THE SHORT VERDICT:
This is the zombie show that I didn’t know I needed, in my life.
Show is basically sharp, thought-provoking social commentary, dressed as a zombie drama, with a healthy dollop of (absolutely delightful!) contract marriage on the side. Not everything makes sense, but just roll with it, because Show’s social commentary feels like the main course, while all the other details that may not add up, feel incidental, almost.
Park Hyung Sik and Han Hyo Joo are absolutely wonderful in this, both individually and together, and just the two of them, make this watch more than worthwhile.
I highly recommend this, even if you’re not typically into zombie shows.
THE LONG VERDICT:
Major thanks to the folks on my Twitter feed, who tweeted the detail, that this zombie show does the contract marriage thing surprisingly well.
That was THE thing that piqued my interest in this show, and compelled me to check it out, even though I’d mentally decided that this one mustn’t be for me, since it’s about zombies and all.
It would have been tragic loss to me, personally, if I’d chosen to give this one a miss, because I loved this one, right from episode 1.
What a happy, happy surprise! 🤩
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while reading the review. In terms of a favorite track, I think I’m gonna hafta say, Track 5, Portrait, because it’s the theme that scores almost all our OTP interactions. You could say that I’ve come to associate this track with good things. 😁
If you’d prefer to listen to Portrait on repeat, here it is as well. Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a couple of things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. The zombies aren’t actually that scary.
Show isn’t gratuitous with the zombie scenes or the blood, which I think is a big plus. One of the things that I think makes the zombies different from zombies in other shows, is that the zombies here are portrayed as patients infected by a mysterious disease, rather than undead monsters.
2. Not everything makes complete sense, in this drama world.
If you were to examine the details in this story with a strong analytical lens, you’d find logic gaps and stretches. My advice is to just roll with it, because..
3. Show does a great job of offering social commentary,
..from quite a few angles. I found this very thought-provoking and worthwhile.
4. Romance isn’t the main point in our story,
..but Show does a great job of serving up satisfying nuggets of romantic development, between Yi Hyun and Sae Bom (Park Hyung Sik and Han Hyo Joo). I think knowing this in advance helps, especially if you’re in this for the contract marriage / romance.
A MACRO OVERVIEW
I thought it would be useful to do a bit of a macro overview of the stuff that I liked and didn’t like so much in this show, before delving into characters and relationships.
STUFF I LIKED
Show feels fresh
One of my favorite things about this show, is how the watch feels surprising, in the best possible way.
Show doesn’t feel formulaic at all, or at least, it doesn’t feel formulaic to my non-expert zombie-watching eyes. I like how our story keeps on moving, with fresh developments and surprises, in such a consistent manner.
[SPOILER] With everyone being shut in at the apartment complex, it feels like there are a limited number of developments that our story can take, and yet, our story manages to feel fresh and in some ways, surprising as well. [END SPOILER]
Really well done, I thought.
Show’s pacing is tight
One of the things I really appreciated about Show, is that it’s fast-paced and feels tight.
It honestly never feels like our story is cycling in place for any reason at all; it always feels like our narrative has something to say, and somewhere to be, and it needs to get things done, chop chop, tick tock, c’mon now, follow along coz we got no time to waste. Love that.
The social commentary Show serves up is thought-provoking
Show does a really nice job of injecting a whole lot of social commentary into its narrative, from various angles.
[MINOR HIGH LEVEL SPOILERS]
For example, I like how Show humanizes the zombies as patients who are probably terrified and ashamed, while showing us that among the uninfected, there are some legit monsters. This unrelenting exploration of the uglier side of the human condition, was really thought-provoking.
At the same time, Show also has some very astute observations about the pandemic that we’re living in, and I found it a very interesting and thought-provoking exercise, to reframe the zombie virus as a new, post-covid development, that stems from medication that’s not fully tested.
This effectively raises the question of whether the medication and vaccines that we’ve embraced as part of our global covid strategy, might bring about unexpected side effects and problems later.
The line, where Lieutenant Colonel Han (Jo Woo Jin) says, “Just because it was fine yesterday… doesn’t mean it’ll be fine today,” feels particularly relevant to our reality. It feels like a cautioning of sorts, even as we approve various medications and vaccines for emergency use.
I will delve more deeply into Show’s social commentary, in a later section on Themes & Ideas.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
At around the episode 3 mark, I started to get a sense for why I’d heard fans of this show say that it’s a lot of fun to watch, but there are a lot of things that don’t make sense. There were at least several instances, in just this episode, where I found myself going, “Waitaminute.. that.. doesn’t make sense..?”
And yet, the great thing was, this somehow did not deter me from enjoying this show. That’s some kind of skillz Show’s got there! 😂
I then decided that examining the details too closely, in this show, would detract from my enjoyment of it, because those details don’t even feel that consequential, compared to the enjoyment I get out of my watch.
However, just for the record, here are a bunch of things that I found myself noticing, which I felt didn’t make a lot of sense – even when I wasn’t really paying extreme close attention to detail.
E3. One of those instances, is when we see Sae Bom talking with Seung Young (Lee Kyu Hyung), after he’s been taken out of the truck, and subdued. It’s nice that she’s talking to him like he’s a normal person and all, but like, we’ve literally seen him turn, with the white eyes.
Why didn’t they put a protective face shield on him, like they’ve done with all the other patients that we’ve seen? Were they afraid that Lee Kyu Hyung wouldn’t be able to emote properly, with the face shield on? (That’s impossible, by the way. Lee Kyu Hyung is fantastic, and I’d bet that he’d have done an excellent job, even with a face shield on.)
It also doesn’t make sense to me that the upstairs infected lady doctor neighbor (Baek Joo Hee), wouldn’t at least try to attack Sae Bom, when Sae Bom gets pushed into the bathroom where her husband (Baek Hyun Jin) has been keeping her.
From what we’re told, once infected, these patients can’t control their urge for human blood. It’s hard to believe that she would be so focused on her husband’s betrayal, that she’d be able to ignore her basic thirst for blood..?
Also.. Why would her husband try to kill her? Yi Hyun’s theory, that he’s just trying to get his clinic back, doesn’t make any sense, because even if his wife were dead, he’s still suspended for medical malpractice..?
Also, why would Jung Kook (Lee Joon Hyuk) still appear so clueless about the “mad person disease”? I mean, he was literally there, on the ground, at the facility where patients are being quarantined? And, he’d been there when everyone was running around, trying to contain the patients from breaking out of those container trucks?
E5. This episode, it doesn’t make sense to me that Building 101’s gone unsecured for so long, especially since the outbreak has been so visible, on the grounds of the apartment complex.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Some narrative choices [SPOILERS]
Basically, I’m talking about Show’s writing around Andrew (Lee Joo Seung).
First of all, Show makes Andrew appear special and interesting, because in episode 7, Show indicates that there’s something about Andrew that intimidates the zombies.
The thing that gives me that idea, is how Andrew tells LTC Han that he’d told a zombie to go to the stairwell, and when LTC Han checks the stairwell, the infected zombie is there, just as Andrew had said, and he even looks quite nervous and intimidated, as he slinks away.
This zombie behavior isn’t anything like what we’ve seen before, because all other infected persons having a zombie episode, have been shown to be violently bloodthirsty. That’s what made me assume that Andrew had some kind of special ability to intimidate the zombies.
BUT THEN. In episode 10, Show reveals that Andrew is a serial killer, and not only does that NOT explain anything about his ability to influence the zombies, it lands as a bit of a cheap shot, to my eyes.
It feels like Show was just looking for a way to amp up the tension in its last stretch, and therefore decided to throw in a serial killer in, just for that reason alone. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, with Hyun feeling the effects of the zombie scratch on his chest.
I mean, it’s not impossible that Andrew’s a serial killer who just happened to get locked in with everyone else, but it doesn’t make sense to me, that he would have had any influence over the infected people, like Show had demonstrated in earlier episodes.
The infected don’t listen to reason when they’re having an episode, so even if Andrew had whipped out a knife and threatened to kill the zombies, there’s no reason that they would have listened to him.
ALSO. If he’d been looking to pass off the dead bodies as having been ravaged by zombies, then he shouldn’t have covered them with lime. Which zombie would stop to do that, after taking a big bite out of someone’s neck, right? 🙄 So that felt weird and unnecessary to me, as well.
