“Happiness” has made a clever choice by putting Han Hyo-joo and Park Hyung-sik together as the newlywed heroes.
tvN’s Friday-Saturday drama “Happiness” is a zombie narrative fantasy featuring an unknown infectious disease. However, the charm of this drama lies in its realistic side. This is because the infectious zombie disease has also been brought into our daily world through the pandemic era. The blocked apartment and the background of this drama also contribute to the atmosphere. Apartments divided into those for rent on the lower floor and general sale on the higher floor are symbols of the current Korean society as well.
The story of an infectious disease told through the apartments shows Korea in the 21st century with problems such as class issues and capital issues. “Happiness” chooses this way to get a sense of reality, but at the same time boldly excludes the spectacle elements of horror fantasy. It is a different way from the horror fantasy chosen by Netflix’s “Hellbound” or “Sweet Home.”
In fact, both “Hellbound” and “Sweet Home” start by setting an unprovoked target of fear as a set value. The Grim Reaper appears for no reason, and the monsters of “Sweet Home” also have no special context. Instead, the atmosphere of fear and the spectacle erase this question mark. The audience feels fear and overwhelmed just by looking at the mentioned monsters. On the other hand, the infectious disease of “Happiness” is different. The story of how the new drug Nextra has manifested everything was told from the beginning.
“Happiness” chooses the stories of characters instead of spectacles. Han Sang-woon, the author of “Watcher“, shows excellent skills in drawing a solid, strong story by beginning with the elements of the build-up and reversal from the original novel.
In “Happiness”, writer Han Sang-woon tries to exclude the zombie horror atmosphere as much as possible and build up stories toward the psychology subject. Suspicion of infectious disease patients spread among the residents of this apartment. The true face of Korea capitalist society is shown by characters, such as the snobbish doctor Oh Joo-hyung (Baek Hyun-jin), lawyer Kook Hae-sung (Park Hyung-soo), pastor Cha Soon-bae (Sun Woo-chang), etc. and Oh Yeon-ok (Bae Hae-sun), the pastor’s wife and a scammer who wants to take on the role of the apartment’s representative. The interesting part of this drama is the true personality of these snobbish characters that are openly revealed inside the blocked apartment. In addition, the process of a person becoming a capitalist while securing water resources in this environment is depicted realistically by the poor residents, such as the cleaning team of Ko Se-kyu (Kim Young-woong), etc.
In this way, it might be a cliché setting, but the story in the environment of infectious diseases and containment appears really realistic. In particular, like SBS’s drama “Penthouse”, it is not easy to use a childish strategy to lead the quarrels of those who keep creating meaningless fights, and no matter how many zombies appear in “Happiness”, it will still be more realistic than bringing the dead back to life.
Meanwhile, “Happiness” heavily lays out the narrative of conspiracy theory by state agencies related to infectious diseases through the character of Han Tae-seok (Jo Woo-jin), a lieutenant colonel of the Medical Command. However, if the story is too immersed in criticisms of modern society, the drama may become frustrating to watch. “Happiness” cleverly makes the police newlyweds couple Yoon Sae-bom (Han Hyo-joo) and Jung Yi-hyun (Park Hyung-sik) as the heroes. Through their performances, the story’s development secures a sense of speed and pleasure that are suitable for a drama of this genre. In the second half of the drama, Andrew (Lee Joo-seung), a part-time cleaning team member, is revealed to be a serial killer, and other variations occur.
“Happiness” tells the story that takes place within a limited background. However, this is also a ‘rich’ drama that combines lots of elements, such as zombies, psychology, and investigations.