What do Christmas magic, the wonder of a child’s imagination, and SVUs Detective Stabler who piss with a fire extinguisher have in common? You can find them all in Happy!, the SyFy adaptation of a truly twisted Grant Morrison comic book. And if you want to see what might be the exact opposite of a heartwarming holiday special, check out Netflix.
Warning: Even the trailer below is mild Not safe for work and may disturb young children. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Happy tells Nick that he is the sweet, innocent, imaginary friend of a sweet, innocent girl who has been kidnapped by a nightmare-pedophile version of Santa. Thanks to a medical cocktail delivered at gunpoint, Nick is the only one who can see him. With Happy’s incorporeal help, Nick must rescue the girl and uncover the conspiracy that led to her kidnapping, stumbling through the nightmarish circles of NYC organized crime, depraved torture fetishists and (chilling) children’s television programs.
Despite the setup, that sounds like a modern version of Who framed Roger Rabbit?, Happy! is in no way, shape or form intended for children. Within the pilot’s first minute, you’ll see Nick fantasizing about suicide, dancing with Christmas themed rolling go-go girls while his disintegrating skull fragments twinkle in the starlight. And that’s far from the most shocking or disturbing picture in the world Happy!first season of eight episodes.
But that seems to be the point. The story juxtaposes the darkest tropes of the noir detective genre with the sweet heap of children’s animation and well-worn holiday tales. The casting is particularly brilliant: Oswalt is in great shape making the titular Happy essentially one My little pony character hanging out in the last place you would find one. And it’s impossible not to picture Nick Sax as Meloni’s iconic Elliot Stabler, defeated by decades of nightmare-inducing work and practically resigned to a bloody, ignoble career as the kind of filthy bottom feeder he’s always locked up.
As a fighting, scarred assassin, Nick is essentially indestructible to an extent that puts a strain on credibility – or at least if the series didn’t immediately make it clear that pure magic is at play. A memorable scene from the early episodes is that Happy helps Nick cheat at a drug dealer poker game, whispering hands only he can hear. That’s before Happy innocently bumps into a block of cocaine, which somehow affects his imaginary body and sends him a Daffy Duck-style manic episode. Nick leaves the cards and just kills everyone in the room.
The surreal, indulgent violence of the series will distract you from what is actually a pretty interesting piece of dark fantasy. Intertwined in the plot are a somewhat stereotypical Italian-American mafia family led by ‘Blue’ Scaramucci (Ritchie Coster), a deliberately creepy child entertainer Sonny Shine (Christopher Fitzgerald), and a downright terrifying torturer and fixer who euphemistically becomes ‘Smoothie’ mentioned. (Patrick Fischler).
The story doesn’t have much to do for the female characters, other than respond to the insanity of the situation. But in that limited capacity, young kidnapper Hailey (a promising Bryce Lorenzo) and her mother Amanda (Medina Senghore) form a surprisingly moving emotional core that keeps audiences in the endgame. Merideth McCarthy (Lili Mirojnick) is Nick’s former police partner, another dirty cop who has yet to be caught, and his reluctant helper within the NYPD.
At the end of eight episodes, you’ll find a conclusion that largely satisfies, while keeping the protagonists and most of the villains in play for possible further pranks. There is a second Easter-themed season Happy! that’s on Netflix too, and while the more unhinged moments are possibly the most incredible things I’ve ever seen on American television, the lower stakes and repeat beats make it less interesting. Happy!The high concept can’t survive long before breaking, so it’s not the end of the world that it will never see a third season.
Happy! is a holiday-themed watch that constantly surprises, when you can tolerate the more indulgent immersions in gross (in every sense of the word) situations. Check it out if you are fed up with it Die hard reruns, and you wish Olaf from Frozen would occasionally bring out a desert eagle and make some gangsters freezing.