CHARACTER & RELATIONSHIP SPOTLIGHT
Park Hyung Sik as Yi Hyun
I love Park Hyung Sik in this show, SO much. ❤️
Underneath his offhanded, casual way about him, Hyun is such a tenderhearted, caring person, not only to Sae Bom, but to other people too. I couldn’t help but love him. Plus, on a completely shallow note, Park Hyung Sik looks so effortlessly handsome, in the role. 🤩
I have a lot more to say about Hyun in relation to Sae Bom, which will come a little later, in the OTP section, but for now, here are a couple of highlights.
E1. Yi Hyun’s just got this offhanded way about him, that amuses me. Like, he’s not a stickler for protocol, but casually just manages to be really good at what he does, anyway.
I found it quite amusing, that he seems to be better at investigative work, than the Jung Kook, who’d promised to make him a good police officer, from that time in high school when Yi Hyun had inadvertently triggered a suicide alarm, by lounging on the roof.
E9. I love-love-LOVE how patient, gentle and loving Hyun is, this episode, not only to Sae Bom, but to Jung Kook as well.
Even when Sae Bom’s all riled up, Hyun remains steady and calm, and even when Sae Bom’s hopping mad about Jung Kook’s betrayal, Hyun treats Jung Kook with kindness and understanding. I love that. I love him.
I love how he tells Seo Yoon (Song Ji Woo) that the others aren’t bad people, that they’re just scared. I know I always talk about lens adjustments, but I freaking love Hyun’s lens adjustment around this! ❤️
There’s so much to love about Hyun this episode, that I find myself feeling extra protective of him, particularly when Show reveals that he’s been scratched, and he’s likely infected. Nooooo!!! Not Hyun!! 😭😭😭
Han Hyo Joo as Sae Bom
I want to shout it from the rooftops: I LOVE Han Hyo Joo in this. It’s a fantastic departure from the gentler, more ladylike characters that I’ve seen her play in the past.
Sae Bom’s got no vanity, no airs, and is completely no-nonsense, while managing to also be winsome and likable. Plus, she’s also offhandedly badass, and has some very sharp fight skillz up her sleeve; a detail that I find inexplicably thrilling.
I find it quite remarkable, that Han Hyo Joo fills out this character so well and so naturally, given that this is the first time I’ve seen her in this space. All I can say is, I’d like to see more of this casually badass side of Han Hyo Joo, please and thank you. 🤩
E1. I love Sae Bom’s personality, so much. I love that she’s such a go-getter, who’s basically hardly ever fazed by anything; I love that she thinks quickly and acts just as quickly; I love that she’s so unafraid of anything.
Best of all, she manages to be endearing and likable, even while she’s bulldozing people over with her “do first, consider the consequences later” sort of attitude.
I feel like I’ve seen characters be “take charge” before, but most of the time, they’re portrayed as annoying and inconsiderate, because they tend to step on people’s toes, as they get things done.
YET, even though Sae Bom’s definitely crushed a few toes in her time (how about the way that training suit had to be modified, because she’d stabbed a colleague in the chest, in her effort to “save” him? 😂), she feels pretty harmless, to me.
What I mean is, there is no malice about her. She might step on people’s toes sometimes (ok, maybe more than sometimes), but she’s really not out to hurt anyone. She literally just is that task focused, and is passionate about getting things done, and getting them done well, and quickly too.
She’s badass, in what feels like an almost accidental way, like it’s a side effect of where her priorities lie, and I just instinctively love her.
E4. I do so love how Sae Bom deals with the forced sealing off of Building 101, by borrowing Jung Kook’s gun, and putting it to good use, without batting an eye.
I love how naturally badass she is, and how she just won’t be intimidated. I have stars in my eyes, just like how Seo Yoon has stars in her eyes.
Yi Hyun and Sae Bom together
Not gonna lie; I came for this contract marriage OTP, and Show did not disappoint.
I had some expectations, because those who’d tweeted about this contract marriage, had indicated that Show does a surprisingly great job of handling the contract marriage thing, and Show managed to not only meet those expectations, but surpass them – by a lot.
Hyun and Sae Bom are just fantastic together, right from the get-go, even before the contract marriage kicks in, and I think I just fell in love with them, on sight. 😍😍 I loved their individual personalities and their relationship right away, and was very pleased indeed, with how things are set up, such that romantic possibilities could be explored.
I’d had no idea how this concept, of a zombie-contract marriage mashup, was going to work. But Show brings it, and I found myself grinning like a happy goof, not even 30 minutes into our opening episode.
Like I mentioned earlier, this contract marriage is far from Show’s main point, and therefore, Show only really serves up nuggets of OTP goodness at a time. But Show makes those nuggets SO good, and remembers to serve them up so consistently, that I found myself a very happy camper, through my entire watch. That’s skillz. 🤩
E1. I am already super into the relationship between Sae Bom and Yi Hyun, even though we’re only just on the cusp of the marriage contract thing.
I love the idea that they’ve been good friends all these years, even after Sae Bom had declined to date Yi Hyun, after she’d pushed him off the roof and into that cushion. I love the detail, that when she doesn’t have her phone with her, she can dial Yi Hyun’s number from memory.
I also love the fact that Yi Hyun would go out of his way to save her, when he perceives that she might be in trouble. (And he manages to get through the tight security so effortlessly too! Smooth. 🤩)
I get the feeling that even though Yi Hyun had told Sae Bom that he’d been joking about wanting to date her, he probably does have real feelings for her. He’s just put them aside, since she’s expressed so plainly, that she has no interest in dating him.
But the way he responds to her – like the way he sits bolt upright in bed, when he hears her voice on the other end of the line – makes me feel that he probably does already like her, and has quite possibly liked her all these 12 years.
In my estimation, these two would make a great pair, not only in fighting zombies, but also, as a couple. I love that they’re both good at their jobs, and that they’re both quick-thinking and flexible around rules. I love that they already have a synergy and rhythm between them, as good friends. I feel like this would stand them in good stead, as they start their zombie investigation.
Plus, I dig their chemistry. I have a huge soft spot for the contract marriage trope, and it feels like such a treat, that these two awesome leads, are going to have to navigate a contract marriage situation, on top of everything else.
E2. The thing is, even this contract marriage stuff feels fresh. Not only is it comfortably ensconced in the midst of a zombie story, it doesn’t feel like most other contract marriages I’ve watched.
In most contract marriage set-ups, the two parties are either strangers, or almost strangers who can’t stand each other. And the bickering gives way to hyperawareness, and so on.
In contrast, Yi Hyun agrees super readily to Sae Bom’s question of whether he’d like to marry her. I do love that she tries so hard to pass it off as a real marriage when she sells him the idea.
It’s so endearing to me, that she doesn’t default to a contract marriage mindset, and just keeps telling him that she’s a really decent person, and such a great catch. And I love how she’s caught off-guard, when he agrees so readily and matter-of-factly.
Also in contrast to the typical contract marriage set-up, Yi Hyun and Sae Bom already have such a great, easy rhythm going, between them, that I find it immediately very refreshing to see them settling in so easily, to sharing the same living space. They are so in sync and so easygoing with each other; I LOVE IT.
I love how Yi Hyun prints that picture of them, and puts it on the wall, just in case someone from the borough office might visit, and Sae Bom rolls with it so readily, even remarking that she likes the fact that she has the handcuffs on, in the photo. Tee hee hee.
These two are so perfectly quirky, and they are so perfectly in sync with each other’s quirkiness, and I am lapping this up, all while I can’t stop giggling at my screen. 😂
I also love how easily they fall into a synergistic sort of routine, where he wakes up to head to work, and tells her to sleep in, because she’s on leave. It’s so.. comfortable, and for some reason, this degree of comfort between them thrills me.
Plus, I think it’s so great, that they’re able to talk about personal things so easily. Like the way Sea Bom tells Yi Hyun why she’s always so badly wanted to have her own place, and all the growing up memories associated with it.
I am also quite thrilled at the way Sae Bom talks to Yi Hyun about how they’ll split the apartment 60:40 when they buy it after 10 years. The fact that she’s planning to be married to him for a long time, thrills me too. 🤩
I find that the more I observe Yi Hyun, the more convinced I am, that he’s harboring feelings for Sae Bom. I think Park Hyung Sik does fantastic smitten faces (like he did so gloriously, in Strong Woman Do Bong Soon), and here, it feels like we’re getting hints of his smitten gaze, just heavily tamped down and mostly disguised.
