This Happy! review contains no spoilers.
When Syfy decided to transform Grant Morrison’s Happy! comic book series into a TV show, many were understandably taken aback. Not because of the graph novel’s intensely violent and crude subject matter (which the first season unabashedly dove head-first into), but for the length. The limited series ran for only four issues. The first season of Happy!, meanwhile, consisted of eight hour-long episodes. How the hell does that work?
Depending on who you ask, it either does or doesn’t. But Syfy and the show’s fans were happy enough with the result, which is why Happy! is back for a second season consisting of yet another eight episodes. This time, however, Morrison, executive producer and director Brian Taylor, writer and associate producer Ashley Michel Hoban and the rest of the creative team had to craft a whole new season arc from scratch. Gone is the deranged Santa Claus kidnapping young children. In his place is — and I’m not kidding — the Roman Catholic Church, a pink-eyed sadist in a deranged bunny costume and a plot against Easter.
Of course, before any of that can come to pass, Happy! needs to catch the viewers up on what’s transpired since the first season. Nick Sax (played excellently, as always, by Christopher Meloni) is still stuck with Happy (Patton Oswalt), the talking and flying blue unicorn that was previously his daughter’s imaginary friend. Together, the two are trying to turn Nick’s life around. “We’re getting our act together,” Happy exclaims while urinating into a sink. “No more drinking, no more illegal narcotics, no more whoring!”
Meanwhile, Nick is nude and on the toilet, applying a generous amount of baby powder to his just-off-camera crotch while almost literally frothing at the mouth. So despite the hilarious use of Rebecca Black’s annoying single “Friday” to punctuate the scene, Happy! is pretty much the same as always — funny, ludicrous and always willing to toss in one too many gags for at least a giggle or a nod of approval from the show’s target demographic.
As for the rest of the gang, well, they’re all over the place. Like Nick, Merry McCarthy (Lili Mirojnick) is no longer a police detective, but that doesn’t stop her from pursuing a particular case on her own time. Francisco Scaramucci, otherwise known as Mr. Blue (Ritchie Coster), is still in prison and is still possessed. Hailey (Bryce Lorenzo) is going to school and Medina (Amanda Hansen) is trying to raise her and Nick, the girl’s father and her ex-husband, simultaneously. As for Smoothie (Patrick Fischler), he’s still a pervert.
That leaves Sonny Shine (Christopher Fitzgerald), the disgraced and outright demonic children’s entertainer who is now in the heart of the Vatican itself, wearing a bedazzled cartindal’s outfit and trying to convince the Pope and his entourage to embrace his surreal plans for livening up the Easter holiday season.
Morrison and company’s decision to flesh out Sonny’s character, which had more of a recurring arc in the first season, is the crux of what drives the bigger story in season two. It’s also, by no fault of Fitzgerald’s, one of the weakest components of Happy!’s sophomore outing. As with the first season, which tried and failed to stretch a short, four-issue comic book story into a eight-hour television series, the writers behind season two are trying to do the same, but with far less to begin with. All they really have to go on are the characters, so they’ve essentially crafted an entire plot (and multiple subplots) around this ensemble in the hopes that something will stick.
It’s all just a bit too much to get a handle on, which is a weird thing to say about a show whose second season premiere literally begins with nuns being turned into suicide bombers to the tune of “Dominique” by Soeur Sourire, otherwise known as “The Singing Nun.” Happy! is a lot to begin with and, frankly, this is typically one of its greatest strengths. It presents actors like Meloni, Coster and Fischler with so much hammy material that they ultimately turn it all into one big excruciatingly crude-but-funny series of dick jokes. The problem is, all of their attention being spent on gags and bits doesn’t grant the writers, producers or actors any wiggle room in order to eek out the semblance of a story.
But when the ridiculous set pieces are good, they’re really good. Morrison, Taylor and Hoban know precisely how to use the tools they’ve been given, and they know how to use them to best appease the show’s eager fanbase. So while the story itself is altogether unimportant (if not nonexistent), Happy!’s second season excels at giving Meloni and many of his fellow actors plenty of tasty scenery to chew. Anyone who loves a good uber-violent action sequence involving a angry drunk cartoonishly killing a bunch of city bike commuters will get a kick out of this show. If not, however, then you’re probably better off not giving it a chance — especially if you’re more the squeamish type.