Starring: Christopher Meloni & Patton Oswalt
Director: Brian Taylor
Writers: Grant Morrison & Brian Taylor
Review by Evan Maroun
Based on the Graphic Novel of the same name, The show follows Nick Sax — A bum of a hitman who embodies both Frank Castle and Frank Gallagher. After Nick gets injured in a hit that doesn’t go as planned, he wakes up to a flying blue unicorn’s cheerful voice asking for his help in rescuing a little girl. Meet Happy!
As someone who read Grant Morrison’s graphic novel, I never thought I would see this particular story adapted to any screen. The main character isn’t very likable, it’s premise is a bit out there for the genre, and the most glaring problem, in my opinion, it’s extremely hard to mix live-action and animated characters successfully. It’s not impossible, but as far as TV shows go, it doesn’t have a great track record. Just look at the abysmal Imaginary Mary canceled by ABC last year or even Fox’s Son of Zorn. Both got the ax pretty quick.
Fortunately, Grant Morrison and Brian Taylor manage to ease my worries early on. They maintain what worked in the comic (some panels and lines are ripped straight from it), tweak some things, and overall, refine it.
The show begins with a surreal scene in a bar bathroom where we meet Sax. This really sets the tone for the show. It’s a pretty dark scene, but it tells the viewer that this is not something you should take very seriously. Taylor brings along his frenetic style from the Crank films over to the series, and it serves the story well. The show is a perfect fit for a channel like Syfy where you have more dramatic shows like The Expanse, but give it a few hours and one of the many Sharknado movies may pop up. My only gripe with this is I wished we got more scenes like the opening one because from there on out we don’t see anything else quite like it visually in the pilot–yes, even with a tiny blue unicorn flying around.
Christopher Meloni plays Sax who is simply an asshole. In the comic, he can’t utter a sentence without swearing and very rarely cracks a smile. However, it’s a bit different here. Meloni is clearly having fun with the role, as he adds a playful presence and swagger that was missing from the source material. In fact, I feel like that’s a large reason the show works. He knows the kind of show he is in, and he goes for it.
Meloni has to play against Oswalt, who voices the tiny title character. Concerned he might feel out of place in both a physical and tonal sense, Oswalt actually works surprisingly well against the saturated yet gritty look of the city with Meloni in the forefront. My only concern is that he has the potential to get a bit grating, but so far he makes it work. They both feel like they belong in this grimy world, despite their stark contrast.
Quick note: Wow, this show is bloody. It never quite falls into a gratuitous territory. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Personally, it was like honey in mine– ever so sweet.
The story takes place around Christmas, so for those looking for a respite from your traditional sentimental Christmas offerings, this may be to your liking. A twisted man dressed as Santa Claus is the villain here. Unfortunately, he may be the weakest link. He doesn’t have much to do, unfortunately. I’m hoping we get more insight into his character in future episodes. Right now, he isn’t a very strong antagonist. The side characters here suffer from a similar problem, but again, as the season carries on, I suspect that will be rectified.
Verdict: Watch it!
Christopher Meloni is the real draw here as the deeply flawed hitman. Oswalt definitely plays against him in a way that never feels forced or unnatural. Happy! is brutal fun. If the pilot is any sign of the show going forward, perhaps one of Syfy’s best offerings to date.