There’s a gentleness about him, when it comes to interacting with Sae Bom, that I really dig. And occasionally – like in that moment when Sae Bom tries to convince him that she’s asking him to marry her because she’s interested in him, because he’s easy on the eyes – where there’s a blink-and-you-miss-it sort of smolder in his eyes. Swoon, I say. 😍
Plus, how sweet is he, to gently pull the covers over Sae Bom, when she falls asleep while talking to him?? The matter-of-fact way he is sweet and thoughtful towards her, melts my knees. 😍
E3. I just love that moment, when Yi Hyun shows up, realizes that Sae Bom’s been shut into the container truck along with a whole bunch of very dangerous zombies, and, without hesitation, shove the soldiers aside, and rushes into the container himself, to drag her outta there, zombies or no.
It’s like, “No one’s taking my wife away from me!!!” – Or at least, that’s what I hear in my head, when I see him do that.
The best part is, after that very dramatic rescue, he’s so nonchalant, in the way he asks her if she’s ok. That’s so badass, to act like this whole thing was just another walk in the park for him. And, she’s a badass too, to answer pretty nonchalantly herself, that she’s fine, and what’s he doing there? Ahhh. These two. 🤩
I love the little thoughtful touches that Show scatters in the way Yi Hyun and Sae Bom relate.
Like how he tends to the scratches on her hand, and consoles her that everything will be ok. And the way he rummages for herbal tea, so that he can make her a warm cup of it, to calm her nerves, before they have that video call with his mother to tell her that they’re married. It’s so thrilling, honestly.
And how cute, that Sae Bom dresses up, in order to talk with her new mother-in-law. Aw! 😍
I love how, when Yi Hyun comes upon the scene of Sae Bom fighting to subdue lady doctor-zombie, he just springs into action and does the job so smoothly and confidently. Yi Hyun’s got some nice fight moves, and I am duly starry-eyed. 🤩
And I love that he and Sae Bom are so in sync. Sae Bom knows to trust him completely and leave the zombie subduing to him, and immediately goes to comfort Seo Yoon, and make sure that she’s ok.
And what about how, when Yi Hyun delivers that punch to doctor-murderer’s torso, he remarks in such a casually serious manner, that dude should be thankful that it isn’t Sae Bom punching him, because he’s surely not survive that. Ha! I love it, that Yi Hyun is so appreciative of Sae Bom’s badassery!
It’s just like Sae Bom to make the decision to stay instead of leave, so that she can protect the apartment. She’s so impulsively passionate, that way. What I do love about this, is how she tells Yi Hyun not to come back – but then runs into his arms, when she realizes that he’s already back, and says, with her cheek to his chest, “I thought I was all alone.”
Ahhh. I love how he quietly pats her on the back, even though he doesn’t yet know, that there’s nowhere doctor-murderer can run to, at this time. Regardless of that, he puts her first, and I’m a melted puddle of swoon, I tell ya. 😍
And when Sae Bom tells him that no one can get out, and therefore it’s ok if doctor-murderer runs away, he just.. continues to pat her shoulder, like it doesn’t matter that they’re locked into the apartment complex, because they’re together.
Things are only going to get more complicated from here on out, and I am so on board to see what happens, particularly because this is just going to give me more Yi Hyun and Sae Bom on my screen. SLURP. MOAR PLEASE. 😋
E4. Through it all, I’m just so glad to have Yi Hyun and Sae Bom helping to take charge of the situation, and being the no-nonsense, brave souls that they are. Best of all, through it all, we get these precious glimpses of just how important they are, to each other, and I lap those up like delicious morsels of life-giving manna. Slurp.
For instance, this episode, we see that phone conversation from Yi Hyun’s point of view, where Sae Bom tells him not to try to enter the apartment complex. We didn’t get to see this last episode, but this time, we see that he’s immediately very visibly alarmed, when he thinks that Sae Bom might be in danger. Aw.
The way his voice goes up several decibels, and his eyes start blinking extra often, say so much about how viscerally he feels this. I love it.
Plus, they are just totally in sync, when it comes to dealing with the various situations that crop up around the forced quarantine. Like how Sae Bom gets doctor-murderer to cooperate with Yi Hyun, by oh-so-casually nudging Yi Hyun to beat him up a little, without letting anyone else see. Hee.
And there’s how they step into de facto co-managing the gym dude (Joo Jong Hyuk), without any need for any kind of discussion. They just seem to naturally know how to work together in a symbiotic manner. I love it.
On top of all this, I’m most taken by how they instinctively reach for each other, in times of danger.
Like that scene when they’re standing in that carpark lobby, their eyes glued to the outside, because they know that a zombie is about to appear at any moment, and they instinctively hold hands.
Eee!! I know, it’s possibly not very appropriate to be squeeing when people’s lives are in danger, but how can one not squee, when these two are being so wonderful together, so naturally? 🤩
And, not forgetting the little almost throwaway moments, like when Yi Hyun laments having to sleep on the floor, when the day had started so well. Hee. I’m 99.999% sure that he’s talking about how he’d started the day getting to hug and hold Sae Bom, but now has been kicked out of their bedroom, because they’re now also housing Jung Kook and Seo Yoon.
E5. I love how supportive Hyun is of Sae Bom, in the sense that he never dissuades her from doing anything, even the dangerous things. It tells me that he has complete confidence in her ability to kick ass, while taking care of herself.
When she tells him to cover her, as they get ready to leave the stairwell, he stops her, not to dissuade her from wanting to go first, but only to suggest that they switch weapons, because he thinks he’ll handle the bat better. Hee.
Also, I do think that he wants her to have the gun, because it’s better protection, but he won’t say so, so that he doesn’t appear to diminish her in any way. That’s sweet.
And then there’s the way Sae Bom won’t let Hyun go out there on his own. Even though she tries to stop him from going outside, when she realizes that he’s going anyway, she suits up and joins him. Ahhh. The loyalty and solidarity!
I have to admit, I kinda love how Hyun goes after doctor-murderer and smears that blood all over his face, as payback for his attempt at locking the recce group out of the building. That really must be one of doctor-murderer’s worst nightmares come true.
And, when Hyun apologizes for getting carried away, I love how Sae Bom doesn’t get judgey at all. Instead, she tells him that it hadn’t been for him, everyone in their group would have gotten infected. That’s so validating. I love even more, how she then gently hugs him and tells him that he’s done well.
That’s so comforting and assuring, honestly. If you ever had reason to find yourself in a zombie outbreak, this is the kind of partnership that you’d want to be a part of, to help you weather it all.
E6. I love that little pocket of time that they spontaneously spend on the roof, after going up to check whether any infected people have infiltrated their building via the roof. The way they reminisce about the past feels so natural and organic; these two really go back a long way, as Building Representative Lady says.
And then, there’s the way Hyun looks at Sae Bom, as she talks about wanting to fly to the nursing home to see her mother, if she could. That flash of tenderness in his eyes has so much depth to it, that I feel convinced that there is a deep well of feelings backing it up. Swoon.
I also love how Sae Bom tells Hyun never to do something crazy again, like how he’d touched the blood in order to smear it on doctor-murderer’s face. She’s definitely concerned for Hyun’s safety, and that just gives me the warm fuzzies.
It’s also pretty great, how they can talk about anything, between them. When Sae Bom has her doubts about Hyun because of what doctor-murderer said, she brings it up honestly, and Hyun clears the air promptly. Ahhh. Such healthy interactions between our OTP!
And it melts my heart to see how much Hyun cares about Sae Bom, even though he knows that she’s very capable of defending herself. When he asks her to be the good cop, and she declines, it’s clear that she wants to relieve him of being the bad cop – and he wants to prevent her from getting hurt, as the bad cop.
Awww. These two care about each other so much, and in such understated, practical ways. 🤩🤩
And then there’s how Hyun reacts, when he hears that Sae Bom’s gone upstairs with the guy from the 15th floor (Han Joon Woo) – whom he’s just found out, also bought Next pills. The way he charges upstairs, and is literally ready to break down that door, in order to get to Sae Bom, is just so intense and swoony. 😍
E7. I am loving how Show is balancing its chosen tone when it comes to Sae Bom and Hyun. We get a mix of excellent partnership, and we also get regular flashes of genuine care and deep concern, which up the feels that I have for this contract marriage.
The way Hyun basically bulldozes his way into the Penthouse Dude’s apartment, is so full of intense fire; I absolutely believe him, when he says that he’ll kill Penthouse Dude, if he does anything to hurt Sae Bom.
I do love that the moment Hyun sees that Sae Bom’s perfectly fine, he calms down right away. I had to chuckle at their cover story, though, that Hyun misses Sae Bom so acutely, that he kind of goes crazy when he doesn’t see her. 😂
I’m sure Penthouse Dude has his doubts about the veracity of the cover story, but it amuses me, that he chooses to play along, and even sends Sae Bom with a whole bag of military rations as a gift.
