He’s a psychopath. He’s incapable of relationships. The only relationship he’s got is with himself inside his crippled little head. All love means to him is a weakness in other people that he can use to exploit them with.”
Saying that what Tommy did to her was no better than what he did to Ryan’s mother, Ann continued: “He forced [your mother] to have sex with him when all she wanted to do was go home. He impregnated her to humiliate her, to belittle her, to degrade her, to terrify her.”
The furious monologue came after weeks of seeing Ann slowly come apart at the seams. She’d been struggling with her police work, and had been retraumatised by Tommy’s escape from prison. Plus, she grabbed an enormous kitchen knife when she heard Ryan’s knock at the door in episode five, thinking he might be her attacker. My money is on Ann finally snapping, and taking her revenge on Tommy. Ellie Harrison
With all the attention on Tommy’s fate, I’m turning my eye to this season’s other Big Bad: Darius Knezevic (Alec Secareanu). Just as suspected, it was the gang boss who orchestrated Tommy’s escape from the courtroom at the end of episode four. The two villains seemed pretty pally in episode five as Darius drove his new buddy to a dingy hideout – he even bought Tommy a celebratory bottle of whisky – but Darius made it clear that he didn’t agree with the plan to kill Catherine, or as Tommy put it, “to get even with this b***”.
Darius may be a ruthless gangster but there are some lines even he is hesitant to cross. It turns out that killing a police officer is one of them – not because he is a morally upstanding citizen but because it would draw too much attention to his crime syndicate. Although his and Tommy’s conversation ended with Darius accepting the prison escapee’s decision, he wasn’t happy about it. Plus, Darius said he wouldn’t give Tommy a gun.
Sure, they might be friends now, but friendship can be a fickle thing – especially one built on debts and murder. Darius can’t afford any more police attention, not after Danielle’s death in Elland, so my bet is that if Tommy murdering Catherine will in any way bring heat on himself, Darius won’t hesitate to step in and stop his new pal. Even if that means killing him. Maybe he and Ann will do it together. (Only kidding!)
Unfortunately, I do think that whatever ends up happening, Darius will get away scot-free. Across this season, there has been a message that there are bigger, structural issues at play in the criminal scene of West Yorkshire that even Catherine is helpless against. Darius, with his connections in politics, will likely be too slippery to nail down. The character seems representative of a wider issue, which is why I don’t think Wainwright will kill him off. Just because Tommy is (hopefully) dead, that doesn’t mean that West Yorkshire is suddenly a criminal-free haven. Annabel Nugent
The final episode of ‘Happy Valley’ airs on BBC One at 9pm on Sunday 5 February