Warning: This article might contain spoilers, mature content and some other pretty weird stuff.
6/10Despite a stronger story, Happy! Season 2 doesn’t quite work.
It’s no secret: the internet is a dark and scary place at times. Take a few random words, stick them in a search engine and undoubtedly you’ll find something disgusting, creepy or otherwise unsettling in the bowels of the web. (Anything after page two of Google.)
And if the words you chose were ‘Hitman’, ‘flying blue unicorn’ and ‘gore, gore, gore’ you wouldn’t have to go to the bowels of the internet, you’d find Happy!
Happy! follows the aggressively traumatised cop turned hitman Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni) as he bloodily bludgeons his way through baddies with the effectiveness of John Wick, and the execution of a drunk boxer trying to conduct brain surgery. With his gloves on. He does all this to protect his ex-wife Amanda (Medina Senghore) and recently discovered daughter Hailey (Bryce Lorenzo) from foul machinations.
But this isn’t a glossy action series showing off ripped young actors, honed martial artists and tightly choreographed action set pieces, oh no. Happy! is like putting your whole roast dinner in a blender and rooting for the chicken drumstick to come out the other side in one piece.
Now, one might think a one-man army hell bent on protecting his family may sound fairly engaging on its own. But that’s far from all that Happy! has to offer. The title doesn’t refer to the characters emotions (or the audience, for most part). Instead, it refers to the co-star: a tiny blue fairy unicorn called Happy (voiced by Patton Oswalt). He’s an imaginary friend that only Nick and a handful of other characters can see. In contrast to the bitter and twisted Nick, Happy’s relentless positivity and child-like optimism provides the juxtaposition needed for any good buddy comedy. Except, of course, one is a psychotic murderer and the other is a children’s TV cliché living in his head. It’s a show which, while it might be an acquired taste, was certainly entertaining.
So what on Earth is going on?
That’s the question you’ll likely ask yourself as you go through Season 2 of Happy! It takes a massive step up in weirdness from the previous season, as Nick Sax goes headlong into another battle with Sonny Shine’s sparkly evil empire. Complete with BDSM, demons and lots of gore.
But let’s recap where we are.
In Season 1 Nick Sax is whacking folks for cash to pay the bills after his sanity takes a nose dive, following what can only be described as sickening child abuse. It features a crazed Santa Clause, who is kidnapping children on the orders of the demented Sonny Shine (Christopher Fitzgerald); a maniacal children’s presenter coordinating his creepy night-of-the-living-doll, while impersonating henchman Smoothie (Patrick Fischler); as well as a number of crime syndicates including Mr Blue’s crew (Ritchie Coster).
That’s the basics anyway.
At the start of Season 2, Nick is looking to clear up his act and, in his own way, try to be a good father. No more murdering, no more booze. Nick is driving cabs, going to rehab (albeit with temptation never too far away).
Of course, Sax stays clean for as long as a toilet seat in a Soho nightclub. Within a few episodes he’s back to his homicidal best. If Season 1 is a weird, off-centre take on the genre, Season 2 takes your hastily made party cocktail, adds sugar, spice and everything cocaine, and puts it in the blender.
You’ve got ancient evil gods; evil latex Easter bunnies; starfish alien demons; a woman giving birth to demon caviar; a Nazi retirement home; a 20 inch trouser sausage; Sax crapping demon blood; imaginary friend horn sex. And that’s only the half of it. Where Season 1 was dark and set the tone for this messed up world, Season 2 is all about spiralling further down the rabbit hole as Sax, Happy, Amanda and Meredith try to take down an evil empire.
But did it succeed?
Well, in a way. But not really.
As well as a step up in weirdness, Season 2 takes a step up in complexity. A lot of the goings on in Season 1 often felt a bit irrelevant at the time. When thinking back to Season 1, very little story points stand out or are even worth remembering. They take a back seat to the primary goal of Sax finding Hailey and the kidnapped children.
Tonally, the show reflects its main character
It’s an all-over-the-place mess, which is more interested in where it’s going than how it gets there.
Yes, Season 2 is a more intricately woven story. This is largely thanks to the character building in Season 1. In Season 2, each sub plot is much more related to the bigger picture. And we start to see the point.
But as the level of wacky weirdness increases, the ability to care about what’s going on inherently decreases. When there’s a real life interpretation of evil Patrick from Sponge Bob being straddled by the protagonist in suspenders, any suspense is bled out by a general confusion. Is this meant to be funny? Scary? Thrilling? That’s the question that arises again and again. Mostly due to the blended approach the show-runners take, piling violence onto comedy with a heavy dusting of kink and debauchery, topped with a dollop of horror.
While the plot is more cohesive, the character arcs are falling apart
Nick Sax and by extension, Happy, are basically invulnerable. And with Sax providing most of the show’s action and humour, it’s very easy to switch off when he isn’t on screen. Right up until the point you realise he hasn’t grown at all this series either. He wants to protect his daughter, but after this revelation in episode 1, he remains about the same level of asshole as he was at the beginning. Only now, he has fringe characters pointing him in a direction to move along the plot, like NPCs in an RPG that don’t really add anything to the story.
Take Amanda, for example. Except for the final act, which feels somewhat contrived, Amanda just wanders about. She’s largely there as an excuse to bring important characters together, or to fill the oddness quota for any given episode. And how does she change by the end? Well, not at all really. She’d do anything for her daughter at the beginning. She would at the end. And none of the events really seem to affect her.
It’s a recurring theme for many of these characters. Meredith’s whole season is to try and kill Sonny. Sonny is now fighting Easter for no other reason than he’s told to? Or he thinks it’s his vision? (This is never really explained, but rather waved away as ‘demonic type stuff.’) Smoothie, even though they tried to make him seem sympathetic, is still a creepy pervert. Just like season 1.
Arguably, the only two developments are from Hailey. One of the sub-plots that, although it wasn’t my favourite, was orchestrated quite well, despite some long periods of convenience where this trauma victim appears to have no support whatsoever. The other was Orcus, which did give us some pay off to a few questions. But ultimately left us with nothing more than a moustache twirling villain who is evil for evil’s sake.
happyMeanwhile, Episode 9 ends with pumpkins lining the street, in what can only be a hint towards a Halloween Season 3. Unfortunately, the show’s been cancelled. But you can read it about that elsewhere on our blog.