Those of you out there that were not expecting to be dazzled with another rendition of Korean zombies raise your hand? I say this because this plot arc seemed to take a lot of people by surprise. But the more important question is whether they did this trope well. Come join The Fangirls as they share their first impressions and if it is a show worth watching.
Before we get to the zombie aspect of the show, let’s chat about our leads and their great chemistry. Han Hyo Joo (W: Two Worlds) and Park Hyung Sik (Strong Woman Do Bong Soo) are friends from high school that stayed friends as they went into law enforcement positions as adults. They enter into a contract marriage in order to qualify to rent in a super ritzy apartment complex; only to find themselves in the middle of a new pandemic outbreak. They must keep themselves and the people in their community safe as their housing complex is blocked off from the outside world as the virus spreads.
Kmuse: I love the mix of impulsive bravery and friend (maybe romantic) devotion between our leads. They just keep such an ethical and positive outlook on life during a pandemic. I ship them so much that even the random zombies popping up don’t detract from their relationship.
MiataMama: Yep, I’m braving the zombies just for this OTP – their chemistry is fantastic! When they’re together, I almost forget the main premise of the this story. They really do exude a bubble of normalcy in the midst of the chaos.
Pharmaceutical conspiracies and covid equal double the pandemics.
Happiness deftly combined current day covid restrictions and life with a new disease. The disease, created from faulty pharmaceutical drugs, cause a person to become very thirsty until they start gnawing on their fellow man, thus spreading the disease.
Kmuse: I love how they ground the idea of a zombie virus using our current lives during the Covid pandemic. All of the feels are familiar with some people using masks, and others not using masks. The rich imply that only the poor are the ones that could be infected. The numbness to new news because we get doom updates every day, so why is a new one really that important? All of these little details make the show seem so much more realistic than other zombie projects from the past. I also like that they layered the reasons how this new zombie pandemic started as well as why it continues. It gives us yet another chilling look at social class differences.
MiataMama: Don’t be fooled. . . while the zombies might be scary, it’s the frightened and fearful humans that are the real monsters here. And since I once lived in an apartment complex very similar to the one portrayed in this drama (complete with underground gym and on-site grocery), watching Covid life morph into this new pandemic hits juuuuust a little too close to home for me. I keep finding myself more and more unsettled with each passing episode. . .
Layered female lead
Han Hyo Joo is doing such an amazing job portraying our female lead Yoon Sae Bom. From her troubled childhood to her job on the terrorist swat team, we get a very complete portrayal of a person who is kind, ethically upright, but can kick butt when the need arises.
Kmuse: I love how her impulsiveness and need for the truth is both a positive, as well as a flaw. It really makes the character easier to relate to. Not to mention it is fun to watch her create chaos by not toeing the status line. I know that I have a list of characters I would like to see her takedown before the show concludes.
MiataMama: Han Hyo Joo is a fabulous actress – I’ve really been enjoying her portrayal of Yoon Sae Bom! Her calm, matter-of-fact-ness is refreshing. And I also love how, even though the world around her is in dissolving into chaos, she still stops to take a breath of fresh air and let the sun shine down on her face. A great reminder to stop stressing and just live in the moment, even if it may not the best of times.
Park Hyung Sik is back!
Coming back from his Military service Park Hyung Sik chose a winning role as his comeback project. Not only does it highlight his charming charisma but we see some action moves that are new to his wheelhouse. This will definitely be the project that solidifies Park Hyung Shik on the favorite actor lists of a whole new era of drama watchers.
Kmuse: While I don’t feel that his character has as strong a backstory as Sae Bom’s, I am still really enjoying PHS in this role. He just returned from his military service and seems to have matured. Rather than just seeing a pretty boy, he definitely felt like a man who could take charge. That, combined with his crushing on his bestie who he just contract married, is hitting all the right buttons.
MiataMama: Ditto to everything Kmuse said! I’m also enjoying the way his character, Jung Yi Hyun, is both laid back, but also totally aware of everything going on around him. He’s not letting a little zombie epidemic distract him from tracking down murderers and keeping those around him safe. And also, his crush on Sae Bom is really just so adorable!
It seems that South Korean films and dramas are becoming synonymous with good zombie content. Happiness is not the show that will break that streak. The directing solidly creates a creepy situation where the person beside you could turn into a bloodthirsty monster at any moment.
Kmuse: I’m really enjoying how they are creating the zombies in Happiness. There are moments of humanity in between the horror of the mindless attacks which makes them seem a lot more human than we usually get. It not only is a story about surviving but also finding a cure for all of the poor people that are infected and forced into this situation. Again, it is the layers that are really making this show stand out from the crowd.
MiataMama: This is only my second Korean zombie drama (Zombie Detective was the first, and I’m not even sure that fluff actually counts?), so I don’t really have much in the way of comparison. However, I will say that I’m really impressed with the way they build the suspense on this drama. It’s definitely a ‘less is more’ approach that’s keeping me glued to my screen every time I watch!
Kmuse: I am 100% waiting on pins and needles for new episodes every weekend. I can’t wait to see what happens next, and I highly recommend you all give it a try.
MiataMama: In all honesty, I initially tried this drama out because of PHS. But between all the great cast of characters and the intriguing storyline, I am hooked! Excuse me, but I need to go push play on the next episode now–
Til next time,
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi