Why Kevin Doyle is the unsung hero of Happy Valley series two

Catherine Cawood may be queen of the Calder Valley but it was John Wadsworth who had us on the edge of our seats, says Sarah Doran

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“Anyone is capable of anything”. That’s undoubtedly been the theme of Happy Valley series two and cop-turned-killer John Wadsworth embodied it perfectly.

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While we all sang Sarah Lancashire and Siobhan Finneran’s praises – and rightly so – Kevin Doyle’s weary Wadsworth took bumbling to a whole new level in the background, crafting his own brilliant black comedy amid the high drama in the Halifax area.

The detective was drugged and stitched up royally by his bit on the side, vicious Vicky Fleming (expertly played by Amelia Bullimore, might we add), before being brutally blackmailed to the point where he actually committed murder.

But John’s actions weren’t the cold-blooded calculations of a serial-killing mastermind, or a cop-killing thug like Tommy Lee Royce. His crime was one of desperation, and Doyle illustrated it beautifully in one utterly horrified look.

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What would you do if you accidentally committed murder in a fit of furious and frantic rage? “You’d follow the steps like him, wouldn’t you?” a colleague suggested over a cup of tea. (You quite simply can’t talk about Happy Valley without a cuppa to hand.)

And if – heaven forbid – you came face-to-face with the corpse you’d mutilated to pin the blame on someone else, you’d probably look as shell-shocked and nauseated as Doyle’s Wadsworth did in that mortuary. 

Needless to say, the horror of the situation he found himself in didn’t help: it’s pretty tough to discover that, after going to extreme lengths to do away with your lover, your wife had been doing the dirty on you all along.

Investigating your own crime and covering your tracks at the same time isn’t easy, as jittery John discovered when his digits popped up on the murder victim’s phone.

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But while bumbling might seem second nature to Downton Abbey’s downtrodden man from downstairs, Doyle also proved he has what it takes to bring a seriously sinister soul to life.

The cold look in his eyes as Matthew Lewis’ troubled Sean was charged with murder left many viewers squirming in their seats, and the bravado with which he told his cheating missis she’d have to leave was uncharacteristically brilliant.

Doyle’s a man who can expertly iron a shirt and trade inspired insults with his adulterous on-screen wife at the same time. “Pox merchant”, anyone?

The final act in his black comedy was perhaps the most brilliant, though. Doyle’s portrayal of a crumbling man who thought he’d gotten away with murder most foul was faultless. 

As he sat in a car park screaming at his own steering wheel, it was almost impossible not to feel some sympathy. Doyle positively oozed desperation. 

And from the moment he bolted from the police station after his wife’s lover came to dob him in, there was little doubt in our minds as to what the tortured soul would do next.

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Anyone is capable of anything, Sally Wainwright tells us, and Kevin Doyle’s proved that by doing the unthinkable. Tonight he stole the spotlight from Sarah Lancashire.