This Hap and Leonard review contains spoilers.
Hap and Leonard Season 2 Episode 3
Here’s the tricky thing about Hap and Leonard: The better the show is, the harder it is to watch. And this is a difficult hour to watch.
“Holy Mojo” starts off with a lynching and ends with a crack den engulfed in flames. Everything that happens in between constitutes one of the best episodes of the series so far. (And that’s saying something—the first season is pretty hard to beat, in my opinion.)
So what makes this a standout hour of Hap and Leonard? Is it the way James Purefoy and Michael Kenneth Williams completely disappear into their roles, two men staggering beneath the shared burden of their painful pasts? Is it watching these characters struggle to remain upright, even as the world seeks to make them grovel in the dust for tender mercies? Good people can only be pushed so far before they’re compelled to act against their better nature.
With Illium Moon dead, so too is Leonard’s alibi. But rather than report what they’ve found to police (and, really, why would they? Being Good Samaritans by reporting BB’s body is what got them into trouble to begin with), Hap and Leonard submerge poor Illium and his van in the pond. If we’re to learn anything from this, it’s that water, normally symbolic of cleansing or rebirth, is a source of death and destruction. At least in East Texas.
With three episodes still left to go, we wouldn’t expect Leonard to be in the clear just yet anyway. And while I have faith in Florida to set things right for him, it’s the local authorities I’m more worried about. Clearly they have it in for Leonard—we know this before Sneed (Evan Gamble) ever confesses as much. Sheriff Valentine (Brian Dennehy) may talk a good game when he’s standing before a congregation preaching justice and unity, but last week’s kumbaya moment is easily undone by the thinly veiled contempt he has for rabble like Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. And we know the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Beau Otis exists to be reviled, a monster of his own making, ugly on the inside. He casts a long, dark shadow over Hap and Leonard’s lives. Worse, he’s almost flippant when he tells Florida he doesn’t give that fateful night much thought. But we know Hap has spent the last 40 years thinking about what Beau Otis did, how he robbed him and Leonard of their fathers. We know this anger has been festering in him for decades. We can understand why he might sabotage the judge’s car. We understand why he leads Otis into the woods, tire iron in hand. This is a pivotal moment for Hap. He has retribution in his heart, and it’s chilling to think that Hap might throw his whole life away in that single instant. Purefoy certainly sells the moment, so much so that I wonder what deep wellspring of anger and sadness and pathos Purefoy drew from for this scene. Whatever the case may be, I’m glad Hap didn’t swing that tire iron after all. To do so would have destroyed him.
Leonard takes matters into his own hands, too. But it’s young Ivan who draws him out of his shell. Leonard understands that Ivan is a runaway, a boy on the verge of becoming lost, a face on the side of a milk carton. Like Purefoy, Williams gives a powerful, heartfelt performance. Leonard hasn’t had an easy life—we see this in Williams’s eyes. We hear it in his ragged voice. He’s suffered for his country and because of his country. Like Hap, Leonard stops short of murder, but he’s crossed a line that cannot be uncrossed. Even so, I was rooting for him when he stormed into Melton’s house to rescue Ivan. But in saving Ivan, Leonard may have lost himself along the way.
Some closing thoughts:
– Detective Hanson (Cranston Johnson) is playing both sides against the middle. He wants justice, too, but only if there’s sufficient evidence to clear Leonard. He sees himself as Florida’s ally, but she likely only sees one more impediment to Leonard’s freedom. In the end, I’d like to think Hanson will truly be more bipartisan.
– It was only a matter of time before Florida and Hap wound up together. It’s a nice moment, if only because sometimes we need to see good things happen to good people. But it makes me wonder if their consummation will be the kiss of death for Florida. I hope not.
– So MeMaw is little Jezebel. I noticed tonight that her right arm is badly scarred. What happened to her that day at the church?
– Lots of funny exchanges between Hap and Leonard in this episode, especially this one in particular:
“Name one contortionist that ain’t crazy,” says Leonard.
“How many contortionists do you know?”
“One,” says Leonard. “And she’s crazy.”