That scene where Hyun chases down LTC Han, and jumps-slides over the bonnet of the car, to land in gun-cocked, ready-to-attack position, in front of the car, is just so slick and so badass. Wow! 🤩🤩 I knew Hyun had some moves in him, but this was especially impressive, I thought.
And it was so great, that Sae Bom basically falls right in line with backing Hyun up, by grabbing LTC Han’s gun out of its holster, and training it on him. Augh. These two make such great partners, seriously. 🤩🤩
I also love the scene where LTC Han asks Hyun if he’ll really be ok, because Sae Bom could turn at any moment – and Hyun answers readily, in such a matter-of-fact manner, that that’s why he needs to be right by her side. Aw, I love him.
I love that he’s prepared to stick with Sae Bom regardless of what happens, and I love how he’s determined to stay with her, even if she turns. That’s such a surprisingly swoony moment, in a zombie show. 😍
I do love that when Hyun realizes that Sae Bom is also concerned about the scratches on her hand not healing, he just reaches out to hold her hand. That’s so assuring, and so sweet. It basically tells her, “It’s going to be ok. I’ll be here with you. Don’t worry.” Ahhh. I love him. 😍
E8. I love that in their everyday interactions, it comes through that Hyun and Sae Bom really are friends with each other, who are able to talk about personal things with each other, easily and comfortably.
And, I like that Sae Bom’s able to tell Hyun about how she feels about seeing her mom again. The conversation between them just flows so effortlessly, like there’s no exertion on either side, to spend time in each other’s company.
I freaking love the reveal that we get, that Hyun had switched out the Next pills in the gym van, for his digestive pills! So.. nobody who’s drunk the spiked water will be at risk of becoming a bloodthirsty zombie! They’ll just all have.. excellent digestion??
PWAHAHAHA. It’s the BEST PRANK EVARRR, and I LUFF Hyun, so much, for thinking to guard against doctor-murderer in this way.
My other favorite Hyun moment this episode, is when Sae Bom asks him about how he’d gotten through his difficult season, after finding out that he couldn’t play baseball anymore.
The look in his eyes shifts noticeably, and the way he answers, “You,” without much hesitation at all, is so breath-in-my-throat swoony.
And then, the way he leans in to Sae Bom, makes me think that he might be about to kiss her, or at least, tell her how he feels about her. Ahhhhh!!!
If only the moment hadn’t been cut short, by the arrival of doctor-murderer and con-woman apartment representative. Argh!! But.. I suppose, Hyun and Sae Bom can always continue this conversation another time..?
E9. I love the way Show consistently remembers to give us some time with Hyun and Sae Bom, where we get to see how much they care about each other, and how hyperaware Hyun is, of Sae Bom.
The moments tend to be rather brief, but the little details and nuances, like Hyun’s expression when Sae Bom touches his forehead to check his temperature, or like how Sae Bom holds his hand in hers, and runs her fingers comfortingly on his hand, just a little bit, make those moments pop so much, that the moments feel satisfying, despite their short length.
Also, I think it’s clever of Show to keep us hungry, in a manner of speaking. Show never gives us too much, and we’re always left wanting more, and that’s good, isn’t it, that we want more of Show?
This episode, I’m struck by how Hyun doesn’t even hesitate to cut his own palm, so that Sae Bom won’t have to cut hers. Augh. I feel like he would literally put his own life on the line for her, if necessary; he cares about her that much.
And in return, Sae Bom gets upset with him, for actually stepping in and hurting himself like that.
I love that moment when Sae Bom dressed his wound for him, because that’s when we see Sae Bom’s care for Hyun come through most overtly. The gentle way that she handles his hand, and the way she says that she won’t be able to eat dinner, feel like a Huge Deal.
I mean, Sae Bom’s usually obsessed with food! This means that Hyun’s more important to her than food, which is saying A LOT, when it comes to Sae Bom. Eee!
I just really like the way both Hyun and Sae Bom talk so easily, about how they can’t stand to see the other person get hurt, or persecuted. And then there’s how he looks at her, while she blows on his wound. That is a Look, loaded with feelings and thoughts, and I love it.
And then there’s how, later, when Sae Bom’s dressing his wound for the second time (because he slashed himself as second time, to save Sae Bom a second time – swoon ❤️), he takes Sae Bom hand really gently, and tells her that what happened to Fake Reverend isn’t their fault.
Aw. Sweet, gentle, thoughtful Hyun. 😍
I also LOVE Hyun’s reaction, when Sae Bom touches his forehead a second time, to check his temperature. The way his eyes dart around, I feel like he’s totally reacting from a hyperawareness standpoint. 😁
And then there’s how Hyun’s always so overprotective of Sae Bom, when it comes to her interacting from the guy from the 15th floor. The way he eagerly offers his T-shirt, presumably so that they can give him that instead of Sae Bom’s FBI T-shirt, is so cute.
E10. On that note, it does also bother me that Hyun doesn’t tell Sae Bom the truth about his having been scratched. Especially after he’d been the one to say that they should tell each other, if they were feeling unwell.
I rationalize that he likely doesn’t want to worry Sae Bom, and he’s likely scared as well, that he’ll end up hurting her, and when people are scared, they tend not to act rationally. But honestly, I really really want Hyun to tell Sae Bom, and trust Sae Bom to handle it like the boss that she is.
I have to say, I do love that when Sae Bom grows suspicious and takes Hyun aside to ask him about it, she never once accuses him to maybe lying to her.
Instead, she reminds him to the promise they’d made to each other, and then asks him, sincerely, if he’s ok. She never puts words in his mouth, or makes assumptions. She chooses to trust him, and I love that, so much.
Hyun + Bom + Jung Kook + Seo Yoon
I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed how Hyun, Sae Bom, Jung Kook and Seo Yoon start to function like a family unit.
The way they care for one another, and look out for one another, like a real family, was one of my favorite things in this show.
E2. I love Sae Bom’s friendship with her little neighbor Seo Yoon. Seo Yoon is so sweet and precocious at the same time. She really seems to need an unni – a role model of sorts – and Sae Bom’s a perfect fit. I am so enamored of how easily and casually Sae Bom takes Seo Yoon under her wing, like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
E4. I really like the scene of the 4 of them going up to the roof to eat together. They look like a little family out for a fun picnic in the sun, and it’s adorable.
Lee Joon Hyuk as Jung Kook
I always enjoy Lee Joon Hyuk, so I was primed to be fond of his character Jung Kook, from the start.
I feel like Jung Kook’s a great example, of how a regular person might crack under the weight of worry and anxiety, in an unusual situation like this zombie lockdown.
His worry for his sick wife, combined with the stress of the lockdown, really wears him down, to the point of him becoming a prime target for Fake Reverend and Building Representative Ahjumma (Cha Soon Bae and Bae Hae Sun), later in the show.
Jung Kook caving under pressure is really very understandable, even though it was frustrating to watch at times.
Jo Woo Jin as LTC Han
Even though LTC Han is portrayed as a seemingly rather amoral character, who sometimes makes cruel and heartless decisions, I found myself feeling inexplicably drawn to him.
I just.. find him quite fascinating. He’s so unruffled, and he seems to know everything (how does he know everything??), and he appears kind of amoral, but he also tends to have some kind of point. Also, he’s quick and fast with a gun.
I found myself altogether intrigued by him – in an unexpectedly positive way.
E2. With the way LTC Han shoots the zombie guy in the trunk of the car, Show raises an important question.
Yi Hyun sees the victim as a patient and a human, whereas LTC Han sees him as no longer human. Where do we draw the line? Should we draw the line? And if we don’t, then how do we manage these patients, who, as we see, become more and more dangerous to non-infected persons, as time goes on?
E7. I was really taken aback by LTC Han’s game plan. I mean, he literally sets a zombie on Sae Bom, so that they can test to see if she’d turn, if bitten. That’s extremely cruel, I feel.
My only guess in terms of why he changed his mind and went the tranquilizer route, is that he possibly felt it was too much of a risk, to allow Sae Bom to be bitten? I highly doubt that it was something more humanitarian, like him changing his mind because it was too cruel to let her be bitten, as an experiment.
I appreciate that when Hyun tells LTC Han that when all this is over, he’s going to expose LTC Han for all his misdeeds, LTC Han actually invites Hyun to do so, in such a matter-of-fact manner.
He’s cognizant of the fact that he’s doing a lot of bad stuff, while attempting to manage the virus outbreak, and he’s not trying to use that, to justify his actions. There’s something pretty admirable about that.
