[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Happiness - Drama" Episode 3
By William Schwartz | Published on
In a move that's surprising for a zombie story, but not one about public health management, the infected in the cold trailers don't escape. To the contrary, Sae-bom actually succeeds in rescuing her colleague Seung-yeong- which just results in him being sent to a less restrictive quarantine. Then it's right back to the apartment complex, as the story ends up revolving around disgraced doctor Joo-hyeong (played by Bek Hyunjin) and his dermatologist wife Min-ji (played by Baek Joo-hee).
There's a very humanistic quality to how life is portrayed under the threat of infectious disease. The occasional reference to COVID-19 is a reminder, not just to the real-life contagion's influence on social life, but also that some people value economic security over health risk, and they're not exactly wrong to do so. Sae-bom is reluctant to give up on her borderline fraudulently obtained apartment because she belives, correctly, that it's a rare opportunity she's unlikely to get again.
Even then Sae-bom is still treated as a second class citizen because she rents, rather than owns, her domicile. Apartment Representative Oh (played by Bae Hae-sun) is emerging as an important character because of her obsessive need to exert order on the apartment complex in the name of maintaining real estate prices. This priority comes off outrageously in a story about dangerous disease outbreaks- but from Representative Oh's perspective, the disease is just an abstraction. Real estate values actually effect their daily life.
This makes an odd backdrop for Colonel Han's continued attempts to get the disease, as well as its messaging, under control. Despite being called out by the main characters for his apparent cold-heartedness, Colonel Han really does appear to sincerely believe that controlling the spread of the disease until treatment is available is the top priority. Even in his cruelest moments, Colonel Han at least has goals which feel important.
The very title of "Happiness - Drama" accurately reflects the drama's unusually philosophical bent for zombie story. Everyone aside from Colonel Han has these convoluted long-term life plans, and it's not really clear how well their short-term actions help them achieve these goals, or if either the short-term actions or the goals will actually make them happy. Colonel Han's constant attempts to recruit the lead characters belies how they're both much better police officers than they are aspiring bourgeoisie- it's their work, rather than their domesticity, that lets them be all they can be.
Review by William Schwartz
"Happiness - Drama" is directed by Ahn Gil-ho, written by Han Sang-woon, and features Han Hyo-joo, Park Hyung-sik, Jo Woo-jin, Kang Ji-eun-I, Lee Joon-hyuk-I, Park Joo-hee. Broadcasting information in Korea: 2021/11/05~Now airing, Fri, Sat 22:40 on tvN.
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Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.