– by Brendan Hughes

With the conclusion of Happy! On January 31, I thought it would be only fitting to wrap this series up with a bow. Happy!, in three words could be described as dark, zany, and heartwarming. If those words don’t sound like they should go together you obliviously haven’t had the pleasure of watching this show. Expanded off the graphic novel by Grant Morrison, the TV rendition has a list of decent actors that form a cohesive unit leading to interesting character dynamics. With the action, humor, and suspense this series will keep you on the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens next.

At its core, the story revolves around Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni) trying to rescue his estranged daughter Hailey (Bryce Lorenzo) with the help of her imaginary Pegasus Happy (Patton Oswalt). Sax, once an esteemed detective, goes down a path of debauchery leading to a life of a hitman. To save Hailey from her kidnappers, Sax goes down the path of self-discovery as he connects the dots of his past leading to his future. The season begins with Nick discovering a password wanted by Blue (Ritchie Coster), the mobster that has his hands throughout New York, even controlling the police. Meanwhile, Very Bad Santa (Joseph D. Reitman) kidnaps Hailey at a “Sonny Shine” (Christopher Fitzgerald) concert. With the help of his ex-partner Meredith (Lili Mirojnick) Nick escapes Blue’s executioner Smoothie (Patrick Fischler). As the story progresses, the episodes become like a game of cat-and-mouse, with them coming close to rescuing Haley only to be yanked away at the last minute. There are many other interconnected subplots throughout the eight episodes, but it’s probably best I don’t go into those.

The characters are the strongest part of Happy!, as each character brings a new element to the show. While Meloni has been a fan favorite for years his role as Nick Sax might top his portrayal on Law & Order: SVU. Happy begins as extremely annoying, offering little personality and depth to the plot but changes as he spends more time with Nick. Happy’s personality goes from highly moralistic and immature to more grown up and willing to do anything to save Hailey. Nick begins to change from his drunken nihilistic ways to slightly believing in humanity with Happy’s constant optimism. The onscreen chemistry between Meloni and Oswalt goes a long way in making this zany buddy cop series work. Sax had great onscreen chemistry most importantly with his ex-wife Amanda Hansen (Medina Senghore) having awkward moments of hostility stemming from him abandoning her while pregnant.

The villains in the series were another positive aspect of the show, adding much humor and anticipation to this series. While Blue is presented as the main villain in this series, Coster’s portrayal added outside the basic stock Italian mobster. Blue is the glue that held the series together, employing interesting subordinates and holding power over others in the series. Under Blue’s control, Very Bad Santa and Smoothie provide very different dynamics to the show. Though Very Bad Santa kidnapped children, it’s hard to hate him due to his good intentions towards Hailey, and his mental illness stemming from his horrific childhood. Fischler’s Smoothie is an interesting character being the enforcer in the series with a chilling sense of humor. Smoothie and Sax share a special connection towards the end of the series in a moment that is hard not to laugh at. Fitzgerald’s character “The Bug” becomes an increasing threat through the later episodes being revealed as the mastermind pulling the strengths.

The animation was mostly limited to the rendering of Happy, as he was present in constantly throughout the series. Happy employed many characteristics of Buggs Bunny using sight gags and slapstick humor making the most of his CGI body. Outside of Happy, there were a few other uses of mind-blowing CGI occurring in the first and last episode of the season. The other visual perspective, the fight scenes, were high octane and very gritty often brutalizing the opponent with guns or surrounding objects. Happy even gets in on the fun stabbing another imaginary friend truly marking his transition in personality. The cinematography made the most out of quick shot changes to simulate fast-paced action scenes. Though using fast cuts, the scenes did not lose any continuity as they were in between continuous camera rolls.

This series looks for a stronger second season as the last episode, “I Am the Future,” sets up the legwork for the series future. The hanging presence of the people Shine was answering to will make a big impact in the second season given that many of the villains were maimed in different ways. Hopefully, SyFy will work to accommodate the schedule timing to fit the show in the future if directors Brian Taylor and David Petrarca choose to stick with a holiday theme. As long as Christopher Meloni comes back to this series it should be on everyone’s watchlist.

Grade: A-

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