E8. The way LTC Han tells Ji Soo to leak the wrong information on the Number 13 trials to the higher ups, so that all the powerful infected people would use their money and influence to jump on Number 13 for themselves, so that they could then be used as his willing guinea pigs, is quite the evil genius move.
It feels like rogue justice, in a way, because the powerful and infected have shown themselves to be a horrible bunch of people, and they kinda deserve to be punished – Chairman Choi (Lee Ki Young) in particular.
At the same time, Han literally turns a normal healthy human being into zombie food, on purpose, in the process, and that definitely goes beyond the boundaries of rogue justice, at least to my eyes. It feels like this weird combination of compelling and repulsive. 🙈
But then again, when I remember how his wife has suffered, and how he’s desperately trying to save her (and their baby?), I find myself hesitating to judge him so quickly, after all.
E9. I’m morbidly fascinated by LTC Han’s situation. He’s now faked Chairman Choi’s death, while continuing to use Chairman Choi as a lab rat, so it definitely feels like the power dynamics have changed.
Previously, Han had talked about how, if Chairman Choi and his ilk knew about the potential in Sae Bom’s blood, they’d use their power and money to suck her dry, literally, for their own survival.
And now, Han has confirmation that Sae Bom has antibodies, AND, he’s running out of time to save his wife and baby. Will he use Sae Bom’s blood for his own gain, then?
E10. I still find LTC Han a fascinating character. He might be behaving in amoral ways right now, but he’s really sharp, not just with his mind, but with his fight moves as well. He’s really quite compelling, on my screen, and I find myself curious to know more about him, and the things that are on his mind.
I can understand his desperation to save his wife, and therefore, I can understand his decision to basically use his wife as a test subject for the blood plasma taken from Sae Bom. However, it bothers me that he lies to Hyun and Sae Bom, about the fact that Sae Bom has antibodies against the virus.
I don’t like the fact that he feels the need to keep Sae Bom in the dark, particularly since it’s her blood that could save everyone. And, I’d like to think that he’d have enough trust in Sae Bom by now, that he’d feel confident to tell her the truth.
I rationalize that the situation is such that he can’t afford to take any chances, but it still niggles at me.
Baek Hyun Jin as Oh Joo Hyeong
Baek Hyun Jin really has carved a niche for himself, playing unlikable characters.
I’ve seen him now in Taxi Driver, The Devil Judge and The One and Only, and I hafta say, this particular character that he plays here, in Happiness, is a pretty strong contender for the most unsavory character of them all (though that is debatable, because he’s played some extremely vile characters).
Suffice to say that his was a character whom I loved to hate; he’s just too good at triggering my gag reflex, and my desire to throw things at my screen. 😅
E6. Doctor-murderer is so fixated on furthering his own agenda, that he’s willing to bend any rule, and skirt any guideline, even if it means putting his community at risk.
Like how he goes to raid the gym van for Next pills, even though it means opening the doors to the carpark – and thus making the building vulnerable to being invaded by infected zombies.
I have to say that I did get a burst of satisfaction, seeing him feel so terrified, when the infected gym instructor grabs onto his leg and tries to bite him.
And, even though it’s kinda mean, I have to confess that I understand why Hyun would let him suffer like that for a while, before pulling him to safety.
This dude clearly requires more than the average person, in order to learn his lesson. And even then, it looks like he doesn’t actually learn his lesson. I guess some people will never change.
E7. I am horrified that Doctor-murderer is spiking the bottles of water in his home with Next, in an apparent attempt to infect Sang Hee, who’s the witness to his crime. I mean, I knew that he was trying to get rid of Sae Bom and Hyun, and it makes sense that he’d want to get rid of the witness too, but I still find his depravity shocking to witness.
E8. The fact that doctor-murderer is so gleeful at how he’s spiking all the drinks with Next (or so he thinks) is just utterly depraved.
How could he do that to innocent people, and take pleasure in it? By his own admission, he doesn’t even need them dead or anything. They have nothing to do with his murder charges. And yet, he’s happy to infect them, almost as if it’s for kicks. BLECH. 🤮
E9. Doctor-murderer really is awful, the way he basically baits Fake Reverend, so that Fake Reverend would fall over the balcony, to his death. I am horrified by the way Doctor-murderer actually looks so gleeful, at successfully getting rid of Fake Reverend. 😱
Park Hyoung Soo as Lawyer Dude
All in all, Lawyer Dude worked out to be another character that came close to being the most unlikable of the bunch, which is saying a fair bit, since, as we get deeper into our story, our characters display uglier and uglier sides of themselves.
I don’t hate Lawyer Dude so much as I find him pathetic, for the way he sends his wife (Jung Woon Sun) to fish for potential clients among the neighbors, when he himself won’t go out, for fear of the zombie virus. It amazes me that his wife appears to be blind to his self-centered, self-preserving ways.
Plus, his greed really leads him to do some really stupid and reckless things, like going down to the carpark to meet a potential client, in the middle of a zombie epidemic, thus risking the entire apartment building.
And of course, there’s also how he starts that ridiculous affair with Sang Hee (Moon Ye Won), and can’t keep his pants on, in the middle of a life-or-death zombie lockdown – and tries to pass off his trysts with Sang Hee, as personal legal consultations. Pfft. 🙄
And then the nerve of him, to then try to get his wife back. It says a lot about him, that when that effort fails, he doesn’t even blink, before going back to Sang Hee.
Bae Hae Sun as Oh Yeon Ok aka Building Representative Ahjumma
Bae Hae Sun does a great job portraying the affectatious, overly genteel Building Representative Ahjumma, who’s so obsessed with class, influence and power, that she can’t stop campaigning for herself, even in the midst of a zombie lockdown.
True to form, she becomes more and more insufferable as we get deeper into our story, and I have to admit that I did feel a flash of gratification, in episode 9, when Building Representative Ahjumma screeeamed at the realization that her husband was infected. 😝😅
After all that she’s done to get rid of those who are infected, it just felt satisfying to know that things had to look very different for her, very suddenly.
I did feel somewhat sorry for her near the end, though, when she appeared to lose her mind, at least for a while.
Kang Han Saem as Kim Dong Hyun aka Live-streamer dude
Oh man. I found this Live-streamer dude really unlikable as well, and from the start, too.
Mainly, he’s such an entitled prick. I hate that he’s so rude to his elderly parents, when they need his care and assistance, more than he needs theirs.
I’ll just say that Kang Han Saem does a great job of making Live-streamer dude easy to hate.
E7. I hate how entitled he is in general, and I hate that he won’t even own up to being the one to open the doors, which is how the infected people get into the building.
I’m glad that Hyun expresses some of his displeasure, with the strong ear-grab, and the shoulder-grab. I just want live-streamer dude to be punished, and I want him to quake in his boots a bit, knowing that other people know that it’s his fault.
E8. I’m starting to think that Live-streamer Dude could actually be the worst of them all. I mean, how could he take all the food from the apartment, and go in search of a safer place to stay – leaving his own parents with no food?!?? 🤯
What kind of person does that?? He really is the worst – and that’s taking doctor-murderer into account. 😡
Na Chul as Na Soo Min aka Obnoxious Brother [SPOILERS]
I just wanted to give Obnoxious Brother a shout-out, because he’s a rare case of a character who starts out rather unlikable, but actually becomes more likable, as we get deeper into our story.
In the beginning, when he was trying to do all sorts of things to force his sister Hyun Kyung (Park Hee Von) to take in his family, just because he thinks she can, I found him completely entitled and insufferable.
However, later, after he gets bitten in episode 6, I found his behavior becomes markedly better. Not only does he try to stay away from the apartment building, for fear of infecting others, he actually shows rather considerate behavior, as a general rule.
Park Joo Hee as Ji Soo
I also just wanted to give Ji Soo as shout-out, because I found her likable, despite the relatively small amount of screen time she gets.
She’s stoic, but we also see her softening up in small degrees, particularly towards Sae Bom, and I just really like that gruff, reticent, honest vibe that we get from her.
THEMES / IDEAS / SOCIAL COMMENTARY
Because the social commentary appears to be something of a Main Agenda for Show, there’s a lot, in this section. And I don’t even think I’m being that thorough, even, in listing these themes and ideas.
I do love a show that gives us stuff to think about, and Happiness does this in spades.
Taking care of people at risk vs. taking care of the larger community
E3. There’s distinct divide, in this drama world, between those whose first concern is the public, and those whose first concern in the patients. LTC Han’s decision to isolate the patients feels cold and cruel to Yi Hyun and Sae Bom, who feel that he’s not giving enough thought to the patients who are suffering.
