The second episode of Happy!, “What Smiles Are For” picked up exactly where the last one left off, in both story and insanity levels.
Nick was hit by a car after Happy revealed to him that Hailey was his daughter, and suddenly, he’s on Jerry Springer in a dream sequence. Why you ask? Well, he’s in denial about being Hailey’s father, so of course he dreams about being on the country’s most “beloved” paternity test revealing show. But, he doesn’t let his conscience, or Happy, get the better of him and, despite the latter incessantly pushing to go rescue his supposed daughter, Nick is determined to leave town and get the hell out of the impending gangster civil war.
What shines about “What Smiles Are For” is what shines about the series as a whole, the interaction between grizzled Chris Meloni and a cheery cartoon horse voiced by Patton Oswalt. Nick still can’t stand the little blue guy, but things start to change when he finds a use for Happy. Nick uses him to cheat in a poker game (a scene lifted almost directly from the comics) so he can get money to “save Hailey.”
This is of course a lie, Nick wants to use the money to save his own ass and get out of the city, but it opens things up for the strongest aspect of this episode, the heart. Happy is such a pure character, and he is being corrupted by the piece of s*** that is Nick Sax. But, this “corruption” is a two way street, and Happy is acting as a conscience to Nick, slowly grating at his selfish, nothing-left-to-lose demeanor to find the hero that Hailey imagines her absent father to be. Happy even hits hard with the line “you’re more imaginary than I could ever be.”
And it eventually works, Nick’s Grinch heart shows a glimmer of hope as he finally accepts the mission to find and rescue Hailey. I especially appreciated that this happened within the first two episodes, that we’re getting to the meat of the story so quickly as opposed to another recent comic book TV series (I’ll let you guess which one).
The humor of the show is still spot on in this episode, and the show goes to great lengths for comedic effect. This isn’t to say that it’s desperate for laughs, it’s more like Happy! has embraced the bizarre nature of the story and just freaking rolled with it, inserting extended surreal fantasy sequences and insane fight scenes. Great nuggets of comedy also come from Happy and Nick, of course. Their interactions, and the very nature of they story’s concept, are the highlight of the show’s humor.
But, “What Smiles Are For” isn’t all smiles. Where Nick and Happy are easily the most interesting characters, Meredith and Mr. Blue continue to be boring. This is due in no small part to the cliche character aspects and backstories that they fall back on, which weigh down the whole episode.
I felt myself mentally shutting off whenever Meredith was onscreen, and her interaction with Mr. Blue was rather tired. Blue is a mobster with a refined taste for expensive wine and cheese (how original) which he uses as a metaphor for detailing his struggle for power, and how Meredith is in the way of it. Luckily the scene is short, unlike the poker game, which went on for about five minutes too long.
While I wish the entire show could focus on Nick and Happy, that wouldn’t make for good television, or for a good comic book adaptation. But, not all side stories are boring or cliched, and the scenes of Amanda, Hailey’s mother, searching for her daughter provided some weight to her daughter’s appearance, as do the scenes with Hailey herself.
We feel the fear that Hailey feels with the scenes of her boxed up in the Very Bad Santa’s “lair.” In the box, she makes a friend, someone she converses with through whispers to get herself through this. These moments are as real as they are tense and that tension is raised when we learn that the “friend” is actually the Very Bad Santa playing a trick on her, a reveal that marks the end of the second episode.
The second episode wasn’t as strong as the first, it is weighed down by scenes of boring and cliched side characters, but overall “What Smiles Are For” is a strong story, and it brings a ton of genuinely hilarious moments.
Be sure to check back next week for our review of episode three of Happy!, where I’ve been told (in my interview with Joe Reitman) things really start to come together.
Happy! Season 1 Episode 2 Review: "What Smiles Are For"
The insanity and violence continues in the second episode of SyFy’s Happy!