This Hap and Leonard review contains spoilers.
Hap and Leonard Season 2 Episode 4
To talk again in this space about Hap and Leonard’s friendship would be to beat a dead horse. And yet, SundanceTV’s wonderful show goes out of its way to remind us of the bond these two men share. This is not a bad thing. Their mutual, unconditional love is the backbone of this raw and gritty series. The worse things get for the pair, the more resolute they become in their support of one another. From Hap’s dream to the pair’s adjoining jail cells to their crossing paths as they independently deduce the old gate’s origins, it’s clear that they are of one heart and one mind.
This is mined for drama, but it’s also mined cleverly for well-earned laughs. Their dynamic is summed up perfectly early in “Bad Mojo” when young Leonard quips, “If you had a good idea, it would die of loneliness.” This is Hap putting words in Leonard’s mouth, of course, but the sentiment is true enough. And it’s fitting that “Bad Mojo” would open with a dream, as the entire episode had a strange, dreamlike quality to it. But more on that in a bit.
In the meantime, let’s talk about Brian Dennehy’s Sheriff Valentine. Dennehy brings a casual, flinty-eyed menace to the role. He’s just as likely to tip his hat to you as he would stab you in the back. And while age may have stripped him of his strength, time has not stripped him of his power. That he’s so quick and willing to dismiss the arson and kidnapping—even Leonard’s accessory to murder—speaks not to magnanimity but to ulterior motives.
Still, Valentine’s no fool. Even he knows his son is a slovenly train wreck of a person who deserves to piss his pants now and again. But that doesn’t mean a habitual troublemaker like Hap is going to stop Beau from becoming county judge. To this end, Valentine will make the various charges against Hap and Leonard go away if they can keep their noses clean. On paper, it’s a great deal, one that’s hard to pass up. But there’s still a murder to solve, and both men are simply in too deep to let BB’s death go unsolved.
Chester and Illium have already done much of the legwork, and it is not all for naught. They are restless spirits, urging Leonard on from beyond the grave to remain focused and vigilant. I liked this moment in the library quite a bit. The police may not be interested in seeking justice for all the missing children, but that doesn’t mean Hap and Leonard are alone in their endeavors. And it speaks to what MeMaw believes, that the dead remain connected to the living. BB makes another appearance, too, a ghostly, bright-eyed presence observing the machinations of the investigation from afar. It’s a quick, poignant moment that drives home the innocence of these lost boys.
What Leonard and Hap find in the Old Hope Church’s crypt is an important step forward in this case. I don’t know what’s more chilling, the existence of the 14 caskets themselves, or how neatly they are arranged and labeled. There is a method to this killer’s madness, a kind of calculated precision that bespeaks years of planning. Crime shows of the CSI variety tend to revel in humanity’s dark underbelly, but in Hap and Leonard, there is only sadness for the small bodies gathered beneath the church.
The episode draws to a close not with a dramatic shootout or a car chase or a heartfelt monologue about the importance of justice. Instead what we get is Hap and Leonard taking an impromptu bus tour of Cooperstown as Johnny Cash’s mournful “Wayfaring Stranger” plays. It’s a community that’s seen better days, Cooperstown, but there is still a lot of life in its streets as children play and old men play dominoes. The people of this town deserve better, deserve the sort of basic decency afforded neighboring towns. Hap and Leonard may be down on their luck themselves, but they can’t ever turn a blind eye to those in need.
Some closing thoughts:
– Detectives Hanson and Blank make for another interesting pair. They’ve been going through the motions in a paint-by-numbers approach to BB’s case. But any kind of good investigation requires more creative, freeform thinking. Be a Picasso—don’t let numbers dictate which colors to use and where.
Hanson finally has his Cubist moment when he and Blank take an unauthorized trip to the morgue. Something isn’t quite right about BB, and Hanson knows it. His instinct bears itself out when he and Blank discover that not only has Valentine tampered with the evidence, he aims to destroy it all, too. This changes the narrative for the detectives, the one in which Leonard is unequivocally guilty. Blank gets one thing right about Leonard, though—he’s gotten inside Hanson’s head. Soon enough, he’ll be inside Blank’s head, too.
– On the surface of it, the return to Miss Stella’s salon may be played for laughs, but there’s a more important commentary at work here about the inequalities (and inequities) of race and class. These women have each other’s backs because it’s obvious no one else is looking out for them. In the case of the hapless detectives, Miss Stella’s ladies are policing the police.
– Irma P. Hall is fantastic in this episode. MeMaw has had a full and interesting life. Maybe too interesting; she’s lucky to be alive, as her scars attest. But beneath that ready smile of hers, there is still much pain and sadness.
– We get one hell of a boxing (mis)match, don’t we? But if this is all for charity, why is Reverend Fitzgerald so intent on cleaning Hap’s clock?