First Impression: Happy to Die

This is quite an amusing show, and yet, rather soul-searching as well.

Main cast:

  • Kang Ji-hwan (from Children of a Lesser God) as Baek Jin-sang. The obnoxious, yet strangely, refreshingly blunt, Team Leader of the Marketing Team in MW Chicken Company. He is the target of his colleagues, subordinates (and probably even superiors) death wish. 
  • Baek Jin-hee (from Let’s Eat 3) as Lee Roo-da. One of the executives in the Marketing Team under Jin-sang. She realised one day that in order for her timeline to move on, she needs to save her boss from death…as in literally.
  • Gong Myung (from Bride of the Watergod) as Kang Joon-ho. The chaebol grandson of MW Chicken, who is working undercover and is smitten with the “brave” Roo-da.


It is obvious from the start that Jin-sang, even though he may be extremely competent as a marketing lead, is a super poor team leader. His EQ is virtually zero. We see him nitpicking on his pregnant subordinate (Min-joo) for being late (and he tallied her entire “5 mins late” history for a year, and happily deducted one annual leave from her…wtf). But…when his team met with a nasty customer, who flamed them for not paying attention to his order (cos his son was allergic to some food), Jin-sang was the one to retrace the entire flow of the mistake… down to the customer himself. While the customer had claimed he told the staff that his son was allergic to nuts (walnuts), Jin-sang had adroitly called the boy’s mum…and clarified that he is allergic to SESAME. (which left the customer blustering)

But…in the same breath, he decided he wants to claim credit for “saving” the marketing team, and when the big boss asked for someone to take responsibility for the episode, he immediately arrowed Min-joo, since she was the one who took the customer’s order.

So it’s no wonder that Roo-da secretly curses him and wishes him dead…which he did. And Roo-da wakes up from the shock of seeing her boss die, thinking it’s a dream…only…it’s not. Her life has became one time loop — and she later learns that only by preventing the death of Jin-sang, can the time loop curse be broken. And, the prevention of his death doesn’t necessarily have to do with removing him from the “cause” of his death, but more upstream…


The narrative for Happy is pretty simple — the female lead has to make sure the annoying male lead doesn’t die in order to break through the time loop curse she finds herself stuck in. But… there is a second layering to this fantastical story — the objective of preventing Jin-sang’s death may be secondary to Roo-da’s self-discovery of her own blindness and her own shortcomings.

Jin-sang now may seem to be the fall guy for both the (black) comedy and also the “Baddie” in Happy. He is rude, insensitive, inconsiderate, greedy to claim credit, blah blah. But, as I mentioned earlier, I see redeeming qualities in him. Unlike his peers (such as the hypocritical Director Kang), Jin-sang is very frank — both to himself, his subordinates, colleagues and even to his bosses.

In a presentation to the company (a front the Directors set up to discuss retrenchment), Jin-san pointed out that the top brass are a bunch of shit holes, and are liars. Of course, that earned him enough death wish to really kill him on the spot — had Roo-da not appeared to save him again. 

While Roo-da doesn’t see the merits in his boss directly, the time loop is helping her see herself and her colleagues’ actions (and the reasons behind their actions) more clearly. She too, had unwittingly dismissed Min-joo  as being more “concerned” about her family (she has a toddler) than her work. Even though she is upset about Jin-sang being openly discriminating, she only realised later (in one of her time loops) that she has subconsciously discriminated against Min-joo too. 

Just the characters’ development tract alone would have attracted me to continue watching Happy; throw in the familiar office setting with the usual office politics — I’m in. 

8 thoughts on “First Impression: Happy to Die

Add yours

  1. Unfortunately, I only lasted one episode! I like time loop or Ground Hog Day stories, but it wasn’t working for me. I did think our female lead as a character was good though.

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