Happy! follows a disgraced ex-cop turned hitman who begrudgingly befriends his estranged daughter’s imaginary friend as they search for her kidnapper. The stakes escalate, as an ex-partner/ex-girlfriend and the ex-wife get involved in the uncovering of a sinister conspiracy that seemingly has its roots in everything.
Based on the comic book series of the same name, Happy! is an incredibly morbid piece of television gold that pushes the boundaries of politically correct into arenas thought impossible. Though it took me a great deal of time to finish the series, it was worth trudging through the witty writing and shameless imagery to dive into rather calloused and tumultuous souls. The characters are multi-dimensionally layered with reasons and motif and full of a darkness rarely seen in a comedic setting.
Happy! is not for everyone. That’s the reality. There are more than a few scenes that are difficult to stomach, and not merely from the perspective of a joke that went too far, but rather the serious moments take it a notch above the humor’s proverbial bar. There’s a saying that roughly says this: comedy is the balance of benign deviance. This show stretches the boundaries of that phrase. And while I found myself enthralled with the boundaries the show pushes, I find it difficult to defend all of its experimental nudges towards the needle breaking from the gauge.
The treatment of our protagonist Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni) and his relationship with the imaginary friend Happy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) is perfectly balanced as this game of moral cat and mouse is regularly executed through Happy’s relentless optimism and Sax’s insatiable cynicism. The banter is the highlight of the show, sprinkled in between scenes of subplots and Sax brutally bashing a henchman’s head against a wall. That constant teetering between sadistic humor and engaging drama feels so flawlessly patterned that you never miss a beat of emotion that is voraciously thrust into your eye sockets.
While certainly not horror unto itself, the horrific imagery and subject matter that plagues the script can’t be denied. It takes a certain kind of mind to make it through Happy!, let alone enjoy it. Of course, one of my favorite elements of horror and horrific themes is that, inevitably, that vivid line of evil depicted leads to an optimistic epilogue of understanding, introspection, and victory over said evil. The lines are drawn through the course of the story, and you see in the end what the protagonist chooses to do with that line.
It just so happens that Happy! takes that line and runs it full circle behind Sax and the audience, and we’re left to find some eye bleach online somewhere.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 6/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Television Quality: 8/10