'Happy!' is wacky, violent fun

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Chris Meloni as Nick Sax, Patton Oswald as Happy. (Photo: Syfy)

A nonstop hour of bloody violence and madcap humor, Happy! certainly moves the Syfy network away from its current trademark production of Sharknado movies. Based on a graphic novel written by Grant Morrison (The Invisibles, Animal Man), it stars Christopher Meloni as Nick Sax, an ex-cop hitman who boozes too much and doesn’t mind murdering anyone if the price is right. Still possessing the tiniest twinge of guilt, he’s a miserable SOB who wishes he were dead. This show is a comedy.

Nick’s latest assignment is to kill a pair of gangster brothers, which makes him the target of both organized crime and the police force he left in disgrace. When a gun battle leaves him near death, he has a vision — it’s a little blue creature, Happy, who calls himself a horse although there’s clearly a unicorn’s horn sticking out of his forehead. Happy — who also has small, fluttering wings, I should point out — is an animated figure voiced by Patton Oswalt, who babbles enthusiastically in Nick’s ear while Nick is trying to fend off attackers from all sides. There’s a sentimental reason Happy appears at Nick’s side, which ought not to be spoiled in a review, but by the end of the first hour, you can see why they’ll become partners in life-and-death matters.

By the end of the first hour, you’ll also wonder whether Happy! can possibly maintain the frenetic comic tenseness of the pilot, which has been directed by Brian Taylor, who did the Crank movies. The pace and the violence are ceaseless, and Meloni gives a heroically debased performance, shooting and maiming and punching and running while growling bleak sentiments from the side of his mouth. The idea is to contrast the pessimism of Nick Sax with the optimism of Happy. While this doesn’t quite balance things out — the show definitely stays on the dark side — it provides Happy! with a much-needed variety of tone. There’s little in the way of the pilot’s plot to motivate you to keep watching the series, which makes me dubious about its long-term life. But this first episode is such accomplished, vigorous fun, I highly recommend that you give it a look. I also guarantee you’ll wince a few times at what Nick goes through, and you’ll be glad he’s now got a chipper Happy in his life.

Happy! airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Syfy.

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