At the same time, that reveal, that his own wife is a patient who’s being isolated, makes LTC Han’s decision that much more poignant and meaningful.
He’s not speaking from a removed position where it’s easy for him to ignore the pain of those who are infected. He’s speaking as someone who’s seen, up close and personal, what the disease can do to a person; he’s speaking as the husband of a patient who’s still fighting to survive.
Interestingly, it’s perhaps Yi Hyun and Sae Bom who are the ones who are saying, too easily, that LTC Han and his team are being too cold and cruel to the patients, because they haven’t seen how the team caring for the patients have suffered.
Ji Soo talking about her colleagues getting infected while trying to care for the patients, is very sobering, and provides a strong counterpoint to Sae Bom’s stance.
There are no easy answers, because both sides have a point. These patients are suffering, and need care. And yet, at the same time, everyone else needs to be protected as well. Where do we draw the line?
E4. The way the rest of the apartment complex demands to seal off Building 101, because the people in Building 101 are considered higher risk, feels harsh, but also makes some kind of sense. It’s all so delicate and contextual, isn’t it? If I was in Building 101, I would find this all very unfair, but I was outside Building 101, I’m pretty sure I would feel safer too, if Building 101 were sealed off.
It’s tough to be in a position to make decisions, because how do you decide who’s more important, if all human lives are equally precious?
Information management in a pandemic world
There’s the thing where LTC Han doesn’t actually release the full truth at the press conference. That feels so familiar, doesn’t it?
Sae Bom feels that people should be informed, so that they can be prepared. But on the other hand, full information is likely to lead to widespread hysteria, which would be a problem in itself, yes? This all feels pretty familiar to all of us, I’m sure, since these conflicting principles are ones that we’ve seen play out in the real world.
Making decisions without full information
E3. At this moment, it appears that the Next pill is not actually proven to be the source of the zombie infection. So far, all we have is circumstantial evidence. The virus could have nothing to do with the Next pill, for all we know.
This also reminds me of when authorities were trying to determine whether or not COVID-19 is air-borne. With incomplete information, and a pressing need to protect both patients and the general public, what are people in positions of authority to do?
The divide between the haves and the have-nots
E4. There’s also the element of power and influence, and how that creates unequal treatment of patients.
That Chairman dude is being kept in isolation, but without a face shield, and even though he’s chained to the bed, the circumstances are such that he’s still able to grab and kill someone, when he’s in his zombie state.
The thing that is most startling to me, is how LTC Han is so unbothered by the fact that the Chairman has just killed a man right in front of him. Even though Ji Soo tries to push for some kind of intervention, LTC Han just shrugs it off because the Chairman is just too powerful, and tells Ji Soo to focus on finding a cure instead.
That’s really quite disturbing, isn’t it? But there’s likely more truth in there than we might know, about how the rich and powerful are treated massively differently, than the ordinary citizen.
E7. What LTC Han says, about why he has to do all this in secret – so that the rich and powerful don’t get in the way of the development of a cure, in their haste to find cures for themselves – is another sobering reference to real-world circumstances, where money talks more than anything else, and Big Pharma only listens to money, rather than to the needs of the people.
What human nature is like, when in danger
E5. I find Show to be a pretty fascinating study of human nature. The way people behave, when in danger, is definitely one of the more interesting parts of this show.
Like the way most people are all talk and no action. That old dude insisting that the doors be opened, suddenly quieting down and shuffling away, the moment Sae Bom opens the doors and says that whomever wants to leave, can do so.
Like the way some people are taking the opportunity to advance their own interests. Lawyer dude is one, and Doctor-murderer is another.
The plan that doctor-murderer hatches, in order to get Sae Bom and Hyun out of the building, in hopes that they’d get infected, so that there’d be nobody left to arrest him for the murder of his wife, is completely repulsive, for how low he’s willing to go (he literally pays people so that he can use them as bait!), but it’s also completely understandable, because I can see how a person would be desperate to preserve their own lives.
Like the way many people won’t believe the worst, until they see it for themselves.
Like how many people become selfish, when push comes to shove. Only two people offer the stranded cleaners food and water to tide them over, because with the minimart already raided and the food supplies not forthcoming, there’s no guarantee that there will be enough food to tide them over.
And also, like how some people can be incredibly stupid because of their greed.
Like Live-streamer dude, who follows the trail of blood at the minimart, knowing full well that it’s dangerous, all because he can’t pass up the opportunity to get exclusive content for his channel, which he believes will help him make it big. Facepalm. I honestly thought he was a goner, when he came upon those zombies.
E7. This episode, I was struck by how people start to distrust one another, because of the virus. I felt this acutely, when Hyun goes to apartment #201 to check on the folks inside, and Jung Kook himself doesn’t feel comfortable opening the door for Hyun, in case Hyun’s been infected.
That made me sad, because this is Jung Kook and Hyun that we’re talking about; partners that go way back. And yet, Jung Kook’s anxiety is completely understandable, because of the virus situation.
Plus, we do see that the infected people will say anything, in an effort to get what they crave: fresh blood.
That infected dude who finds his way to Sae Bom and Hyun’s door, and tries to talk Seo Yoon into opening the door for him, gave me the creeps. And yet, at the end of the day, he’s just a patient who’s acting under the influence of the virus, isn’t he? If he was in his right mind, I’m sure he’d be as harmless as the next person.
E8. I that really quite thought-provoking, because it’s true that it’s easier to be nice, when everything’s normal. It’s much harder to be kind and considerate, when your own survival is in question.
The cleaners at unit #201 (Kim Young Woong and Lee Ji Ha) embody that the most, I feel, this episode. For much of our story, they’ve come across as decent folks who just happened to be caught in a bad situation, and are trying to make the best of it.
They were also among the brave ones who’d gone to the minimart to help gather supplies.
And yet, this episode, when push comes to shove, and it’s uncertain how long this lockdown is going to last, they show the much more calculative, self-focused, and opportunistic sides of themselves.
The thing is, I’m not sure I can even blame them, really, because I can’t be sure that I wouldn’t do something similar, if I were to find myself in their shoes.
And then there’s Hyun Kyung, who’s always come across as the honest type. This episode, she hides her brother, and even takes advantage of the passcode that she’d overheard, so that she could have a place to hide her brother.
Certainly, she’s concerned for her brother’s wellbeing, but at the same time, the fact that she hides him, despite knowing that he’s been bitten and therefore is at high risk of being infected, is an example of her ignoring the interests of the larger group.
In fact, by inviting her brother inside the building, when he could be infected, she’s putting everyone at a huge risk – a risk that I’m sure other people in the building would be unwilling to undertake, if they’d known about it.
Again, it’s hard to judge her harshly for it, because if I were in her shoes, I’m sure I would feel just as conflicted. It’d hard to ignore your loved one, even when it comes at the expense of betraying the interests of the larger group.
E9. As the situation becomes more urgent, and food and other supplies run low, the residents of Seyang Forest show more of their less pleasant sides, and it’s still fascinating to me, to watch.
The way Building Representative Ahjumma manages to turn Jung Kook and everyone else against Sae Bom, while claiming that Sae Bom is infected, is not unexpected, but still saddening to watch.
I mean, not so long ago, most of them had been looking to Sae Bom for leadership and guidance. Plus, Jung Kook himself knows Sae Bom, and has even been living under her roof.
The way so many of the residents demand that Hyun and Sae Bom share their supplies, because their own supplies are running low, and then scheme behind their backs to get them out of the building, feels callous as well.
Truly, human beings can be quite terrible, when their own wellbeing is at stake, eh? I find it thought-provoking, because while it’s easy to be judgey from behind my screen, I honestly can’t be sure that I’d do much better than any of these people, if I were in the same situation.
The macro view vs. the micro view of things
E5. There’s also a fair bit of social commentary that Show is serving up, comparing the perspectives of those trying to manage the situation for everyone, versus regular folks, who only see as far as their personal situations allow.
LTC Han’s approach, of providing false information and therefore false hope, in order to manage the government’s treatment of the patients, is very thought-provoking too.
1, it makes me wonder what kind of false information we might have been given, as governments struggle to manage the pandemic, and 2, while it seems wrong to lie so blatantly, LTC Han’s rationale, that the lie prevents the government from slaughtering patients, makes for pretty strong justification.
But again, on the other hand, how safe is it, to preserve the lives of these patients, is there is no foreseeable cure, ever?
That scene at the end, where, after we’ve seen for ourselves the extent of the zombie outbreak, we also see people adamantly protesting the quarantine, and demanding compensation from the government, really hits home. That’s exactly what continues to go on today, isn’t it, as far as COVID-19 goes?
