Review: Happy! “Saint Nick”

It’s a brave new world of comic book TV shows, and SyFy aims to leave a bloody impression with their newest addition to the fray.

Overview (Spoilers Below)

“Happy!” is a brand new show on Syfy based off of the graphic novel of the same name. It’s a graphic novel which contrasts the hardcore and edgy with the cartoonishly absurd and this show gives us just that. Buckle in folks, because “Happy!” is a truly wild and crazy ride.

We open on a down on his luck man, Nick Sax, (played by Christopher Meloni), getting drunk off his ass alone at a bar on Christmas Eve. He’s  unsavory, but, as we find out, an ex-cop who’s known for being a real badass, inspiring some degree of fear in the criminal element. In the background of this is a sinister man dressed as Santa Claus, who has kidnapped a girl named Haley and locked her in a wooden box somewhere. Its here we meet the titular character, Happy (Played by Patton Oswalt), Haley’s imaginary friend in the form of wacky cartoon unicorn, who escapes from their captivity to find Haley some help. Meanwhile, some low-ranking mafia soldiers of the “Scaramucci” family take it upon themselves to put a bullet in Nick Sax’s cranium and cash in on a hit placed on the disgraced detective. But Nick, who was in the midst of saving a hooker from her death by the hands of a homicidal man dressed in a shrimp costume, had placed the hit on himself to get the Scarmucci brothers in one place and uses the opportunity to dispatch them with hot lead. One of the soldiers tries to bribe Sax with the password to a secret file of names known only by the head of the Scaramucci family before he died. Nick, in his drug-induced stupor, couldn’t care less about that and executes the boy same as the rest before passing out on the cold New York streets. He’s promptly found by the police, and taken away to a hospital. We are introduced to corrupt cop Detective Macarthy, who learns from the hooker about the file password and relays the information to her benefactor, Uncle Blue, a masterminding crime boss who is willing to do most anything to get the information hidden on that file.

Nick is awakened from a drug-induced stupor in an ambulance by Happy, who only Nick can see, and at first, believes to be a drug-induced hallucination. Happy tries to convince Nick to help him, while Detective Macarthy visits Nick in the hospital to try and get the password from him, lest he incurs the wrath of Uncle Blue, who is already planning to dispatch a professional killer, the butcherous “Smoothie”, to deal with Nick.

Happy warns Nick that Smoothie and his men are coming to kill him, and though Nick doesn’t necessarily believe Happy is real, accepts his help. Nick tries to mount a defense against Smoothie but passes out before they arrive. He awakes strapped to an operating table at Smoothie’s mercy, who begins interrogating him with a variety of fun surgical tools. Nick isn’t too concerned with this, as he proclaims to Smoothie that his life is a horrible waste and there’s nothing Smoothie can do to him that life hasn’t already done. With pleasure, Smoothie politely informs Nick that he’s going to cut off his penis, and Happy desperately tries to give Nick a pep talk to get him out of this mess. The talk works, and Nick proceeds to tear off his restraints before brutally annihilating Smoothie and his men with the business end of a fire extinguisher. Nick and Happy escape the hospital by stealing Detective Macarthy’s police cruiser, and Happy reveals to Nick that Haley isn’t just some random girl, but Nick’s daughter, which is why he was able to find Nick in the first place. A look of shock falls over Nick’s face, right before 16 wheeler slams into the car, and we close on a grim shot of Haley’s fate; trapped in a box in the den of a murderous Santa Claus.

Our Take:

The premiere episode of Happy! is an ambitious project that pushes the limit of TV sensibility, while maintaining a fairly entertaining dark comedy that keeps you interested from start to finish. A show like this thrives on its contrast and shock value, constantly trying to find new ways to surprise you as a viewer. Nothing is sacred, no one is a hero, and ultraviolence is not only the order of the day but a delight to behold, for both the viewer and for Nick, who seems to find real joy in his ability to irreverently brutalize any poor soul sent after him. Providing counterpoint to this is Happy, who serves as the Heart and guiding conscience of the show. For this purpose, Patton Oswalt was a great pick for his voice, and so far seems to have good chemistry with Christopher Meloni, who plays the disgraced hard-boiled detective splendidly. You’re not going to find great writing here, or anything worse than you might find in a Tarantino movie, but it functions well as an exciting take on the “comic book TV show” genre and is entertaining in every scene. And while I felt that Happy and Nick are somewhat underdeveloped as characters, we have a whole season to flesh them out, and I’m willing to wait if it means I can enjoy this circus of a grotesque comedic bloodsport for a full season.

Score
8/10

Erich Hau

Erich is a northern California based writer on the front lines of the nerd frontier. When he's not burning the midnight oil he enjoys musicals, smooth jazz, and a good cup of dark roast. Cream and sugar not included.

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