This Hap and Leonard review contains spoilers.
Hap and Leonard: Season 1 Episode 6
It was initially surprising that the final showdown with Soldier and Angel was more or less over in the first fifteen minutes of the finale. But as I’ve said before, this show has never been about the stolen money. Rather, Hap and Leonard is about old flames and lifelong friendships. And so we embark on a slow denouement that seeks to patiently tie up loose ends for characters in desperate need of closure. It’s here that “Eskimos”—and indeed the entire season, truly shines, unapologetically bringing us one emotional moment after another. It’s not money that holds this big world together, it’s love, in its many bruised, damaged forms. Hap and Leonard revels in this notion, that broken hearts still beat, pounding out a rhythm of hopefulness despite a lifetime of regret. I’ll say this right now: I miss this damn show already. It exceeded every expectation I had for it, delivering hour after hour of well-crafted drama and humor. If I could give this season finale 6 stars, I would happily do so.
One of the great things about Hap and Leonard is the passage of time is so fluid and so tangible that it could very well be its own character on the show. Throughout the season we’ve been pulled along with the narrative as it flashed back twenty years to Hap and Trudy as idealistic newlyweds. Sometimes the jump back was more dramatic, to a time when Hap and Leonard were boys whose lives unexpectedly collided on the side of the road one rainy night. In the case of “Eskimos,” the episode opens on the ruins of Leonard’s house, dried blood and police tape everywhere. Hap’s in bad shape, too. He’s picking up the pieces in the aftermath of their violent showdown with Soldier and Angel. But Leonard’s nowhere to be found. The way the scene is framed, it sounds like Leonard didn’t survive being shot. I don’t blame the writers for doing this—it keeps viewers riveted—but deep down I knew Leonard couldn’t be dead. To kill him would fly in the face of the time this show has invested in creating a lived-in, realistic relationship between two men who will likely grow old together. But more on that in a bit.
In the meantime, the story brings us back to where last week’s “War” left off, with Hap and Leonard left high and dry by Trudy to confront Soldier and Angel on their own. Jimmi Simpson is great yet again as he waxes philosophical about what he considers the free-love aspect of Eskimo culture. His analysis is reductive, of course, focusing on what he considers a swinger lifestyle among simpler, primitive folk. Soldier is no fool, though; his rambling monologue is a distraction for his avenging Angel to ambush Hap and Leonard. The ensuing melee is violent and all too intimate as the three grapple and contort in a bloody heap on the floor. Hap is no slouch—he can give as good as he gets in a fight—but he’s incapable of taking a life. Leonard, however, has no such qualms, and he ends the fight by snapping her neck.
As far as character deaths go on this show, Chub’s was the most unexpected, Howard’s the most efficient, and Paco’s the most grisly. Soldier’s death, though, is the most cathartic, especially given that Hap simply cannot pull the trigger. Some might view this inability to kill as a weakness, or a liability, but I think the opposite is true for Hap Collins. Killing is simply a line he chooses not to cross. It’s a good thing for the fellas that Trudy’s change of heart brings her back to Leonard’s, because she ultimately succeeds where Hap failed, finally taking down Soldier with a single bullet. It’s a short-lived victory, given that she herself has taken a bullet.
Again, this all occurs within the first fifteen minutes of the episode. From this point on, we get one bittersweet moment after another, beginning with Trudy’s confessions, the most important one being that she still loves Hap. He hears none of this of course, which is fitting in a way—he and Trudy were just never meant to be. When she appears to him in his hospital room, a glowing vision of a younger Trudy in her wedding dress, we understand this is their final goodbye.
More poignant still is seeing Hap out of the hospital, sitting at a table covered in bills, the recovered cash beside him. He ponders many things—getting out of debt, taking a vacation. He even considers turning the money in to the FBI. In the end, he sets a bit of the cash aside but donates most of it to the Children’s Charity Fund, in Trudy’s name. At the end of the day, Hap Collins is a decent man. And it’s quiet, heartfelt moments like this one that make Hap and Leonard standout television worth watching. Like Hap, the show wears its ragged heart on its workingman’s sleeve.
But there’s still the matter of reuniting Hap and Leonard. As much as Leonard hated Trudy, and despite nearly getting killed because of a get-rich-quick scheme gone wrong, he’s still genuinely sorry for Hap’s loss. This is a tried and true friendship, for sure. Raoul is lurking about, though, and he’s far less charitable toward Hap, insisting he stay away from Leonard. To his credit, Hap wants what’s best for his friend, so he doesn’t argue.
This brings us to the season’s last death—Leonard’s Uncle Chester. Again, these are very bittersweet moments that come from the heart. We want Hap and Leonard together again, but not like this. Yet it’s enough to finally reunite them, with Leonard telling Hap, “You’re the one family I got now.”
The finale’s last scene is pitch-perfect, with Hap and Leonard staying overnight in Uncle Chester’s apartment. They’ve been through a lot together, these two men, and one senses they will see more adventures together. But rather than dwell on all that went so wrong in their recent past, they instead discuss the merits of the show Leave It to Beaver, and how Wally and the Beav moved on after every episode with no baggage.
True enough, Hap and Leonard are not just friends, they’re brothers—and we wouldn’t have it any other way.