Okay. So. How to explain this show, coming from the mind of unique comics mastermind Grant Morrison, who helped come up with the best parts of Doom Patrol.
Shortly before Christmas, at a concert for children’s entertainment superstar Sonny Shine, a young girl named Hailey gets kidnapped by a terrifying figure known only as Very Bad Santa, and she’s not the only one. But there is one small hope… Hailey’s imaginary friend, a flying blue cartoon unicorn-thing named Happy (voice of Patton Oswalt), makes a run for it and finds her father… former cop turned drunken wreck and highly effective hitman Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni, really swinging for the fences here). Nick is, shall we say, surprised to be able to see Happy, and also surprised to hear he has a daughter, as his life fell into a nihilistic spiral and put the last nail into the coffin of his marriage right when his now ex-wife Amanda was on the verge of telling him she was pregnant. Soon Nick and Happy are on the trail of Very Bad Santa, as are Amanda and Nick’s former partner/mistress Merry.
But this is a Grant Morrison story, so it can’t be that simple, nothing that man writes is close to being that simple. See, Very Bad Santa works for a mob boss named Francisco “Blue” Scaramucci (as does half the police force and just about every medium-level or higher criminal), and this whole child-snatch scheme is on behalf of a larger crime boss calling himself “The Bug” while wearing a latex insect suit, who turns out to be Sonny Shine, who is a horrifying, horrifying monster, and Blue thinks that Nick overheard a password that accesses the Old Don’s money and power, with which Blue won’t have to work for Sonny anymore. Got it? Simple? Clear?
Well there’s more. There are literal monsters, who are only partially as scary as Blue’s sadistic henchman Smoothie, there’s a doomsday cult, and that password is not what Blue thinks it is, and did I mention the entire species of sentient imaginary friends? Things get weird in very fascinating ways…
But Hephaestus drenched in hot sauce it is so. Very. DARK. And gruesome. When Nick (or Smoothie, frankly) kills someone, it does not go down clean. But as to the darkness…
First of all, a demented madman dressed in the world’s creepiest Santa suit is snatching children, and that story gets worse, there’s an ancient God of Death, orgies in full-body latex bug suits are possibly the least disturbing thing Sonny does… and man does Smoothie not get as many ass-kickings as he deserves.
And what’s weird is that this show is, by and large, a comedy. I mean come on, Nick’s sidekick is a flying cartoon unicorn voiced by Patton Oswalt, obviously, it’s funny when it chooses to be, with some stellar and also amusing action sequences, but it’s very black comedy, because it has to be, because everything but the comedy is pitch dark.
There are two seasons: one dealing with Very Bad Santa and setting up all the other madness that surrounds him; one set months later, as every sinister being still standing (more of them than you’d hope by the end of season one) sets their sights on Easter for… nothing good. No one is planning anything good for Easter.
If I’m being honest, season two dragged a bit. As compelling as season one was, it was hard to watch more than two episodes of season two at a time. Maybe because for all of Nick’s wacky antics and slapstick and banter with Happy, what we really have here are three people shattered by trauma. Nick’s isn’t new, he’s the only one trying to improve his life at this point, but Amanda loses her strength for most of the season, haunted by an event she can’t remember from season one; Hailey is haunted by Very Bad Santa and is somehow being bullied for it? Which opens her up to being gaslit and brainwashed by the least trustworthy person anyone has ever met.
The forces of evil are coming strong, and the forces of… what passes for good are getting worked, and it’s a lot, and a few things don’t get resolved because they were hoping for at least a third season and never got it.
There’s a lot of quality to this, there’s a lot of interesting material, but whoof it is not a feel-good show. I got to the end and had to ask… is Grant Morrison okay? Does he need to talk to someone?
Check it out, but be prepared.
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