This Hap and Leonard review contains spoilers.
Hap and Leonard: Season 2, Episode 2
It’s safe to say that SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard is comfortable enough in its own skin to push the well-worn boundaries of the crime genre. Sure, the show’s got the usual tough guys and rough talk and high stakes and low lifes. It also has plenty of plot twists and mysteries to spare, as any good noir story should. And like any respectable crime romp, Hap and Leonard has its share of romance — mostly of the longing, unrequited kind. But this, too, is a good thing.
Trudy Fawst was the one who got away. Yes, she came back into Hap’s life before finally leaving him for good. And now a possible romance is in the offing with attorney Florida Grange. But the relationship I’m most interested in is the one between the titular characters. This is not to say that Hap and Leonard are meant to be together, at least not in the romantic sense. But they are meant to be together. To describe what these two men have as a bromance is to cheapen the notions of devotion and loyalty put forth so deftly by the show’s writers. This episode in particular explores what makes their lifelong friendship tick. And it’s not just a shared love of Nilla wafers. But more on that in a bit.
For now, it’s important to acknowledge the “facts” of this episode, such as they are. Leonard is now facing a possible 5-to-10 as an accessory after the fact for a murder that is conveniently being pinned to his uncle. That Leonard’s beef with his neighbor Melton has come back to haunt him so quickly speaks to the world of trouble he’s in. The only real secrets in Laborde, Texas, seem to be the ones the police are unwilling to investigate.
BB is just one of many missing boys from the area — all of them cold cases. But BB’s body is the only solid lead the county has, and this being an election year, only serves to tighten the noose around Leonard’s neck. As brutal as last season was, the predicament he finds himself in now has more to do with matters of race and class than it does with bumbling revolutionaries. Last season was about fighting the system. Now, the system is fighting back — and Florida is experienced enough to recognize a lost cause when she sees one.
So it’s lucky that Hap and Leonard follow a trail that leads them to wild-eyed, wild-haired Illium Moon (Wayne Dehart), a local eccentric who dabbles in taxidermy, voodoo, and vigilantism. It is he who recovered BB’s body from the pond behind his home. And it is he who moved the body to Chester’s home while the two men tried to solve the boy’s murder. It’s definitely an interesting turn, these revelations. But Illium’s not the most reliable witness (not that Melton is, either) — yet it’s enough to clear Leonard. But nothing is ever simple on a show like this, and by episode’s end, Illium looks to have found his own watery grave. Which means Leonard is back to square one.
Now, as for the aforementioned “bromance,” I thought this exchange between Hap and Florida was both poignant and illuminating:
“You ever think of having kids, Hap?”
“You assume that I don’t already have them?” asks Hap.
“I don’t,” he says.
“What’s the matter, not the father type?”
“Guess I just never met a woman that thought I was.”
This is heartbreaking stuff, especially the way James Purefoy delivers these short, simple statements. Perhaps Hap is not a man given to deep thought, but he knows what’s missing from his life. Purefoy clearly understands this, and imbues Hap with tremendous pathos and sympathy. Florida understands human nature, and she seems to understand Hap enough to tell him, “Don’t count on me to save you.” Is this a friendly warning, or some ominous foreshadowing? I know I said in my previous review that Florida is not this season’s femme fatale, but there are still four episodes left — anything is possible.
I admit that last season I rooted for Trudy, despite her many flaws. Part of this was because of Hap’s feelings for her. He saw the good in her, and she allowed him to see the goodness in himself. That’s not to say that Hap is a shell of his former self, now that Trudy is gone, but there’s a subtle melancholy to Purefoy’s performance that’s hard to dismiss. Life has left Hap weary, and lonely, and grasping at the kind of everyday happiness that comes so easily to others. Hap is just as flawed as Trudy ever was, perhaps more so. So who is there besides Leonard who recognizes the good in Hap Collins — the kind of good that says father material?
Which is why Hap and Leonard is this show’s most vital relationship. They need each other, plain and simple. The Floridas and the Raouls of the world are merely consolation prizes in comparison to Hap and Leonard’s unwavering devotion to each other. This is summed up perfectly when Hap insists that Leonard has to skip town and lay low. Brother to brother, he confesses his fears that something terrible will happen to Leonard if he stays, and Hap can’t have that. “What the hell am I going to do?” Hap Collins says to his best friend. And if Hap’s fear of being alone doesn’t break your heart, nothing will.
A closing thought:
Raoul confesses to Leonard that he is seeing someone else. The revelation is painful for Raoul — he wipes away tears as Leonard continues to stare at the television. Leonard has a knack for pushing people away even as Hap pines for affection from a seemingly indifferent world.