Happiness: Korean Drama Review

I didn’t get to watch a lot of Korean dramas this year but I’m glad I ended the year with this one. Don’t be fooled by the title. Far from Happiness, you will feel stressed out by this drama but it’s a perfect trade off for all the action and the excitement, and of course the romance.

Synopsis: At the height of the pandemic, a pharmaceutical firm developed a failed drug for pneumonia which was repurposed as a narcotic to increase focus. Unknown to patients, the drug manifests a severe side effect after repeated use. Patients develop an unquenchable thirst sated only by human blood. Chaos ensues in South Korea, and SOU specialist Sae Bom (Han Hyo Joo) and detective Yi Hyun (Park Hyung Sik) are caught in the middle of it as their new apartment complex is quarantined because of a breakout of cases.

I loved Happiness from the get go because of its unexpected and thrilling development. I originally thought it to be a love story but as it turned out, it was like a lengthier version of Train to Busan with all the breakouts and infections in Le Ciel apartment complex.

I was a big fan of the chemistry of Sae Bom and Yi Hyun mainly because they complemented each other so well. One was hotheaded and acted swiftly while the other was cool and levelheaded when dealing with problems, whether it be issues about the infected or battling it out with the elitist and selfish residents of the expensive complex.

Yi Hyun was a real gem. The character fit Park Hyun Sik perfectly for his comeback to the small screen after his military enlistment. Yi Hyun was endearing. He was tough, and tried to always do the right thing. He also stuck out his neck to protect Sae Bom at all cost. He protected the residents, even when they didn’t deserve it. This was a guy who would face off against an entire battalion of armed military troops, literally chase after a speeding car on foot, with only his guts and a pistol. This was a guy who would stick his neck out for the safety of intellectually challenged residents who would risk their lives for some cash.

Sae Bom was the same, even though she was mostly reckless and prone to provocation. I loved how she sprung to action whenever her “hubby” was in a pinch. Nobody can bully this woman’s husband and not pay for it.

How they interacted with the rest of the residents and built relationships with them was also something of a joy to watch. These two were the anchors of the apartment complex, keeping the order and making tough calls even when no one appreciated them for it. The fact that they stuck together as a solid unit and supported each other made their task easier to bear.

I loved their chemistry. The last two episodes were so emotional when they finally confessed how they truly felt about each other the entire time. Of course, the team behind the drama will be forgiven for leaving the love story for later because admittedly the pair had their hands full for the first ten episodes but even as most of their romantic moments were limited to hand holding while being chased by the walking dead or looking deeply into each other’s eyes in silent communication, I was already sold as a shipper for this endgame couple.

I liked how the story tapped into the pandemic to set the tone for the drama. It gave the infection a bigger impact for the viewers. I also loved how they put together the cast. Oh Joo Hyung and Yeon Ok were the epitome of evil, corrupt and manipulative, looking down on the poor like animals. There were also the greedy and the apathetic, and of course the innocent. Despite their different motivations for survival, everyone had a reason to live.

I felt bad for Sae Bom, Yi Hyun and Jang Gyuk (Lee Joon Hyuk) for having to endure their belittling and later having to save these monsters from themselves. I liked the supporting characters as well, especially Na Soo Min (Na Chul). He was initially portrayed to be a moocher off his sister but when push came to shove, he acted like a big brother and did his best to protect his little sister from himself. He also wanted to protect the other people in the building as well. That’s a pretty standup guy.

And despite being portrayed as a heartless government official, I was impressed by Han Tae Seok (Jo Woo Jin). It was good that he had a great backstory that have him some humanity which made people understand why he had to make tough calls that endangered the lives of the main characters.

All in all, the pacing was just right for 12 episodes but I must admit that I was a bit worried when there were still plenty of loose ends by the last one. Thankfully, the ending was worth the stress. I wasn’t a big fan of the soundtrack though.

Happiness was definitely one of the better dramas of 2021. It begs the question of who the real monsters are when humanity is tested by crisis. Clearly, there were plenty of monsters in this series but not just the neck biting variety.

PS. How could Park Hyung Sik look like a model when portraying a detective? In all my years of watching dramas, never have I seen such a fashionable looking cop. He always looked clean even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Swoon.

Happiness is available to stream on IQiYi and Viu.