The definitive tier list ranking of every major character in Happy Valley

I will hate Neil with my last breath

Happy Valley season three came to an end last week, and with it that finishes the whole show – what a finale, what a last season and what a wild journey we’ve been on through Calder Valley and beyond. It’s crazy how consistent the show was – a true pinnacle of British TV drama that should technically have peaked with season one but against all odds managed to maintain its quality. With a cast of characters this big though, not all of them hit – and some of the Yorkshire residents we see traipsing around in Sad Valley I hate with every fibre of my being. Here’s a tier ranked list of all the major characters in Happy Valley. End of.

Rock bottom, fiery pit of hell tier


The hatred I feel every time he croaks out some dialogue is actually beyond belief. And this was BEFORE he facilitated Ryan’s trips to see Tommy Lee Royce in prison. Every day I wake up and think about how much I hate this man. Free Clare!

Shit tier

Rob Hepworth

Pure evil and can’t wait til he gets his comeuppance. I want him locked up for 100 years. Not the kind of villain who you look forward to the scenes of, but one so blurgh that you groan every time he rocks up.

Faisal Bhatti

He’s so shifty that it makes me squirm! I don’t like it one bit! I need his lies to unravel and I need to see him pay the price for his crooked ways.

Frances Drummond

Imagine being such a wetty for Tommy Lee Royce, lol.

DS John Wadsworth

The human embodiment of a shambles.

Couldn’t care less tier

Joanna Hepworth

I don’t mean this category to be savage, because obviously I care about what happened to her and think she was treated awfully but I just don’t think we got enough from the role to get her higher on this Happy Valley ranking. Forgive me! Justice for Joanna but she’s in this tier sadly.

Nevison Gallagher

Sorry but this fella is absolutely robbing a lead role spot. How he has managed to be in the main credits for three seasons but not relevant since season one? Comedy gold. The cheek of him asking out wor Catherine as well? I don’t think so darling!

Mid tier

Ashley Cowgill

My mate said Ashley is so panto and now I can’t unthink it. Remember in the 00s when every Christmas there’d be a “Coronation St does panto” on ITV? That’s Ashley’s energy. “You can call me… God” yeah, I’m not gonna do that luv.


Another one of those human embodiment of a shambles characters, only this one is played by Steve Pemberton who is by all intents and purposes one of the best actors the UK has.

Amanda Wadsworth

How are you going to get socialist comrade Julie Hesmondhalgh on your show and cast her in the background? At least she was a sex pos legend.

DI Jodie Shackleton

A deep jobsworth and Ar Catherine hates her, so she’s only mid. Not trash tier though because Katherine Kelly is a national treasure and she is a good detective.

DI Mike Taylor

He used to get on my tits when he never gave Catherine Cawood the respect she deserved, but he’s having a good season this year so far and he’s a good ally for Ar Cath to have on side. King of giving her a tip off.

Good tier

Daniel Cawood

Happy Valley characters ranked

Daniel is a great character because of the way he’s slowly changed over the three seasons. I love his development from his bitterness in season one, his marriage failing in season two and his relationship blossoming with Ann by season three. Karl Davies makes Daniel always a pleasure, never a chore to have on screen.

Ann Gallagher

It is simply great storytelling to have the victim of season one evolve into a police officer and then detective. It’s great growth, and I love that Sally Wainwright manages to weave the Gallaghers around the Cawoods with such interconnected ease. She’s a bit of a jobsworth but I’ll let her off, she’s been through the ringer.


Bit of an icon. We love a redemption, don’t we girlies! She’s slaying season three, and that scene with Catherine after she tried to kill herself after shooting her serial killer son Daryl is honestly one of the best in the entire show.

Lewis Whippey

Happy Valley characters ranked

I could fix him.

Richard Cawood

Happy Valley characters ranked

I really, really, really ship and stan Catherine and Richard as a couple. I really missed him in season two when he was absent – I’m so glad he’s back on the scene and Ros, the Happy Valley equivalent of Dolly Parton’s Jolene, is out of the picture. I am cautious he might die this season, but we can dream.

Great tier


Happy Valley characters ranked

Oh that’s mother right there.

Ryan Cawood

Happy Valley characters ranked

An extremely complex character and probably the most fascinating on the show, watching how all the other players revolve around him and all treat him with varying emotion as they work through their grief over the reasons why he exists and the loss of Becky. Watching Catherine regard him with love and fear in equal measure provides just endlessly stunning material for Sarah Lancashire to work with.

By season three, Ryan’s grown up and Rhys Connah with him. He’s at his peak right now.


Happy Valley characters ranked

SNAKE LAYDEH! SNAKE LAYDEH! Should be cast on the next season of The Traitors as a matter of urgency. Spent the last two seasons being unshakeably beloved but now she’s public enemy number one for naively facilitating Ryan’s visits to TLR, but worse than that, dating Neil. Maybe if she didn’t do all that I’d have bumped her to third place on Happy Valley characters ranked.

Still, she’s a great and complex character and is played by the British Meryl Streep: Siobhan Finneran. Legendary stuff.

Vicky Fleming

Happy Valley characters ranked

Okay, yes – I’m trolling here. But she’s so camp! Gay icon. Support women’s rights, but also support women’s blackmailing-her-lovers wrongs!


Tommy Lee Royce

Happy Valley characters ranked

A show is only as great as its villain, and Tommy Lee Royce is so despicably loathsome, so evil and monstrous, that the friendly and likeable James Norton gets swallowed whole by how vile TLR truly is. Every season I wonder how they’re going to weave him into the plot and he manages to scare from near or far.

A truly hideous villain, but one that most writers could only dream of crafting. Complex but rotten. His and Catherine’s arch-nemesis relationship is one for the ages.

Catherine Cawood

Happy Valley characters ranked

I mean, where do we even begin? Potentially my favourite character on British TV in my whole lifetime – and I’m not exaggerating. Catherine Cawood is written note perfectly, at all times. As someone from the north, she feels like women I grew up around. She’s immeasurably tough and funny, but not a hero without flaw (her emotions rule her head and result in her being rash) and she’s not some indestructible force either.

I just think it’s absolutely incredible that for three seasons we’ve watched a middle aged female lead jump right into action sequences and be the unshakable tough presence in the show. Sarah Lancashire is a triumph, and deserves Olivia Colman level Hollywood, Academy Award ascent for everything she does. This show has a lot of great characters, but no one else deserved top billing when getting the Happy Valley bunch ranked.

If you disagree with my Happy Valley characters ranked and need a palate cleanser season three airs Sundays at 9pm on BBC One and iPlayer.

All images courtesy of BBC.

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This Happy Valley theory about who Tommy Lee Royce’s real dad is has changed my life

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• Here’s exactly where you recognise the cast of Happy Valley season three from