One of the wackiest and most uncouth television series in recent years, Happy! is part psychedelic trip, part crime drama, and part Disney hallucination. Adapted from a graphic novel by the creators of the high-voltage Crank franchise, it follows Nick Sax, a former cop who has become a hard-drinking contract killer, and an imaginary flying blue unicorn only he can see, Happy.
Happy reveals he’s been sent by a troubled young girl to find Nick (because only he can save her), forcing them to form an unlikely partnership. While Nick Sax’s running jabs at not only Happy but the world around him provide some of the most hilarious commentary in the series, Happy and a few members of the criminal underworld he comes up against get in a few good zingers too.
10 HAPPY: "I'm the Happy horse, horse, horse, so full of love, of course, of course, it's time to be carefree, so come with me, Happy!"
You can’t have a list of Happy! quotes without quoting, well, the flying blue unicorn himself. Though his random whistling and singing may be very annoying to his partner in crime Nick Sax (being the product of a child’s imagination), Happy can’t help being a beacon of positivity.
This is the song that Happy sings to Nick during their first meeting, when Nick’s sprawled out on a hospital gurney after unsuccessfully trying to die. He’s not really into children’s songs or television shows, and Happy’s merry disposition annoys the heck out of him, but eventually Happy gets under his skin.
9 NICK: "My life is an ever-swirling toilet that refuses to flush."
Perhaps one of Nick Sax’s most oft-quoted lines from Season 1, it perfectly exemplifies where he’s at in his life; he used to be a respected policeman but now he lives in a crappy apartment, takes contract hits out on low level criminals, has no relationship with his estranged wife, and is a raging alcoholic.
When Happy arrives in Nick’s life, it’s when he’s hit rock bottom. For some reason, despite his best efforts, Nick can’t succeed in punching his ticket from this world. Happy gives him a reason to live for by asking for his help in finding the little girl who created him to be her imaginary friend (who turns out to be Nick’s daughter).
8 NICK: "Ah, just a crazy idea. I thought we could be a team. You know? Partners. Butch and Sundance. Gin and tonic. Mickey and Mallory...PB and mother****in' J."
At first, Nick isn’t all that excited about being Happy’s partner. Having been a loner ever since splitting up with his ex-wife, he’s become the sort of flaming dumpster fire that decent folk tend to stay away from, but flying, irritating blue unicorns can’t seem to stay away from.
Unfortunately for Happy, Nicks decides to be his partner only after he realized that it will work to his advantage that no-one can see him. When Nick decides to go visit some old criminal friends to pump them for information about underworld activity, he participates in a game of poker, where Happy can read him the cards in everyone’s hands.
7 NICK: "My imagination is very limited. It usually involves inflicting pain in ways that may not have occurred to most."
Nick Saxon is somewhat of a pain connoisseur. Having been a contract killer and all around shake-down low-life for the past several years, he’s developed new and interesting ways to cause people pain without resorting to the usual methods. We imagine it’s because that would get very boring for him.
Then he encounters Smoothie, crime boss Blue’s well-coiffed henchman, who specializes in actually torturing people. Whether it’s finely shaving vital organs like provolone through a cheese grater, or just smashing the appendages you care about most with a hammer, Nick has definitely met his match with the psycho.
6 HAPPY: "You were a hero once. I guess that's why you hate yourself."
Nick Sax was once a highly decorated New York City cop. Considered heroic in the field, even wounded in the line of duty, he was the pinnacle of what a good cop should be. He had a gorgeous wife and, unbeknownst to him, a wonderful baby girl, both of which he cast aside after a series of tragic events.
When Happy finds him, he’s loathe to stick his neck out for anyone, a trait his former self would find deplorable. Happy rightly identifies Nick’s self-hatred as stemming from the fact that he’s fallen so far down from the pedestal he was once on, and climbing back up seems nearly impossible.
5 NICK: "Do you smell that? All that Christmas Spirit in the air. You could practically choke on it. You scratch the surface, and there you have it. Our true selves. People hiding behind their bright-colored wrappings of bull***t."
It’s safe to say that until Happy came along, Nick didn’t have much in the way of Christmas spirit. His idea of ringing in the holidays involved finishing several bottles of cheap liquor and washing it down with some eggnog. They constantly argue about what the spirit of Christmas really means.
To Happy, the Christmas spirit is an indefatigable force of good will, carried in the hearts of everyone. To Nick, it’s one big fat con, a marketing gimmick to sell toys to kids that grow up spoiled by parents, perpetuating itself like a never ending Christmas wreath of sadness.
4 BLUE: "We need to learn to take our time with things. This wine for instance. Began as a grape. A sweet thing, yes. But also an immature thing. To reach its full potential, the grape has to be subjected to pressure. Squashed to a pulp. Reduced to its essence. Sealed in darkness. And there it waits. Compelled by the hands of time to be a finer thing."
Blue was a crime boss, a family man, and a lover of metaphors. During an intimate discussion with Detective Meredith McCarthy, he explained that they would both need to exercise patience to get what they wanted, and be as patient as a wine grape. He wanted the password to information vital to the criminal underworld that only Nick Sax knew, but Nick was on the run.
Detective McCarthy was unfortunately controlled by the crime boss, and made to be his eyes and ears inside her precinct for one simple reason; he held her sick mother hostage. Aside from that, she was fairly certain if she didn’t comply, the grape squashing metaphor would take on a whole new meaning.
3 NICK: "Well, well, well, and the plot sickens. Do you know how hard it is to concentrate with you bouncing off the walls?"
After Nick has secured Happy’s assistance in the poker game, he’s confident that with Happy being invisible to everyone but him, he’s sure to sweep the pool. What he doesn’t count on is Happy getting extremely high off cocaine and bouncing off the walls.
Because an innocent little flying blue unicorn, Happy’s never done anything harder than a pixie stick. Pretty soon, he’s so disoriented he can’t concentrate on telling Nick the hands of all the other players, resulting in Nick once again having to resort to incredible amounts of violence to make sure they can escape.
2 HAPPY:"This place is depressing, Nick. I'm so glad you've evolved and are such a total zen wizard master of your darker impulses."
When Happy meets up with Nick in Season 2, he’s in the throws of rehabilitation. With his daughter now in his life and a repaired relationship with his estranged ex wife, he’s trying to be some semblance of the man he used to be. This doesn’t mean, however, that he’s a completely new person - it’s not like he had a lobotomy.
Nick Sax will always be Nick Sax, liquor-chugging, dame-chasing, gun-blazing scum that he is, but he learns to channel that as some sort of superpower when the going gets rough. His “darker impulses” are sometimes the only thing keeping him alive against the bad guys.
1 NICK: "I just keep discovering bold new frontiers of suck."
At the end of Season 1, Nick and Happy have been in their fair share of bizarre situations, from getting lost in the psychotic Santa’s “Scrapyard of Childish Things”, to Happy being stolen away by fiendish imaginary friends, and Nick getting his undercarriage cleaned with sharp objects by Blue’s henchman Smoothie.
But what takes the cake is having to battle the nightmarish mascots of akid’s show, intent on stopping them from getting to Nick’s daughter Hailey. Ever the observant one, Nick has a colorful comment for every unnerving situation. He’s been in so many by Episode 8, nothing really seems to phase him any more.