Most regular people can’t see beyond their own circumstances, and there are protests around the world, against lockdowns and mask mandates. And in the meantime, governments are grappling with surge after surge of the virus. I feel so rueful, at this comparison.
I can see why LTC Han would tell Ji Soo to allow that patient loose. It’s only when the people get a glimpse of the reality of the situation, that they would – hopefully – start to cooperate with the government in the most critical ways.
E6. It’s a sobering statement that LTC Han makes to Ji Soo, where he talks about having calculated how many losses they can stand to take. Those losses he’s talking about, are, I believe, human lives. The situation is basically so dire, that they have to actively decide to let certain sectors of people die, in order that the community at large might live – or so they hope.
It reflects, in a very pointed manner, how governments have been making pandemic policies, all this time.
Each time they say X number of people may dine together in a social setting, they’re not saying that it’s safe for you to do so; they’re saying that if you get infected and die because of dining together in a social setting, this number that they’ve specified, is a loss that society can tolerate, as a whole.
Taking that social commentary, and couching it as a zombie show, is really a very interesting approach, I think. It makes the virus something very visible and terrifying, while keeping the factors and situations relatively similar to real life – and that makes COVID-19, an invisible virus, become much more visible, all of a sudden.
The randomness of infection
E4. The more we know about the victims, before they turn, the more sympathy I have for them. For example, right now, I’m feeling really sorry for the old lady who’d gotten scratched by the lady-doctor-zombie who died. It feels like only a matter of time, before she turns and get viewed as a monster, and that feels so unfair and random.
Certainly, it mostly feels unfair and random when it happens to anyone else, but with the theory that the Next pill is part of the equation, I feel extra sorry for this old lady because she didn’t take that pill, and had just been standing in the wrong place at the wrong time – which is when she’d gotten scratched by the lady doctor zombie.
The other thing that feels random and unfair, is how so many people who don’t even live in the apartment complex end up getting trapped, just because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I can’t help thinking that if they hadn’t been trapped in the apartment complex, then some of these people, who will likely end up getting infected, could have gone about their normal daily lives – and possibly never gotten infected.
E6. This episode, I’m dismayed to see that LTC Han’s wife (Yoo Ji Yeon) had gotten infected when the Chairman had turned, and attacked her, during a lunch appointment. That feels so.. random.
That poor innocent woman was just doing her best to be nice to her husband’s business associate by attending a business lunch, which, rightly has nothing to do with her – and she’d gotten infected. Gah.
There are other things said this episode, to emphasize just how random infection can be, but I feel like nothing brings it across quite so clearly, as the case of LTC Han’s wife.
Who are the real monsters?
E10. Everyone else in the apartment complex is behaving badly, except for the infected people, which is deeply ironic.
It seems that Show really wants to make a statement about who the real monsters and victims are. Even though the infected people are supposed to be the monsters, they are, in fact, the ones who are trying their best, to keep the people around them safe, while it’s the non-infected people, like Doctor-murderer, who are ready to kill, if it means a benefit to them personally.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
I think it says a lot about this show, that, coming into the final stretch, I actually feel wistful at the thought of saying goodbye to our main characters. I legit never thought I’d ever say these words, about a zombie show, and yet, here we are.
That just goes to show how well Show has endeared Hyun and Sae Bom to me. I would happily watch them indefinitely, even if means having zombies and other monsters on my screen.
Speaking of whom, this episode, we see almost everyone in the apartment complex show their uglier sides, and it’s even more disturbing than what we’ve seen before. Because, now, people are actually condoning cold-blooded, premeditated murder (thanks, Andrew), if it means that they will be able to get food, &/or stay safe.
I’m not exactly surprised that we’d see Doctor-murderer bargain with Andrew the way he does, because he’s long established that he’s the scum of the earth and willing to throw anyone under the bus – and sometimes, just for funsies.
(Although, I’m still shocked and horrified at how Doctor-murderer tries to suffocate Jung Kook, just coz he can. And then when he fails, he lamely tries to pass it off as a joke. Say, WHUT?!? 😡)
And while I’d kinda-sorta come to similar conclusions about Building Representative Ahjumma and Lawyer Dude (I’m SO glad Mrs. Lawyer finally makes the decision to call it quits with him), I do feel somewhat surprised at Cleaning Couple.
They have been showing their more self-preserving side of late, but I’d still had some faith in their decency, since they’d started our story as pretty neutral and harmless people.
Again, this feels like Show making a pretty strong statement about the ugliness of human nature, and the kinds of things we as humans can stoop to, given the right circumstances. It’s sobering, really, because when I imagine myself in this exact same situation, I can’t be sure that I would speak up against Andrew, at the risk of coming under his attack, to condemn his murdering ways.
It’s sobering and disturbing, to see this remaining group move to raid Hyun and Sae Bom’s apartment, with the understanding that Andrew plans to kill them the moment they re-enter the building, and therefore their stuff is as good as up for grabs anyway. This is the kind of thing, that, if I think about it too long, gives me a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I still want to give Show the side-eye for making Andrew a serial killer, because it doesn’t feel organic to our story, and instead, feels like a random plot point, inserted for the pure purpose of amping up the drama in our story – as if zombies running rampant, and Hyun struggling to keep it together despite being infected, isn’t enough. 😭
On that note, I also feel like there’s some suspension of disbelief required, around how Sae Bom and Hyun respond to Andrew. What I mean is, there are a couple of occasions where it looks like Sae Bom had a good chance of tackling Andrew and wresting the gun out of his hands, and she doesn’t take it.
I find this rather hard to believe, because Sae Bom is the kind of person who would not hesitate to fight, in a situation like this. Additionally, even though Andrew is a serial killer, this doesn’t mean that he has any fight moves that come anywhere close to Sae Bom’s and Hyun’s levels of skills.
I feel like in each of this situations, Sae Bom could have easily overpowered Andrew, particularly with Hyun’s help, and subdued him.
But of course, the reason Show doesn’t do that, is because Show was always gunning for the scene near the end of the episode, where Hyun and Andrew get locked up on the roof together. And ok, that was a pretty dramatic scene, I’ll give Show that.
Which is why I’m choosing to just roll with the fact that Show chooses to make Sae Bom so restrained, around Andrew.
On another note, I do like the detail, that just as LTC Han was able to read Hyun and figure out that Hyun’s infected, Hyun’s able to read Han, and figure out that Sae Bom’s blood has antibodies for the zombie virus. It gives me a bit of a giddy thrill, that our characters are so sharp and so smart.
And, in terms of my favorite scenes this hour, the scene in the elevator where Sae Bom realizes that Hyun is infected, is truly my absolute favorite.
I so appreciate that Hyun apologizes, for not keeping the promise he’d made to her, that he would tell her, if anything was wrong. And, more than that, I love Sae Bom’s response.
Hyun: “I’m sorry. I couldn’t tell you. Sorry for breaking our promise. I always wanted to… show you my best side.
Sae Bom walks slowly towards Hyun, and gently places one hand on his chest, while taking his face in the other.
Hyun whispers, “Don’t come too close. Whenever I see you, my heart beats faster, and I feel thirsty.”
Sae Bom whispers back, “So do I. Because I like you.”
And then she moves in to hug Hyun close, as a tear escape Hyun’s eye. Eeee!!!
I know, it’s kind of inappropriate to squee, because we are in the middle of a zombie emergency, but, Ahhhh!!! Sae Bom’s made a love confession!!!! 😍😍😍 And, Hyun leans into her, and hugs her back. Squee!! ❤️❤️
Also, I love that Sae Bom simply won’t entertain the possibility that Hyun won’t get better. I love her.
Later, the goodbye scene, through the crack in the door, is so, so poignant.
To Hyun, this is likely the last time he’ll see Sae Bom, and to her, his final words are, “Bom-ah. I was truly happy… to be with you.” Oof. So heartfelt, and so poignant. 😭💔
I fully appreciate that Sae Bom only leaves because the situation is urgent, and I completely believe her, when she says that she’ll be back for Hyun.
In the meantime, I have so many mixed emotions, around the rooftop scene, between Hyun and Andrew.
On the one hand, I love how nonchalant Hyun is, in the moment. He pretty much believes that this is near the end, for him, and he frames it in the coolest way possible, tossing the keys to the handcuffs over the roof, and then basking in the sunlight, reminiscing that the weather had been this nice, too, when he’d first fallen for Sae Bom.
