Hap and Leonard Season 3 Episode 5: Mambo #5 Review

With just three words, Hap and Leonard delivers its most powerful and heartfelt episode of the season.

Hap and Leonard Season 3 Episode 5

This Hap and Leonard review contains spoilers.

For me, right now, the entirety of this season can be boiled down to Hap’s reaction to Leonard, who lies bloody and battered and prone in an alley. “Oh, my brother,” he gasps, forgetting his own injuries as he shoos their would-be protectors away to care tenderly for his one and only best, best friend. It’s easy to write off what these men share as a bromance, but this only cheapens their unabashed, unconditional love. In a show that often indulges in violence (while never glorifying it), this moment is not only touching, it’s utterly heartbreaking. You feel Hap’s pain for his friend’s suffering, even though his own suffering is so obvious and so fresh. And it’s those three words, “oh, my brother,” that immediately brought me to tears in a way that Hap and Leonard never has before. If I could give this episode six stars, or ten stars, solely on the strength of those three words, uttered so brokenly, I surely would. This is James Purefoy at his best. This is Hap and Leonard at its best.

“Oh, my brother.”

But those three words wouldn’t carry so much weight, were it not for Michael Kenneth Williams’s bravura performance. And not just in “Mambo #5,” but all season long. The Klan is out for Leonard’s blood, after all—not Hap’s. And yet, being the friend and brother he is, Leonard accompanies Hap to a place where black people are the least welcome. He could leave Grovetown at any point, but we know his loyalty to Hap runs deeper than any grave. Leonard has his back, no matter the odds—it really is as simple as that. In this episode, this great but terrible episode, we see just how much Leonard stands to lose. We understand how damaging this trip to Grovetown is, not just physically, but emotionally, too. The town’s racism is toxic, and deadly. Even if Leonard survives, he dies a thousand deaths in his heart and mind. As he himself so aptly puts it, what goes down in that alley is “a different kind of Vietnam.”

Ad – content continues below

This is an episode of unlikely heroes, too, from Bacon to Hanson to Sneed. They make for a ragtag cavalry, and yet were it not for their timely arrival, a savage beating would have been the least of Hap and Leonard’s troubles. Honestly, I never thought I’d be so relieved to see Sneed. And who would have believed that his transition from bad cop to good cop was genuine?

As for Hanson, it’s good to see he survived the car crash. He seems none the worse for wear, all things considered. Grovetown may be well outside his jurisdiction, but Hanson is still a man of the law. Besides, Hap and Leonard are his people, and he needs to protect his own. Especially if Florida is dead, as he and Hap fear her to be. (Why else would they be eulogizing her with backhanded praise?)

Bacon’s change of heart is perhaps the most rewarding (and satisfying) moment. It’s one thing to stand up to one’s oppressors, but Bacon’s defiance has earned him the Klan’s unholy wrath. Truman Brown isn’t a man to be trifled with—or so he believes. Bacon’s refusal to stand with Truman in the diner is in itself intriguing, if only for Truman’s insinuation that Maude’s fry cook “belongs” at the Klan’s side. Are we to believe it’s through Truman’s twisted idea of magnanimity that someone like Bacon is allowed to serve Grovetown’s white residents? Whatever the case may be, Louis Gossett, Jr. imbues Bacon with a smoldering intensity as he counts down the seconds to his own inevitable demise. That he survives to the end of the episode is a surprise. Even after his home comes under siege, and even after he’s injured, Bacon still isn’t down for the count.

It’s amazing to me that the same hour that gives us Charlie Blank squatting in a bathroom stall could give us a stand-off that had me on the edge of my seat. It’s a testament to Evan Gamble that I feared for Sneed in a way that wouldn’t have been possible at the start of the season. The same goes for Cantuck, who shows up at Bacon’s bullet-riddled home. I surely thought a twitchy trigger finger would have dropped him where he stood. In that moment, I realized how much Corbin Bernsen brought to Cantuck this season. Indeed, Bernsen gives us the best of the man in his final moments—he’s jocular and crusty and self-deprecating. And, just before Reynolds’s bullet finds him, we know that Cantuck had the potential to be upstanding, that he finally intended to do right by Hap and Florida.

With only one episode left, next week’s finale is shaping up to be a storm of epic proportions. The best any of us can do is hunker down and hope for the best.

Some closing thoughts

Ad – content continues below

Florida has an interesting take on Hap. “You might be the only white man in the entire south who doesn’t give a damn about race, religion, sexual preference,” she tells him. But being the good man he is, Hap is quick to deflect Florida’s compliments.

And yet Sneed is right, too, when later in the episode he tells Hap to get off his high horse once in a while.  He may be a good man, Hap Collins, but he’s no saint, either.

I appreciate that Bacon tried and failed to leave Grovetown. By abandoning his big-city ambitions, he returned to the place where he could be of greater use. That’s enough for Leonard, but I still believe there’s more to Bacon than his altruism.


5 out of 5