After a slam-bang premiere episode, it’s not surprising that Happy!’s follow-up episode is slightly less high-octane. It still has some great action sequences, good jokes, and some incredibly creative camera work, but it isn’t as captivating as the premiere. Luckily, the show isn’t pussyfooting around with setting the storyline in motion.

But let’s talk about “What Smiles Are For,” a joke that pays off marvelously about two-thirds of the way through. However, one thing that didn’t work for me at all was the Jerry Springer Show framing device.

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During/after his accident, which is conveyed via a terrific slow-motion shot of Nick and Happy whizzing through the air, Nick has a sort of hallucination or a lucid daydream of being on a “Who’s the baby daddy?” episode of Jerry Springer. The show kindly points out to us that it’s a metaphor for the way Nick’s brain is wrestling with the idea of having a daughter. While Happy! gets points for creativity, it goes on far too long (and then rears its head later in the episode again). The darkly funny blow-my-brains disco number daydream from the premiere worked because it was absurd and funny and it lasted less than 30 seconds; this one is none of those things. What would have worked better for the structure of the episode is if Nick’s daydream of Jerry Springer had been a small snippet at the beginning with the one at the end omitted altogether, in favor of more time spent with Hailey.

While Nick is running around trying to leave town (since he’s a wanted man because of this mysterious password), Hailey is talking to one of the other kidnapped kids. She’s convinced her superhero of a dad is going to save them all, which is a very true and very heartbreaking sequence to give her. It’s not hard to imagine terrified kidnapped children thinking their parents will save them—just typing that is making me feel a little ill since we all know how most kidnappings end.

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But the twist that Hailey is not actually talking to another kid and is, in fact, talking to Very Bad Santa (that’s how he’s billed, btw), who is using a high voice to sound like a child... which is chilling. I like it when a show surprises me and that did. More time spent building up her rapport with the other “kid” or more time of Very Bad Santa being creepy would have helped heighten the tension, rather than the weird Jerry Springer interludes.

That aside, Nick and Happy’s adventures were top-notch this week. The sequence of Nick ousting thugs from his apartment while “Sleigh Ride” played in the background was a lot of fun, and it says a lot about the way this show deals with violence that I enjoy these sequences. Happy! has deftly walked that line between being too goofy and too dark in its depiction of violence.

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The poker game was also a highlight, capped off by a great shot when Nick upends the table while Happy literally bounces off the walls on a cocaine high. Of course, all these action sequences are here for Nick to collect his things, some money, and a car so he can get the hell outta Dodge. When Happy figures that out, he’s decidedly unhappy with Nick, whom he says used to be a hero, based on the one photo Hailey has of him. One cut to Jerry Springer later, where Jerry tells Nick he’s going to die miserable and alone and full of regret, and Nick decides to find Hailey, as we all knew he would.

It’s nice that the show didn’t stretch that out over too many episodes, one of the many boons of shorter TV seasons. But Nick took his requisite time to be a selfish curmudgeon who won’t help out a kidnapped child and then decided to do the right thing, something I’d like to think he would have done even if Hailey weren’t his daughter.

Meanwhile, Meredith has been charged with bringing Nick to Blue, intact and coherent. She agrees to do this to have her slate cleared with him, but for some extra insurance, Blue sends Smoothie to her mom’s house for the creepiest makeover ever. Meredith may not be the most interesting character on the show, but none of us want to watch Smoothie make mincemeat out of her elderly, confused mother, so hopefully, Meredith and Nick can do something about that.

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Oh, and Hailey’s mom Amanda is probably Nick’s ex-wife. At least that’s what is implied by him taking his wedding band with him when he leaves his apartment. She also apparently has a history with Meredith, marching into homicide to demand Meredith help find Hailey because, “You owe me,” Amanda tells the detective. It’s easily the most interesting thing about either character so far and I’m intrigued to know more.

Stray observations

  • I was both annoyed and relieved to see the kids alive in their respective crates in Santa’s lair. While I’m glad we weren’t shown shots of dead kids, it’s infinitely creepier to leave their fates up to our imagination. I understand that Hailey needed one to be alive so we would think she’s talking to another kidnap victim, but that could have happened without showing us any kids. The dialogue could have conveyed the other kid was kidnapped too and the reveal still would have worked.
  • It’s also a little confusing, because what is Santa’s deal? Does he just kidnap kids and feed them and keep them alive in crates... forever? It’s not that I want these crimes to be more heinous, but that feels a little low-stakes for this show. It definitely robs the season of some of the urgency it had when we thought Hailey could die at any moment. Now it sort of feels like we know Nick is eventually going to save the kids, so they just have to chill out in their crates for a while. I fully expect the show to heighten the stakes (and I expect it will be very upsetting), but this is how episode 2 left me feeling with regards to the kidnappings.
  • Meredith: “James Joyce called cheese ‘the corpse of milk.’”
    Blue: “I never listened to folk music.”
  • Shout-out to the State Farm agent whose delivery of “This your car?” was terrific.
  • Happy: “The way you’re smiling is like someone who doesn’t know what smiles are for.”
  • Nick: “Just a crazy idea, I thought we could be a team. You know, partners—Butch and Sundance. Gin and Tonic. Mickey and Mallory.”
    Happy: “You mean Mickey and Pluto?!”
  • Nick: “Well, well, well... the plot sickens.”
  • Happy: “IT’S LIKE KISSING GOD! I’M EVERYTHING AND NOTHING, I’M EVERYTHING AND NOTHING!”
  • Le Dic: “I only got one ass and Blue is all the way up it.”
  • Nick having to drive around in a gold PT Cruiser is outstanding.

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