Happiness – K-Drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

Leap of Faith

Episode 1 of Happiness begins with a police officer showing up at a high school to find a kid called Yi-Hyun sitting on the rooftop. He’s unstable, and given the nonchalant attitude from the faculty and students inside, it seems like they’ve been expecting this.

As the police try negotiating with him, it takes his friend Sae-Bom showing up to talk him around. She sits on the rooftop with him, letting him vent about his frustrations over not being able to play baseball anymore. With her own future less than clear, she convinces Yu-Hyun to take each day as it comes… and pushes him off the roof. Of course, there’s a large sheet being held down below for him to fall into, but the officer on the roof doesn’t know this. It’s a pretty funny scene but this is not a comedic k-drama, as we’ll soon come to learn.

Back on the ground, Yi-Hyun literally falls for Sae-Bom and he asks her on a date.

We then cut forward 12 years later. A police squadron come under heavy fire, with one of their own needing emergency surgery… or does he? It turns out all of this was a big training session for new recruit Jong-Tae. Unfortunately, he doesn’t pass the test and Sae-Bom, now a qualified officer, decides to dock him points for being scared and hesitating.

Meanwhile, loud banging coming from the second floor of a hotel is investigated by the receptionist. As he raps on the door, it suddenly flies open and he’s pulled inside. This paves way for Yi-Hyun – dressed in his baseball gear no less – to show up and investigate the scene. It’s certainly grim, with a dull knife used to slit the worker’s throat.

There’s no witnesses either, save for a guy called Sung Woo-Jae hiding under the bed. He can’t remember killing but, given he has blood all over him, he certainly doesn’t look innocent. He also has blood stained over his teeth and in his mouth too, reinforcing that he bit his victims.

Now, Yi-Hyun does learn that a new recruit has been dealing what he refers to as “100% legal” drugs. His name is Jong-Tae. Yi-Hyun is also still in contact with Sae-Bom, and he lets her know what he’s found out thus far. Of course, given this guy was the field operative, she enters his dorm to try and learn more. Only, in doing so she finds a ravaging zombie in place of Jong-Tae, who’s currently chomping down on another officer. Sae-Bom makes a big decision and shoots him, but it barely affects the guy. However, Sae-Bom appears to have been scratched in the ensuing skirmish.

Step forward Tae-Seok. This man means business and he seems to know about this infection too. He’s the Lieutenant Colonel for the Crisis Management team, in charge of stopping this infection no matter what. He demands she hand over his gun and cooperate. They believe she’s infected and force her to be tested. When she’s taken away, Yi-Hyun rings and updates him about the murder he’s visited, asking whether it has some sort of connection.

Tae-Seok decides to check this out, but not before opening up about this disease and it’s dangers. He believes this is a variant virus that infects the brain and forces its infected to bite any unsuspecting victims. They then die from blood loss despite being crazed. Yi-Hyun asks whether this could be attributed to visions and hallucinations but Tae-Seok is not so sure. Yi-Hyun though, decides to head back to the crime scene and finds the pills. Only, Jung confirms that Woo-Jae is actually clean and not under the influence.

Yi-Hyun next heads off to see Il-Ho next,who happens to be one of his friends, and asks him to look into the drug and investigate it further. In doing so, he learns that these clear pills are actually oral medication to treat COVID. However, it has a lot of side effects, including mood swings and hallucinations. Yi-Hyun tries to draw a comparison between this and the new virus released but it’s a long-shot at best; a punt in the dark.

At the same time, Sae-Bom is investigated too, with numerous samples taken before opening up about her experiences. She mentions how the effects are close to rabies and that the infected seem to have clouded eyes. For now, Tae-Seok decides to keep her in for overnight observation and until they get the results back to confirm she’s clean.

The doors are locked, the place is cold and as Sae-Bom investigates the room, she realizes all is not as it seems. In fact, outside her barred window are numerous other rooms just like hers, housing a number of people in these university dormitories. They’ve all turned and are infected. For Sae-Bom though, her results are negative.

Tae-Seok watches this and decides to do more tests in the morning. Despite there being a number of other patients, none seem that responsive. One of those docile humans happens to be Jong-Tae, whom Sae-Bom heads in to talk to – privately. She wants to find out if these drugs are linked to the disease or if it’s separate. Instead, Jong-Tae just repeats the same mantra “I’m so thirsty.”

Eventually he pounces at Sae-Bom when her guard is down and tries to bite her. When guards burst in and hold Jong-Tae down, making sure he can’t move, Sae-Bom watches as he’s electrocuted but the heart monitor doesn’t even budge.

Sae-Bom realizes she’s being watched and speaks to Tae-Seok plainly. He opens up and levels with her, revealing that this virus seems to be linked to thirst and although it’s not as infectious as other diseases, it’s serious enough to alarm the public should they find out about it. Now, the reason it’s so cold inside the facility is to try and slow the spread of the virus. Given Sae-Bom is not infected, Tae-Seok gives her a temporary pass but instructs her to return every two weeks to draw blood. For Sae-Bom to agree, she twists Tae-Seok’s hand and convinces him to give her a unit at a public apartment building.

As the episode closes out, Yi-Hyun arrives to pick up Sae-Bom, who immediately asks whether they should get married.

The Episode Review

For a show about viral infections and zombies, Happiness is a pretty ironic name for this show. However, with enough time passing since COVID plunged the world into quarantines and lockdowns, this show could not have released at a better time.

Now, some will disagree with this but I honestly think showcasing a drama about a virus or incident while it’s still ongoing is pretty disrespectful – especially when it’s over-dramatized to the point of ridiculousness (hello, Grey’s Anatomy) However, Happiness is an interesting show in that it juxtaposes these laid back, boy-meets-girl vibes early on with the horror and angst surrounding a zombie outbreak – right as things are starting to settle down (touch wood) with COVID.

This balance is actually pretty ingenious in truth and the first episode gets things off to a great start, with plenty of drama, an early bout of horror and enough mystery to keep things exciting.

Both Han Hyo-Joo and Park Hyung-Sik do well to elevate this one, and combined with the straight talking of Tae-Seok, set this up to be a very intriguing k-drama indeed. Let’s just hope the rest of the show manages to keep up this level of intensity.

Next Episode

You can read our full season review for Happiness here!

  • Episode Rating

Leave a comment