5 Lessons From Episodes 3-4 Of “Happiness” That Had Us Thinking About Humanity
The weekend just got a lot more eerie with “Happiness” on the scene. Having a drama about a rampaging killer virus seemed slightly overkill given that the world has just barely begun to recover from one, but what sets “Happiness” off from contemporary news events (other than the vampirism/zombie bit) is its lack of focus on the virus itself. Humanity is positioned front and center as the Next pill starts to trigger a familiar reaction along class divides across the Seyang Forest Le Ciel Apartments, and our leads start to question just what it means to be human and humane.
Here are five lessons from this week’s episodes that had us ruminating on humanity.
Warning: spoilers for episodes 3-4 below.
1. Leave no one behind
We start off with a crisis as Yoon Sae Bom (Han Hyo Joo) races off to rescue Lee Seung Yong (Lee Kyu Hyung) from the storage truck stuffed with severe infectees. Despite witnessing her longtime friend succumb to the virus’s symptoms, Sae Bom wades into the fray and attempts to pull him out of the truck. But the other hungry infectees rally around her, eager for blood. It’s frankly a wonder that she isn’t eaten. Still, as she’s clawed back inside the truck, the soldiers around her give up and seal her inside the truck with at least 30 people ready to kill her.
There’s a heart-stopping moment where it seems that all is lost for Sae Bom when the truck doors screech open and a grim-faced Jung Yi Hyun (Park Hyung Sik) pulls Sae Bom and Seung Yong out.
Crisis averted, Sae Bom only has one thing to say to Lee Ji Soo (Park Joo Hee): that she’s disappointed. It’s hard not to see why. During Sae Bom’s brief period of quarantine and testing, she grew to genuinely like the female lieutenant, even bringing her some of the rice cake Kim Jung Kook (Lee Joon Hyuk) gifted them (which Han Tae Seok (Jo Woo Jin) definitely didn’t get). Ji Soo explains that five of her fellow soldiers tried stunts as Sae Bom did, only they didn’t live to tell the tale. What else was she supposed to do?
It’s an understandable position but also speaks to the sort of moral dichotomy the show advances between people like Yi Hyun and Sae Bom and people like Han Tae Seok and Ji Soo. When does practicality and focusing on the greater good result turn into a lack of humanity? When does being humane and caring and not wanting to leave a friend behind cross the line into naivete and stupidity? Sae Bom and Yi Hyun think they’re on the right side when they respectively berate Ji Soo and Tae Seok, but they’ll soon be undergoing a serious reevaluation.
(How cute is Yi Hyun’s concern though?)
2. People are the worst: a tale of two doctors and one receptionist
The tenants of apartment 601 have always been a little suspicious, not in the least because they keep making a racket at unholy hours, but Yi Hyun starts to suspect foul play when he notes the blood on Oh Joo Hyeong’s (Baek Hyun Jin) sleeve. His wife thinks along the same lines, because when the banging pushes her past the point of exasperation, she heads upstairs determined to get to the bottom of this and quickly finds that Joo Hyeong’s wife Park Min Ji (Baek Joo Hee) has been infected. And that Joo Hyeong is a garbage can.
He pushes her into the bathroom with his murderous wife, forcing Sae Bom to lock herself in the shower. But Min Ji isn’t at all interested in her, as her focus is rather entirely on her definitely adulterous husband. So when Sae Bom takes a risk and unlocks the shower door long enough to give Min Ji a clear path to her husband, she is more than happy to chase after him. Yi Hyun joins that queue himself after finding out that Joo Hyeong almost killed Sae Bom.
Min Ji is rapidly subdued and carted off by Tae Seok and Ji Soo. However, the full picture starts to emerge, and it gets really ugly, really fast. Turns out that not only was Joo Hyeong cheating on Min Ji but that he almost killed her. He beat her, nearly to death with a gold club, scrambling her brain. However, Min Ji was on the Next pill and transformed before he could finish the job. The virus was all that was keeping her alive when she should have died of brain damage and blood loss. It’s a horrific picture, and Yi Hyun is almost apoplectic when he arrests Joo Hyeong, but his mistress Woo Sang Hee’s (Moon Ye Won) shifty behavior indicates that Joo Hyeong might not be the only culprit. All in all, it paints an awful picture of humanity and greed where the virus actually does some good because there would have been no justice without it.
3. But people can be more than what they seem
Ji Sung Sil (Lee Joo Shil), the elderly lady in apartment 302, seems at first like the classic 60s wife. Her husband Kim Hak Je (Hong Soon Chang) grumbles at her to make dinner, and her brainless son treats her like garbage while trying to make a living as a streamer by providing terrible financial advice and exploiting other people’s misery. Sung Sil asks for a hamburger only for Hak Je to shoot her down immediately telling her to have rice and not bread. It’s easy to feel sorry for her as she tries to get a word in with her husband and her son. But all is not what it seems. Not her son (who truly is disgusting), but Hak Je makes an effort to head to a burger place and figure out how to operate a self-serve machine. He fails and returns with more of a sandwich than a burger, acting all grumpy when Sung Sil points it out. But contrary to how he appears, he truly seems to love his wife, even if he is crochety at times. When the building is locked down as he returns, he insists on returning to his wife, despite it meaning that he’ll be locked in.
