It’s a good sign when one finishes a drama that one wants to watch it again right away. Happiness by TVN is an excellent 12 episode drama worthy of binge watching. It is short on the blood and gore of usual zombie stories, for which I’m grateful, but decently paced and has a great X-factor, an awesome power couple.
The leads, played by Han Hyo Joo (W: Two Worlds Apart), and Park Hyung Sik (Strong Woman Do Bong Soon) are great, both reckless and cool as cucumbers. Both actors really show their chops here and the writing displays a strong man and woman working together while not denigrating either sex. They have each other’s back, are best friends, and have sort of contract marriage that they realize at the end was born out of mutual affection. Sometimes it takes a number of years for one person to fully realize they love another, and sadly, it often is the prospect of losing said person that brings it out.
The short plot is that during a outbreak of an unusual virus, an apartment complex is quarantined from society and the residents have to deal with that, scared for their lives and bickering with each other. Yes, this is a zombie show, but I don’t think they mention zombies once. The way the characters act, one just has to suspend disbelief a bit and realize this is an alternate universe in which there may be no zombie movies for them to reference. The framework, or reference for this story, is roughly COVID and the writers deal well with that, making this another outbreak with which the authorities and regulate people have to deal. While it is clear that most of the characters are over COVID, there are subtle reference to the lifestyle changes we have all made throughout the show. The best aspect of this, though, is that no matter how great the two leads are at taking down zombies, they never lose their empathy and compassion. They almost always see them as people, just afflicted people.
Jo Woo Jin (Squad 38) is the definite standout actor here. I almost always looked forward to his scenes as he ended up being a bit of a scene stealer. I actually wanted more scenes with him and the two leads together. He plays a somewhat shady military colonel who is trying to find a cure for the virus. From the first time we see him, it is clear he knows way more than what he is telling. But isn’t that always the truth with government officials?
All of the minor character actors were also excellent, many of them, so, so infuriating that I think they must have really enjoyed playing these flawed people, some who just want to survive, some who go out of their minds, and some who end up surprising those around them by their kindness and strength. Intense circumstances will bring out our true characters. The leads are just cool and because they both work in the police force are completely accommodated, but the others are all just regular people caught up in the chaos.
The writing of the show was great overall, but, again, only if one assumes this is an alternate world where zombie and/or scary movies don’t exist. The characters are excessively stupid when it comes to keeping the virus in check, even the leads. Fortunately, the zombies don’t have particular super strength or speed. They also don’t eat brains and are sort of zombie vampires. The female lead is the most reckless of them all, but her recklessness is likable, cutting through all the crap and getting to the point, and one can see why her longtime friend has fallen for her. The loyalty of the couple to each other is amazing and is showcased with little romantic scenes in sight. Their love for each other shines through so well, that by the end, a kiss scene wasn’t really necessary. The writing also was made better by having only 12 episodes. Whoever made that decision chose wisely. The show doesn’t feel dragged along like many other ones can. The other big thing I like about the writing and this story concept in general: It gets the watchers to question whether their government really has their best interests in mind, something everyone needs to consider and weigh these days.
Other great things about the show: The music was very fitting, although off-putting and unsettling at times, which was the goal. I loved the theme song and beginning credits. Everything about the production was modern and slick. This is a show that would also make a great book series.
The only, very minor, flaw I saw was that many cuts were edited horribly. These were clearly cuts before a commercial break, and because I watched it on Viki, I am not sure if these were bad cuts made by Viki to insert their commercials or if the editor was just that bad. The former makes the most sense.
Come for the zombies, stay for the power couple. They are very cool and just the sort of people one would want to be with if civilization would crumble.