Genre- Thriller, Drama, Fantasy,
‘Happiness’ is an apocalyptic thriller that follows a group of residents in an Apartment Complex during the lockdown imposed for bringing a manmade virus outbreak under control.
The drama starts with a brief introduction of Yoon Sae Bom and Yi Hoon during their school days. Having missed a couple of years in school due to ill health, Sae Bom has a practical approach towards life.
Yi Hyun is a celebrated baseball player in school but his leg injury prevents him from pursuing his career further. He is dejected at this sudden roadblock and loses all hope for the future. His life changes for the better after a brief conversation with Sae Bom whom he meets on the rooftop of their school. Yi Hyun expresses interest in Sae Bom but she turns him down and they remain friends.
The story picks up many years later and Sae Bom is now a Special Operative Unit’s agent while Yi Hyun is a corporal with the police force. Sae Bom believes that owning an apartment will bring her happiness. But her achievements alone aren’t enough for her to obtain an apartment (reserved for the police force) in a residential complex. She asks Yi Hyun to marry her so that she can avail the newlywed bonus and Yi Hyun agrees. They move into the Seyang Forest Le Ciel Residential Complex as newlyweds. They find owners discriminating against the tenants at the drop of a hat. Most of the owners turn out to be uptight snobs.
Meanwhile, on the work front, they encounter a couple of cases with the viral disease (also called mad person disease).
They meet Lieutenant Colonel Han Tae Seok from the Central Disaster Countermeasures Headquarters and First Lieutenant Lee Ji Soo who are working against time and trying to bring the outbreak under control as the disease has no cure.
Before Sae Bom and Yi Hyun can realise it, the disease spreads like wildfire and they find themselves under lockdown among the troublesome residents and the infected people who are out to get them. What follows forms the rest of the story.
The drama follows a swift pace. The action scenes, stunts and thrills in this series are laudable as all the episodes are sprinkled with them. They make the drama interesting.
Happiness starts with Sae Bom’s quest for happiness. As the series progresses, we see her lose the existing happiness in her life to the pandemic.
The Lytta (Mad Person’s disease) virus causes Rabies like symptoms where the infected bite people in the neck out of immense blood-thirst. The disease spreads through bites or scratches (from the infected) or by consuming a pill called NEXT (which is a failed COVID 19 cure).
The disease shows symptoms only in the later stages. As the series progresses, one can’t help but keep guessing as to who is infected among the residents. Even if the guess is wrong, it just adds to the thrills. The thrills in the series make the drama engaging.
Yoon Sae Bom (Han Hyo-Joo) has a frank personality who tends to use her fists rather than words. She is impulsive and reckless at times, as she doesn’t gauge the situation before acting. She is empathetic and fiercely protective of her close ones. Sae Bom is strong-willed and brave. Immune to manipulation, wrongdoers are worried at the mention of her name. Han Hyo-Joo has done a great job in bringing Sae Bom to life.
Jung Yi Hyun (Park Hyung-Sik) has a level-headed and soothing personality. He is quite a contrast to Sae Bom and is caring and protective towards her. He is a righteous and intelligent detective with watchful eyes. He sticks to his morals no matter what the situation is. He comes across as a selfless character. Park Hyung Sik has carried the role well as he fits easily into the role of the smart and vigilant detective.
Lieutenant Colonel Han Tae-Seok (Jo Woo-Jin) is a master manipulator and a great judge of character as he smoothly gets his way with his diplomatic talks. Han comes across as a shady character in the beginning but the viewer slowly warms up to him. He can often be seen taking the centre stage in the drama with his strategic handling of situations and the higher-ups. Though it may seem like he is caught between the civilians and the higher-ups, Han always manages to get out of situations unscathed. Han plays a vital role in the plot and Jo Woo Jin adds value to the series with his acting skills.
Though Sae Bom and Yi Hyun enter into a marriage of convenience, the relationship between them is genuine. The relationship between the leads grows deep with every passing episode. In turn, they grow on the viewer as a brave and compatible couple. Though their scenes are brief they have great chemistry and all their scenes are a good watch.
Yi Hyun and Sae Bom consider the infected as humans and they humanely treat them. They put their own lives at risk every time they tackle one of them. The couple always has a difference of opinion with Han Tae Seok every time as Han believes that the infected are at a point of no return and considers the infected as monsters.
While watching the drama, one can’t help but draw parallels with human behaviour exhibited during the Covid 19 outbreak throughout the world.
At the start, the residents refuse to believe the existence of the disease. Then they challenge the seriousness of the disease and ignore the warnings issued. Once they realise the seriousness, they ostracise the infected people. As soon as the fear for life starts kicking in, selfishness and hostile behaviour soon follow. The portrayal of gradual change in human mindset in this drama is commendable.
Though there are several residents, a few stand out over the rest.
Oh Joo Hyeong (Baek Hyun-Jin) is introduced as a shady resident from the onset. His doctor’s license has been suspended and he seems to be up to no good. He is loathsome as his behaviour worsens as the series progresses. Baek Hyun-Jin has done a great job in bringing the character to life as Oh gets on one’s nerves whenever he is on screen.
Oh Yeon Ok (Bae Hae-Sun) is the Resident Representative and she is equally annoying. No matter what the situation is, all she is bothered about is getting residents on her side to attain the goal of becoming the apartment representative. Bae Hae Sun has portrayed the condescending Oh Yeon Ok very well.
The series starts with a normal environment in the Residential Complex where the residents are cordial, nosy or unfriendly. As the news of the mad person’s disease hits, the nature of the people also mutates along with the disease. The part where the atmosphere shifts from normal life to survival mode is depicted very well. It is intriguing to see the priorities of each person change as the lockdown progresses.
Tough times bring out the true colours in people. This holds good, especially in a pandemic. This series has a detailed depiction of the dark side of humans. Interestingly the series uses the common folk whom everyone meets day today to portray this. Unlike plots where the antagonists are always people who hold high power, Happiness showcases that evil people need not be powerful. They wreck havoc at every chance they get whoever or wherever they are.
The supporting actors have excelled in their performance. There are a lot of characters in the series. The character sketches in Happiness are noteworthy as one can see a lot of effort has gone into creating each one of them. The writer has made full use of each character arc as they all have ample screen space. This adds essence to the plot. When pushed to the edge, very few remain empathetic and their survival is quite a struggle. Humans pose a greater threat to humankind than any pandemic.
Despite the drama being set in just two places (The apartment and Han’s facility), there is not a dull moment in this12 episode series as the drama is engaging.
One watches the drama expecting it to be an apocalyptic thriller but the various types of human behaviour which forms a major crux of the series was definitely an added bonus. The drama exceeds expectations with its interesting storyline, great execution of the plot and a happy ending which makes ‘Happiness’ a must watch!
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-By Soul Sword-