This Hap and Leonard review contains spoilers.
Hap and Leonard Season 1 Episode 2
As I mentioned in my review of last week’s “Savage Season,” Hap and Leonard is basically a nuanced character study masquerading as a heist story. Finding stolen money that’s been at the bottom of a river for twenty years is simply a means to an end, a reason to throw together people who have either long since gone their separate ways, or were never meant to cross paths, were it not for happenstance. Or both, in the case of “The Bottoms.”
This is a busy episode that covers a lot of ground, literally and figuratively. Luckily, both the storytelling and the camerawork are economical, giving or showing us exactly what the plot requires to keep the story moving along. Yes, we know Hap and Leonard still have a bridge to find. If they locate the old iron bridge, they’ll find the river. And if they find the river, they’re one step closer to locating the sunken treasure. This all seems easy enough in theory — how hard could it be to find a river? But memory and logic don’t always go hand in hand. Much time has passed since Hap fished the river as a boy, and nature has had its way with the land in the last twenty years. Life has also had its way with Hap Collins, stripping away so much of his vitality in the last two decades, altering him in ways both seen and unseen. But more on Hap in a bit.
As I said, Hap and Leonard have a bridge to find. They’re committed to the task, albeit it on their own terms, and in their own company. But it’s one for all and all for one, as far as Howard’s concerned. To him, decent though they may well be, Hap and Leonard are still an unknown quantity. Which is why Howard doesn’t want them running off on their own into the wetlands. If there’s treasure to be found, he wants Paco and Chub to be at Hap and Leonard’s side. While this pairing doesn’t bode well for Mr. Collins and Mr. Pine, it does afford viewers a chance to learn more about Paco. (And if you recall from the end of last week’s episode, Jimmi Simpson’s murderous Soldier is looking for him.) As it turns out, Paco (played with gravelly menace by Neil Sandilands) is a former member of the Mechanics, a splinter group of the Weathermen. But not just any member—he was their leader and their bomb-maker. Which provides a nice explanation for why his face is so badly scarred—and why he’s so keen on staying off the grid and away from cops. His presence brings a bit more danger to Howard’s otherwise peaceful enclave.
As for Howard, Trudy’s newest ex-husband may come across as low key and open-minded, but he seems to harbor a secret bitterness, and perhaps a dark side. We get a glimpse of this from his passive-aggressive asides to Hap about his own doomed marriage to Trudy. They are members of an exclusive club, these two men, but that’s where their similarities end. Howard has an eye toward a future brimming with hope. Beyond his friendship with Leonard, Hap has little to keep him going, now that his youthful idealism has been trampled into dust by years of hard living.
Still, there is some good news to be had in this episode. After a trip down memory lane, Hap and Trudy manage to find the sunken getaway car. They find an angry gator, too—or does it find them? Either way, this near-death encounter drives them together in a way that mends old Hap’s broken heart. I have to wonder, though, how long such happiness can last for these two. Hope is a fleeting thing in the best of circumstances; as we’ve seen, even with a possible windfall in the offing, this is still not the best of times. Hap, Leonard, and Trudy have a long way to go before they overcome their demons, and as the old saying goes, money can’t buy happiness.
Some closing thoughts:
Uncle Chester suffers a heart attack, which causes Leonard to cross paths with Raoul, the nurse who’s caring for his uncle. Like Hap and Trudy, it’s happenstance that reunites these old lovers. One gets the sense, though, that Leonard isn’t interested in rekindling their romance. If anything, with Trudy back in the picture, Leonard is feeling adrift and alone. He needs Hap to need him, even if this is a truth Leonard is not willing to admit to himself. But it’s easy to see why he and Hap are so close. Their friendship isn’t about grand gestures—it’s about reading between the lines, about reading the small tells. In many ways, Leonard understands Hap better than anyone else. Understands what makes him tick, and cares for him more deeply than Trudy might. Unlike Hap’s ex, Leonard has never turned his back on Hap, has never left him twisting in the wind.
Sure, it’s a humorous moment, Hap muttering an apology to a dead raccoon he’s accidentally urinating on, but it says a lot about him as a character. Hap may be prone to pessimism, but at his core, he’s a decent human being.
Does Bill Sage remind anyone else of a young Tom Skerritt? Every time he’s onscreen, I can’t help but imagine Howard and his ponytail in Alien, crawling through the Nostromo’s ventilation ducts.