Season 1, Episode 1: “Saint Nick”
Directed by Brian Taylor
Written by Taylor & Grant Morrison
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “What Smiles Are For” – click here
Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni) is not doing so hot, coughing up blood in a restroom, daydreaming of blowing his brains out. He’s a hard drinker, and it’s a “Christmas miracle” he’s still living. The guy’s got a bit of a wild job: Nick is a hitman.
A young girl named Hailey Hansen (Bryce Lorenzo) and her mother Amanda (Medina Senghore) go to an outdoor show, a kids entertainer called Sonny Shine is performing for the holidays. Kids are going wild. When Hailey tries getting closer to the stage, Amanda loses track of her. The little girl also has an imaginary friend named Happy. However, Happy’s no match for a Very Bad Santa (Joseph D. Reitman).
In a restaurant, some small time gangsters talk over their business. We also see that Mr. Sax was once a big time cop. Looks like he’s on the mob’s list due to being contracted to kill the Scaramucci brothers. Elsewhere, Nick is meeting a sex worker, saving her from a bad trick. At the same time those young gangsters are looking to catch him “with his pants down.”
That naughty Santa, he’s got little Hailey saled in a box in a creepy basement somewhere. But there’s lucky, because Happy (Patton Oswalt) isn’t entirely imaginary. He’s gone looking for her saviour. Could it be who we’re thinking?
Those gangsters barge into the sex worker’s apartment, firing off rounds. It’s a setup. Nick uses the dead body of the previous trick to take the bullets, then he kills the three brothers. Leaving the youngest alive. The hitman does take one bullet, though he’s pretty goddamn tough. The remaining brother gives over some confidential info trying to stay alive. Doesn’t work. He’s executed like the other three.
“Mama— the world, it‘s run by devils.”
Of course it doesn’t help Nick that he’s terribly unhealthy and has a heart attack in the middle of everything. He comes to when the cops show up. Detective Meredith McCarthy (Lili Mirojnick) gets there to find the former cop in a mess, dead bodies, a sex worker covered in blood. She’s really interested to hear of the “password” the last brother spoke about.
In the ambulance, Nick comes to, stabbing one paramedic with adrenaline and demanding the other shoot him full of morphine, some nitroglycerine for his heart. And this is right about the time he meets Happy, a flying blue unicorn “full of fun, of course.” Too much for the hitman’s brain to handle currently.
Dt. McCarthy is connected to Francisco Scaramucci (Ritchie Coster), the mafia boss known as Mr. Blue. He isn’t too shaken up by the news of his boys getting shot up, neither is he hugely thrown off by the Sax situation, the password, yadda yadda. That’s probably because he is a scary fucking guy. He’s got this cop under his thumb. He also has a creepy guy named Smoothie (Patrick Fischler) on the payroll.
At the police station, Amanda is reporting her missing daughter, finding the cops aren’t so helpful. She’s trying to be proactive, being told to just go home, let them handle things. Not what he wants to hear. Right now her only hope is Nick, who’s coming to in the hospital. McCarthy’s there waiting for him. He’s got to navigate her and Happy at the same time. Not easy. She’s there to get the password, to prevent him from being tortured for it later. But he’s got no time for that shit.
Nick tries and tries, he just can’t get rid of Happy. “My imagination is very limited,” he says when confronted with the idea he’s actually talking to someone else’s imaginary friend. Happy tells the hitman about Hailey, the trouble she’s in. What will it take to convince him? Well, he better hurry up, ’cause Smoothie and his crew are coming to see Mr. Sax, to extract that password. This is how Happy will prove his worth, helping the hitman prepare for the coming trouble.
Just not good that Nick is woozy, post heart attack, taking a bullet in the vest. He faints and ends up strapped to a gurney. Smoothie starts sticking things in his torture victim. He gets nothing except the hitman’s acerbic wit. This is about the point where the torturer gets more serious, set to a bit of “Blue Monday” by New Order. Smoothie plans on flaying the guy’s dick. Yiiikes.
“My life is an every swirling toilet that just won‘t flush. I don‘t think I can die.”
Life isn’t going to get this bad motherfucker down – Nick breaks free, cleaning house violently. Only one left, slightly worse for wear, is Smoothie. He’s got to take on a few cops, as well. They’re on the Scaramucci payroll. No problem for a guy like that. Note: what a great, frenetic, brutally wild fight scene! I mean, it’s a truly deranged show already in the first hour.
“You‘ve got the loco eyes, buddy,” Happy says before our hitman starts figuring out that the imaginary unicorn knows real things. So, he grabs hold of the little blue guy and hops through an elevator shaft. Not long and he’s outside, stealing a ride in Dt. McCarthy’s car. Where will these two reluctant pals go now?
Eventually, Happy reveals a big secret to Nick: “Hailey is your daughter.” Whoooa. No wonder the unicorn came to find him. These two had better hurry, because the crack smoking Santa Claus is freaking me OUT.
Honestly, I didn’t particularly expect to enjoy Happy! and it’s not because I don’t love Chris Meloni, because lord, do I ever! I also adore Patton Oswalt. This just didn’t seem like my bag. I’ve discovered this is exactly my bag, and as the episode wore on I was laughing more, enjoying the macabre qualities, thinking of all the crazy possibilities for this show going forward.
“What Smiles Are For” is next week’s episode. I, for one, can’t wait.