(Image: Syfy)

“When Christmas Was Christmas” is definitely the Happy! episode you want to watch if you have a baby and a little kid at home. It was not at all super upsetting, ha ha ha... sigh.

But seriously, it was simultaneously the strongest episode of the show so far and also the most disturbing—not that those things are mutually exclusive. In fact, with a lot of good television, they often go hand in hand. So bravo, Happy. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just go get Nick Sax-level drunk to drown the sorrow and depression.

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Oh, wait, there needs to be more to this review? OK.

This episode took a break from the pulpy violence for some much-needed character development in the form of flashbacks. We were shown Nick and Meredith’s early days working together, bonding over the shared experience of dealing with the scum of the Earth. Obviously, they dealt with a lot of bad people, but the one given a face is a speed-head executive who beats his mistress. Nick wants to do something about it, while Meredith sees that their hands are tied unless the woman will press charges.

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You knew as soon as Nick left the guy with only a threat that the woman and the baby were going to die, but it was still incredibly upsetting when it happened. That might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of Nick’s already badly-damaged psyche. Being a homicide cop takes its toll, but something as horrific as a baby killed in a microwave is the kind of thing that breaks a person and it seems like that’s perhaps what started turning Nick into the man we see in the present on the show.

That doesn’t excuse his affair with Meredith, which was happening before the baby incident. But it’s made very clear by their encounter that Nick is using her as an outlet for his pain, as opposed to actually talking to her (or his wife) about anything.

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When I said last week that I was intrigued to see Amanda and Meredith’s backstory, I realized that Meredith’s affair with Nick broke up Nick and Amanda’s marriage, but I was curious about the details. How much did Amanda know? Were she and Meredith friends, which adds another layer to the betrayal? How did Amanda find out? The mere existence of the affair doesn’t tell us much, so I’m glad the show filled in at least some of the blanks this week.

And really, it wasn’t the affair that ended the marriage. That was part of it, but Amanda and Nick were obviously having problems besides that. Nick is a very broken person and when you’re in a relationship with someone like that and that person won’t open up to you or seek help, there’s only so much you can do. The timing of Amanda’s pregnancy with the baby incident could not have been worse and it’s hard to think the marriage wouldn’t have ended with or without the affair.

Aside from the flashbacks, the big thrust this week is finding Very Bad Santa. Nick is on his own hunt, with Happy by his side, and Amanda and Meredith are conducting their own investigation. Nick has better luck finding Santa (hooray for Christmas strip clubs, right?!), but Meredith and Amanda are at least successful in saving another little girl from her own monsters... her parents, who claim she was kidnapped but who have actually chained her up in the attic. That was a clever way to keep Amanda and Meredith together but away from Nick and hey, that little girl will be OK, hopefully. Or at least better off.

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Meanwhile, Very Bad Santa has taken a special liking to Hailey (and I truly think he has) but he also wants to find and punish her daddy as a substitute for punishing his own horrible father whom he never had a chance to hold accountable for his abusive behavior. It turns out VBS’s dad was the Santa at Gimbels (a famous department store in New York City) and used that position to prey on children. He eventually hanged himself when it all came out and his son (VBS) was institutionalized. There aren’t a lot of specifics, but it’s safe to assume the father preyed on his own son as well, hence his current behavior.

I like it when a show can elicit a modicum of sympathy for a villain. Nuances and layers are always preferable to black-and-white situations because it makes for a more interesting story. But it also seems like VBS doesn’t want to hurt these kids, which, as I said last week, robs the show of its urgency a little. I’m curious where the show goes after the final scene, where VBS beat Nick to a pulp outside the strip club and then seemed to say that he can see Happy.

Will VBS disappear into the night and Nick is back to hunting him down? Will the encounter with Nick cause something to change for VBS and the kids will now be in greater jeopardy? It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.

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Stray Observations

  • Meredith felt like more of a real person this episode than either of the previous two, which is nice. Hopefully, they keep giving Lili Mirojnick meatier stuff because she’s shown she can do it.
  • This made me laugh out loud and I rewound it twice to watch it again:
  • Nick: “I’ve known you less than 24 hours, I already want to kill both of us with fire just to make it stop.”
  • O’Neal: “I smell alcohol and Drakkar Noir. That can only be one man.”
  • Babes in Toyland (the Ray Bolger-Annette Funicello version) is one of my favorite childhood movies, so it would be nice if meth-head, kidnapper Santa would stop singing Toyland, please and thank you because it is really creeping me out.
  • Christmas came early for whoever asked Santa for a scene of naked Christopher Meloni having sex in a closet!
  • Happy: “These must be the magic carrots that make the reindeer fly!”
  • Angel: “I don’t do Santas. I had a pervy uncle, used to dress like Santa every Christmas... I think he was my uncle. I don’t wanna talk about it, OK?
  • Nick: “We all gotta draw the line somewhere.”

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