It’s a nuanced take on characters that could seem one-note, and this show deserves praise for taking the time to build its supporting characters instead of using them as a vehicle for the main characters’ romance or personal growth.
4. Anything goes in times of vampirism
“Happiness” for all its intense subject material is all about the small moments. One such understated conversation is when Sae Bom goes on a grocery spree after a nationwide emergency is declared on account of the virus. She’s surprised to see that no one else is frantically hoarding groceries, but Lee Bo Ram (Han Da Sol), the cashier, sighs that emergency texts are a dime a dozen these days. For a seemingly throwaway line, it indicates much of how numb people are after back-to-back viruses. Death is a looming specter every day to the point that they’ve gotten used to coexisting with it. A national emergency is no longer a cause for panic but merely another day. It isn’t until they visibly see just how bad that death could be that the residents start to panic buy.
At this point, all laws and ethics (and rationality) fly out of the window. Sae Bom and Yi Hyun suddenly become the enforcers of Building 101 as the other buildings vote to shut them out of their meetings because their building had the first known case with Min Ji. Casual existence suddenly turns apocalyptic the second an entire building is locked down for seven days with a potential unknown terror within. Sae Bom and Yi Hyun’s ideas of humane behavior and morality evaporate in the face of a single immediate goal: survival.
They lock the gym trainer in this office without water because he was most recently in contact with a confirmed case and then forget about him until the next afternoon. Yi Hyun handcuffs Joo Hyeong to his nightstand with a wine bottle for a bathroom for half a day (though granted, he deserves it). Sae Bom pulls a gun to shoot down the door if the residents of the other buildings lock them in their building (which would have been a terrible idea because without that door anyone can get into Building 101 as we find at the end). These events solidify one key point: there isn’t much of a moral high ground in times of crisis.
5. There’s a slim moral high ground
Jo Woo Jin is killing it as Han Tae Seok, all curt, capable, and unflappable. It’s surprising then that Sae Bom, who Seung Yong noted as being the fastest to anticipate a situation and react to it, hates his guts, as does Yi Hyun (who worships the ground Sae Bom walks upon). Much of that dislike has to do with Tae Seok’s single-minded manner of thinking. He’s all about the greater good. If someone’s useful, like Sae Bom, he keeps them around and makes exceptions for them. If an infectee shows severe symptoms, he gives up on them to the point where he no longer considers them human. It’s understandable. There seems to be no hope for the people in that storage truck, and as he tells Sae Bom when she argues that he’s inhumane, what else is he supposed to do? Give them all a human to drink? He has no guarantee that these people will ever return to normal. Yi Hyun asks how he’d feel if it was his family, and that hits a little close to home, because that’s exactly what’s happened and why Tae Seok will stop at nothing.
Tae Seok’s goals are simple: protect as many people as he can, find a cure for the disease that’s killing his wife, and destroy the man who bit her Chairman Choi Seok Ju (Lee Ki Young). Anything and anyone extraneous to that is unnecessary. Sae Bom looks upon with him with distaste as he locks down the entire apartment complex to stop the spread. But though she doesn’t realize it, she no longer has the right to a moral high ground given what she and Yi Hyun have been up to. Tae Seok couldn’t have made exceptions for everyone because people would have lied about their symptoms and then gone ballistic in public. He tried to protect the school children as best he could and knew that Seo Yoon (Song Ji Woo) would have a quasi-family while her parents were tested. Sae Bom and Yi Hyun can dislike his methods all he wants, but there’s no denying that he was right. They find this out the hard way when people from the other buildings start manifesting symptoms and running rampant. They cling together for comfort but also out of fear because things have officially spiraled out of control. From here on out, it’s a free-for-all.
Next week’s preview shows things getting more and more intense. At only 12 episodes, this drama appears to have shaved off much of the bloat that can clog a longer drama. We have a fake-ish marriage that’s hopefully going to turn real, a found family situation going on with Seo Yoon, a boxed-in group of people who don’t know whom to trust, and numerous shady characters like Andrew (Lee Joo Seung), Joo Hyeong, and Sang Hee running amok. But the show remembers to give us small moments of happiness that anyone can find relatable.
Meals with family
A tender moment
And our not-so-fake spouses being each other’s biggest fans. Aw, Sae Bom’s like, “Right? Isn’t he handsome?” Adorable. Friday can’t come fast enough!
What did you think of this week’s episodes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
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What did you think of this week’s episodes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Shalini_A is a long time Asian-drama addict. When not watching dramas, she works as a lawyer, fangirls over Ji Sung, and attempts to finish up the greatest fantasy romance of all time. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and feel free to ask her anything!
Currently Watching: “Chimera,” “Jirisan,” “The King’s Affection,” “Dr. Brain,” “Dali and Cocky Prince”
Looking Forward to: “Melancholia,” “Happiness,” “Secret Royal Inspector and Joy,” “Hellbound,” Ji Sung’s next drama