Shades of Grey
Episode 9 of Happiness begins with tensions rising inside the apartment complex. The building rep begins to use Jung-Kook’s insecurities against him, urging the man to point a gun at Sae-Bom. Things are made worse when she glares at him.
Joo-Hyeong meanwhile, starts trying to find the Madness drug, believing Yi-Hyun is hiding it inside their flat. Despite not finding anything, Sae-Bom and Yi-Hyun are forced to stay inside on house arrest – at least for a few days.
The meeting in the Building Rep’s room doesn’t go well. They begin to contemplate kicking the pair out, and even taking all their food and water away. When Andrew sneaks down and tells them, Sae-Bom is livid and hurries up to confront them. Unfortunately, because she’s holding a knife, it just causes everything to escalate.
Jung-Kook gets his gun out, Sae-Bom grabs it…and pulls the trigger. The chamber is empty. Yi-Hyun shows up and immediately cuts his hand, intending to see if anyone else is infected.
As he moves from person to person, Cashier Lee Bo-Ram suddenly begins snarling and clearly shows that she’s been infected. Thankfully Yi-Hyun and Sae-Bom act quickly, locking her up in the gym downstairs. It turns out she got infected back at the supermarket, having clearly been scratched and cut, as we see her patching up her cuts. Sae-Bom also learns though that the bloodied towels don’t belong to her.
In the morning, all the residents gather together in the gym. Yi-Hyun leads the charge, with Andrew cutting himself and using the blood to see if anyone else is infected. For now, it seems no one else is. However, that doesn’t stop the ugliness of in-fighting and mutiny among the residents to break out. Specifically, the guys discuss the inequality of food among the different apartments.
Outside, Tae-Seok heads in to see the President. According to Korea, he’s dead and a funeral has already bee help. In reality, he’s strapped to a chair with a mouth guard in. Tae-Seok though is taking charge of this operation and there’s no stopping him. He mentions Seyang Forest, and the number of infected gathered there, before going on to discuss the apartment complex. It turns out the lockdown was all a big experiment to see how the virus mutates in a natural setting That’s why none of them have been allowed to leave.
Inside the complex though, there’s a really interesting dynamic shift. Despite Soo-Min and Bo-Ram both being infected, they’re completely selfless, isolating themselves from the others and refusing to drink water. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for heavily religious Sun Woo-Chang.
He appears to be infected, especially when Yeon-Ok returns, discussing the building rep gig, and placing the cup of blood on the table. It doesn’t take long before he drinks it. Seung-Beom actually gave him the drug in the past, and he even tried drinking his own blood but to no avail. And of course, the absolute irony of this woman being so adamant on separating the infected decides Woo-Chang should just hold tight and isolate himself away from the others in their apartment. However, when she opens the door he’s gone.
When Yi-Hyun and Sae-Bom learn what’s happened, they quickly tie up the infected Woo-Chang and keep him on the floor of the apartment. At least to begin with. When Joo-Hyeong heads in to see him, the man leaps to his doom, landing in a heap of his own blood on the floor. Yeon-Ok is beside herself with grief, blaming Yi-Hyun and Sae-Bom for his death.
Now, one guy we’ve only seen snippets off across the season is Kim Se-Hun. He’s actually got an impressive stack of water and food in his apartment, with boxes piled up to the ceiling of goods. He’s largely been keeping to himself all season long, but now the residents are desperate. They want him to share resources with the others, prompting Yi-Hyun and Sae-Bom to head in and ask plainly for help. He agrees to think about it until the morning.
Meanwhile, outside the building Sae-Bom’s blood report comes back. It turns out she actually does hold antibodies that could fight this infection. That’s good news to Tae-Seok, as he’s faced with the impossible choice of saving his wife or their unborn child. Unfortunately all of this is going to come at a cost.
As we cut back to the complex, it turns out Yi-Hyun is actually infected, having been bitten during an earlier skirmish with the infected.
The Episode Review
What’s particularly fascinating with Happiness is the way this drama blends the zombie apocalypse with the human cost and very-real depiction of people in a high-stakes situation like this. It’s actually really impressive how well-crafted all these people are – and how hypocritical these people behave.
It happens in real life too of course, which helps to give all these people so much more depth and step beyond the obvious archetypes they could have slipped into. Sure, you still get the slimy Joo-Hyeong and the cheating husband tropes but they’re mixed in with a whole bag of different personalities.
Take Yeon-Ok for example, she’s so adamant on fighting off the infected but when it’s one of her own, she’s just as guilty at hiding it as everyone else. When the situation is reversed, she shows just how hypocritical she really is. That makes the decision to have both Bo-Ram and Soo-Min selflessly isolating from the others and refusing to drink hit that much harder – even the infected aren’t inherently bad or good.
These shades of grey ultimately make Happiness such a fascinating drama and while it is a little slow at times, it’s actually one of the better shows this year – and the best post-covid show tackling the virus in a tasteful way without crowbarring in political messages.