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Happy Valley: 5 theories on how the gritty show will end

The BBC drama stars Sarah Lancashire and James Norton


happy valley series 3 theories© Photo: BBC
Francesca Shillcock
Senior Features Writer
January 27, 2023
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There might still be two episodes left, but we're already sad about Happy Valley coming to an end. The brilliant series, written by the incomparable Sally Wainwright, is the third and final chapter in the story of how one criminal kept his evil grip on a family for years.

For those who haven't yet caught up with episode four – look away now! For those who have, you'll know the tense ending saw James Norton's villainous Tommy Lee Royce escape while on trial at Leeds Crown Court.

WATCH: Catherine confronts Claire in Happy Valley's latest episode

Fans are, unsurprisingly, engrossed by the plot and have been coming up with intriguing theories on how the drama will wrap up. Not only that, the stars themselves are unaware of how the drama will wrap due to multiple endings being filmed to protect against spoilers. Whatever happens, it's going to be big.

Here are five theories on the ending explained and how likely they are to happen…

Catherine Cawood talks into radio at crime scene© Photo: BBC

Happy Valley has just two episodes remaining

Tommy Lee Royce will run away with Ryan

Viewers will have spotted earlier in the series that Tommy had been learning Spanish while serving time. This could have just been a hobby, but many think his escape has been in his head all along and that Spain is the destination of choice.

Since he's been building his relationship with Ryan in recent times, we wouldn't be surprised if the criminal was plotting to kidnap his son and take him with him. However, the authorities, including Sarah Lancashire's Catherine Cawood, will be immediately on high alert and search mode to track Tommy down.

So, while it will probably be a mean feat to catch him, we think managing to successfully escape the country is pretty slim for Tommy. Not to mention, our Ryan is now 16 and seems pretty certain about staying with his family – phew.

MORE: Happy Valley's Sarah Lancashire reveals 'horrifying' reason for first marriage

MORE: Happy Valley fans spot Catherine’s family member is missing from season 3

Ryan visits his dad Tommy in prison© Photo: BBC

Ryan is at risk now Tommy has escaped

Tommy Lee Royce ends up dead

Some might argue Tommy's demise is only a good thing, others will argue he deserves to serve life in prison. Philosophical debates aside, it's certainly possible that Tommy could face his end during the series finale. There are a number of ways in which it could happen, the most likely is that he'll end up being killed by armed authorities during his escape.

If this were to happen, it would certainly feel, to viewers, like a solid 'end' to the story. The Cawood family would no longer have Tommy lurking in the metaphorical backgrounds of their lives, and Ryan wouldn't be influenced by him anymore. But there's a part of us that thinks this one is too easy…

Tommy Lee Royce pictured in court before escaping© Photo: BBC

Tommy managed to escape in episode four

Catherine Cawood has a grisly end

This is one theory that everyone will be hoping does not come to fruition. It would be a big (and brave) move by Sally Wainwright to kill off a major character who is so adored by fans. Do we think it could happen? Probably not. But, it's not beyond the realms of possibility. Particularly since there's a, you know, murderous psychopath on the loose who might have a motive or two under his belt.

Not only that, there was a comment Catherine made to Claire in episode one that many police officers (statistically) have been known to die within six months after retiring, and we all know the sergeant's retirement date is just around the corner. Please, say it isn't so!

Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley© Photo: BBC

Will Catherine make it? We hope so!

Tommy Lee Royce kills Ryan

This might sound like a shocking theory, but, using Ryan as a weapon in order to avenge Catherine is something that Tommy is not afraid to do. Remember the canal boat? Poor little Ryan had petrol poured over him as Tommy panicked about his end when the Sarge came knocking.

However, the good news is, with Ryan being older (and bigger) he'd have a far better chance of defending himself. And as much the lad has seemed keen to go and visit his father, he is definitely showing a side of caution and scepticism about his father, for example when he asked Neil about his delusion of being released, therefore we think he won't be swayed easily by what Tommy has to say.

Ryan in Happy Valley© Photo: BBC

Ryan could turn his sights on his own son

Rob Hepworth will be framed for the murder of his wife, Joanna

Tommy and Catherine's drama aside, the other major storyline threading through series three involves Ryan's PE Teacher, Rob Hepworth (Mark Stanley), and the eventual demise of his wife, Joanna (Molly Winnard).

Fans will know that episode four saw pharmacist Faisal Bhatti (Amit Shah) lose his cool and hit Joanna over the head with a rolling pin. On the one hand, Faisal has the perfect opportunity to pin the blame on Rob (that suitcase is pretty damning evidence) since the teacher has been abusive to his wife in the past.

Amit Shah as Faisal sits at table in Happy Valley© Photo: BBC

Will Faisal get away with murder?

However, on the other hand, if we take a look back at the previous two series, the characters involved in subplots (for example series one's Kevin Weatherill and series two's John Wadsworth) rarely get away with the ridiculous crimes they find themselves involved with. That in mind, we think it's more likely that the truth will prevail and Faisal will be found out. How that happens, is up for debate! 

Happy Valley episode five airs on Sunday 29 January at 9 pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.

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