On the other hand, it was hard to watch him turn into a zombie, and bite Andrew. I mean, Andrew had it coming to him, since he’s a cold-blooded serial killer, but it was still difficult to see sweet Hyun turn into a bloodthirsty zombie. 😭😭
Last but not least, I love-love-LOVE the video message that Hyun had left for Sae Bom, before things had gone seriously awry.
It’s so bittersweet, to see Hyun smiling at Sae Bom through the camera, talking about their contract marriage.
“Annyeong, Bom-ah. I’m sorry I never proposed to you properly. Back then, it looked like I agreed for the apartment, right? That’s not true. I kept saying I liked you. In case you got the wrong idea. I’m not an easy guy to nab. Getting an apartment is important, but who you’re with is more important.”
“I hope we get out… and get to watch this together. When we do, I’ll say it properly. That I like you.”
Augh. This was his love confession, long before Sae Bom made hers, in the elevator. How thrilling, that they both confirm their feelings for each other this episode, and how heartbreaking, that they are now so far apart from each other.
It really tugs at my heartstrings, to see Sae Bom go right back to the beginning, to watch Hyun on loop, because that’s the closest she can get to him, in this moment. 😭💔
I know that Sae Bom’s going to do all she can, to get Hyun to safety, in our finale, and honestly, right now, that’s all I want from Show. I don’t care about anything else, at this point. I just want Hyun and Sae Bom to be ok, pretty please? 😭
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
I said before, that all I wanted from this finale, is to know that Hyun and Sae Bom are ok, and Show gives us that, so I’m all good, honestly.
This finale remains consistent with Show’s chosen tone and approach, so although there are details that I feel are weak in the face of analysis, Show is solid in its established strengths, of larger commentary, and a great OTP. Those things are definitely more than enough to persuade me to look past Show’s flaws.
For example, it makes no sense to me that Sae Bom’s allowed to wander around the quarantine facility, even in front of armed guards. She has no authority there, so it would make more sense to me if the armed guards tried to stop her from wandering around, instead of allowing her to do as she pleases.
Also, it seems completely unnecessary for Sae Bom to wear Ji Soo’s uniform to escape, particularly since Ji Soo’s quite a key person in this facility, since she assists LTC Han so closely.
This means that anyone would be able to easily see that the uniform Sae Bom’s wearing, isn’t actually hers. Plus, Han had already provided Sae Bom with a uniform to wear, for her escape. That would have been more useful, I think.
I do believe that the entire swap with Ji Soo, was created specifically so that we could have that scene between Sae Bom and Ji Soo, where Ji Soo not only lets her go, but even asks Sae Bom to hit her, to help her create a cover story.
I thought this was completely unnecessary, and I also feel that Show could have achieved this sense of solidarity between Sae Bom and Ji Soo, without having to have them switch clothes.
That aside, I thought Show did a solid job of continuing its commentary on human nature.
I can see why Han would prioritize his wife’s wellbeing over that of the rest of the world. I mean, if I were in his shoes, I might very likely choose my family over the rest of the world, too. I don’t see Han as evil; I do think that he wants to save the world too.
But if push comes to shove and he has to choose only one, I completely understand that his choice would be to save his wife.
Over at the apartment complex, in a situation that seems to only grow more dire with each passing minute, it’s sobering to see just how dark people’s minds can get, and how low they are willing to sink, in order to protect themselves and the things that are important to them.
On top of that, it’s also sobering to see how human greed can consume a person, where they lose their ability to think rationally.
We literally see several of our characters appear to lose their sanity, albeit momentarily, like Building Representative Ahjumma and her obsession with power, Sang Hee and her obsession with money, and the Cleaning Couple, and how their greed blinds them to everything else.
At the same time, though, it’s heartening to see that there are still decent folks left in the world, like Hyun Kyung and her brother Soo Min, who do their best to take care of Hyun, even though it’s clear that he’s infected. This idea, that no matter how dark the world gets, there is still a spark of human decency left, is one that I find pretty comforting.
I also like the idea that Show serves up, that our families gives us strength. Like how Seo Yoon’s mother is able to hold out for as long as she has, because of the letter from Seo Yoon, that Sae Bom had sent.
Or how Live-streamer dude is better off at home with his parents. Or how Hyun has more strength to overcome his zombie urges, when Sae Bom is there, gently rubbing his back, and encouraging him.
I love that scene of Hyun and Sae Bom, so much. I love that instead of recoiling from Hyun, who’s in the midst of a zombie flare-up, she’s gentle and soothing towards him instead, telling him that no matter what he’s like, it’s all ok.
Not only that, when he returns to normal and looks up at her, she takes his face in her hands, and kisses him.
Aw. That is just the sweetest, most romantic gesture. This is the total opposite of being afraid of him, and I love how tears of wonder and relief to Hyun’s eyes. Beautiful. 🥲❤️
In the final showdown between Andrew and our OTP, I can’t help but have stars in my eyes for Sae Bom, who refuses to risk Hyun’s life, even though he tells her that he can take a shot, and for her to just shoot Andrew. Instead, she shoots herself, to draw Andrew away from Hyun, with her own blood. What a badass. 🤩
Show does toy with my heart a little bit, with Hyun collapsing in Sae Bom’s arms, because for a hot second, it looks like he’s died, but ohthankgoodness, it’s just Show playing, and it’s only for a short little bit, before we get to the time skip, and see that Hyun’s ok after all.
Aside from Show wanting to be mischievous, I actually buy the logic of it. I can buy that Hyun would collapse, after having been through so much. After all, that last shot was the third time he’d been shot. That’s a lot.
At the same time, the fact that Hyun is infected, lends credibility to the idea that he would survive, since part of the infection symptoms, is faster recovery from wounds.
Therefore, I happily buy the idea that the infection kept Hyun from dying, and then the development of the cure, from Na Soo Min’s blood plasma, is the thing that restores Hyun to full health in the end.
I like the nod to the idea that justice prevails, with that quick glimpse of Doctor-murderer and Building Representative Ahjumma made to stand trial.
I also like the understated idea that Show serves up, that things are worth repairing. Past a certain point in our story, I’d had the idea in my head, that they’d probably need to burn the entire apartment complex down, with how much infected blood’s everywhere, and how so many things have been broken and destroyed, in the course of the lockdown.
Instead, we see that everything’s been repaired and cleaned up, and life goes back to normal, and I like that idea, that even deeply broken things, are worth repairing.
In a similar sort of vein, I also love the detail, that back when Hyun had no idea what was going to happen, or if he was ever going to see Sae Bom again, he took the trouble to clean up the apartment from all the blood and other damage, and put things away.
He doesn’t give up easily on the apartment, partly because he knows that the apartment means a lot to Sae Bom. I found this very sweet of him. ❤️
As Show draws to a close, and we see Sae Bom and Hyun walking together contentedly on the apartment grounds, with her asking him if he’s happy, and him responding that he is, as long as he’s with her, it finally dawns on me why this show is titled Happiness.
Through this entire story, our characters have been pursuing happiness, in the forms that they each thought would bring them joy. Every single awful thing that we saw these people do, was in service of them seeking – and, of course, failing – to make themselves happier.
In the end, though, we see, in the example of Hyun and Sae Bom, that happiness is not about where we’re at, but about who we’re with.
What a warm, uplifting takeaway indeed. 🥰
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Solidly thought-provoking and extremely engaging, in spite of its flaws.
FINAL GRADE: B++
WHERE TO WATCH:
You can check out this show on iQIYI here.
GETTING AROUND GEO-RESTRICTIONS
If you’re geo-restricted, a VPN service would help you get around that. Not only does it provide online safety, it also gives you access to lots of great geo-restricted content.
I personally use NordVPN. You can find my review of NordVPN here.
You can use my affiliate link (here!) to enjoy up to 60% * off, with prices starting as low as US$3.29 per month.
* This used to say 73%, but because NordVPN’s changed the way it calculates the discount, it now says 60%. BUT, it’s the same great price, starting from US$3.29 a month!
An article on why it’s not illegal to use a VPN to access legal streaming content can be found here.
I know I’d said in my recent Patreon updates post, that there wouldn’t be a direct replacement for Happiness, since it’s a bonus show. Heh. I’ve since changed my mind. I’ll be covering another bonus show on Patreon, in place of Happiness, and that show is 2019’s Confession.
Mainly, I am curious to watch more of Junho‘s work, and this is a drama that had flown under my radar when it aired. I’ve taken an initial look, and I actually find it nicely promising, so far!
Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!
Foundation Tier (US$1): Confession (bonus show!)
Early Access (US$5): +Our Beloved Summer
Early Access Plus (US$10): +The Red Sleeve
VIP (US$15): +Uncle