Congratulations to us! We’ve survived four episodes of the uber-irreverent, hasn’t bathed in a month and we don’t care Nick Sax portrayed by the magnificence of “where have you been all our lives Christopher Meloni” and this zany blue unicorn named Happy (voiced by Patton Oswalt). Okay, maybe it’s not quite mid-season, but I swirl in the achievement of the entertainment bar to be lowered and raised simultaneously.
The creators promised more surprises and they deliver! Here is what I know: Happy is a barometer of one’s ability to believe in all things good. Very Evil Santa sees Happy because the childlike wonder that exists in us all to varying degrees is alive and well in this monster. Good and evil side by side with the scale tipped in the wrong direction. This show forces me to consider how these horrible characters got so bad in the first place. In the end, we will discover they all went to high school together. I mean, who gets out of there unscathed.
Happy is determined to exchange metaphorical friendship rings with Nick as he gets Nick out of more than one ugly scrape. But he is not the plotless deus ex machina you think. It all makes sense in a nonsensical way. Together they head up a new “buddy pic” genre but listen up – if you two sleep together, it’s all over. RIP David and Maddie in Moonlighting.
A trope, both loved and hated by our society, blurs the lines between one fucked up reality and another. It’s a smart way to introduce Isabella Scaramucci, played by Debi Mazar, mother to the four dead brothers and sister to despicable Francisco Scaramucci, aka Mr. Blue played by Ritchie Coster, who is out to get Nick or his cockroach of a boss will not be pleased. I give nothing away.
The acting choices continue to be odd and interesting. If you want the audience to really feel what the characters are going through, keep the emotions off the screen. Make us do the feeling for the characters. In this universe some reactions feel dialed back, not matching the horror of the situation. When Nick’s wife, Amanda Hanson, played by Medina Senghore, is on screen, her demeanor doesn’t feel urgent. Perhaps too much fretting and mental anguish would derail this into a movie of the week. That’s not this show. So far the kidnapped children feel like a contrivance on which to hang the characters because the fun ride is Nick and Happy in the search for them. And I bet I will be surprised. Nick Sax continues to be my go-to guy for staggering, unwatered down dialog and it’s interesting to realize I haven’t covered my eyes and turned down the sound (Episode 3) on a television show since I was seven and watched Nightmare Theater with my dad.
A few times characters make choices that serve the plot, and I think look how smart I am to notice. Just as I languish in my acute awareness while feeling a smidge let down by what I think is their lazy writing BAM! I am hit by another surprise. That’s right. Tweet me @constantlysurprised. Yes, there are a few nods to previous films and that’s okay. I don’t feel pulled out of the story like I would had this happened in most films. I feel smart and a member of a club which I am still curious as to why I want to belong.
These writers either have a therapist on staff, have gone through a lot of therapy themselves or are just plain smart. How much talking did the producers have to do to come up with all this? Or did the creators Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson pull it fully formed straight out of their collective psyche. The craft going on here is impressive. Or maybe I’ve over-analyzed lunatics and now, you can analyze me.
The fight scenes are real and funny and that’s the juvenile part of my brain acting out in pure relief from the horror. Sidesteps from the main plot amp up these horrors, situations ingrained deep inside us that we harbor about failing to make good choices or the wrongs done to us that go unpunished. Smoothie, Mr. Blue’s henchman played by Patrick Fischler, represents a special kind of evil that preys on that glimmer of fear simmering in our subconscious, marinating in the specter of growing old, of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, in the naivete of youth, or force-fed the atrocities of the world. Without a working release valve, we are all just one misstep, one knee-jerk reaction, one bad choice away from that minuscule piece of evil in us exploding, plunging us into this hell hole populated by crack babies all grown up. Is life this tentative? Just ask the door to door missionary, the red card delivery boy, the pot purveyor in Chinatown or young mother and her baby. Even the children who are abducted by Very Evil Santa. The turbulent whimsey of life to which we are all subject. Few of us go looking for our trouble.
Do I want kids watching this? I’m not saying they should. But, if this is the zeitgeist, at least let us chant for and encourage the teachable moments provided. America is going through changes on many levels, but let’s be clear. This is pure entertainment. If you or yours cannot tell the difference between good and evil, or if you are one who thinks this is the direction in which society is headed and see this as a training film for the Apocalypse, unfriend me now. I am here to dance the Happy dance of hope.
You think deep fried horror isn’t your cup of green tea, maybe question why onlookers in Chinatown hang around to watch the carnage. They can’t turn away, and neither can we.