Hap and Leonard Season 2 Episode 1 Review: Mucho Mojo

SundanceTV's acclaimed noir show Hap and Leonard returns with mojo to spare.

This Hap and Leonard review contains spoilers. 

Hap and Leonard: Season 2, Episode 1

You don’t have to be familiar with author Joe R. Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard novels to appreciate SundanceTV’s eponymous series. But it’s reassuring to know that Lansdale’s involvement in the show continues with season two. It’s also nice to have James Purefoy and Michael Kenneth Williams back in the titular roles of Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. Lifelong friends, these two have weathered their share of hijinks and heartbreak, brutality and brotherhood.

Christina Hendricks’s femme fatale Trudy Faust aside, the careworn heart of season one belonged to Hap and Leonard. But speaking of Trudy, she manages to return for season two’s premiere, “Mucho Mojo.” And what a premiere it is, kicking the season off with a dead body, a literal pissing match, and stolen remains, in that order — and all within the first 15 minutes. In other words, this new season means a new set of woes for our hapless heroes.

And it all begins with Leonard’s discovery of a dead body beneath the crumbling floorboards of Uncle Chester’s ramshackle house. (This is the same body cleverly served up by the show in the first season’s closing seconds.) You would think this alone would be enough to drive “Mucho Mojo,” but the show is quick to remind us that Hap is still coming to grips with Trudy’s death. That he would be mourning his ex-wife feels right for his character. Like the show itself, Hap can’t help but wear his heart on his dusty sleeve. He also can’t let go of his past, literally and figuratively. Why else would he tote around Trudy’s ashes? He wants to do right by her, even if she didn’t always do right by him.

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Leonard isn’t quite as sentimental — about Trudy or anyone else. The world has done him few favors, leaving him wary and defensive. The first episode already has him facing off with a pissing crack dealer and a pious reverend, who both had issue with Uncle Chester. This same discourtesy extends to Leonard, who does himself no favors by antagonizing both men. But this is what we love about Leonard, his prickliness. It makes his unexpected moments of generosity stand out all the more. We see a bit of this in “Mucho Mojo,” when he reluctantly takes young Ivan (newcomer Olaniyan Thurmon) under his wing. Sure, he may be guilted into being a good Samaritan, but he comes to understand that Ivan could just as easily wind up on the side of a milk carton — or under someone’s floorboards.

So where does this leave us? While local law enforcement is quick to pin the dead body on a dead man, Leonard doesn’t believe his uncle is guilty of the crime. This puts him at odds with investigators, and by hour’s end, Leonard is led away in cuffs, much to his neighborhood’s collective bemusement. Hap and Leonard being steeped in noir such as it is, we know this mystery is far from being solved. Who’s the man in the van? Is he the person who dumped the boy’s body in the water, or is he Uncle Chester’s “associate”?

As for Hap, he’s finally able to lay Trudy to rest, even if it’s not the way he intended. Drifting downriver, covered in his ex-wife’s ashes, is a fitting farewell from a man who can barely keep his troubled life afloat. Plus, it’s clear that Leonard’s lawyer Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack) has put an unexpected twinkle back in Hap’s eye. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this way lies trouble — not because Grange is this season’s femme fatale (she’s not), but because trouble has a way of finding Hap.

Overall, “Mucho Mojo” is a strong start. Six episodes may not seem like enough, but the first season covered a lot of ground in only six hours. I’m expecting more of the same this time around. And while I may be missing Christina Hendricks, this episode certainly doesn’t suffer from her absence. What matters is that Purefoy and Williams continue to work so well together.

Some closing thoughts:

It’s obvious from Hap’s junker of a car that money is still an ongoing concern for him, making his sacrifice in last season’s final episode all the more poignant. That his car is falling apart is especially ironic, considering that Hap is a mechanic. He’s getting by, but just barely.

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Crime shows like Hap and Leonard may truck in violence, but a lot of their success also resides in humorous beats. There are some genuinely funny moments between Hap and Leonard, but Irma P. Hall’s elderly matriarch MeMaw is a real scene-stealer. She may laugh off Leonard pissing in drug dealer Melton’s face (as does much of the neighborhood), but she won’t suffer raunchy talk at her breakfast table.

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