This Hap and Leonard review contains spoilers.
Hap and Leonard: Season 1 Episode 3
For a show that’s set in the late ‘80s, and often flashes back 20 years from there, it’s no surprise how potent nostalgia can be for our hapless heroes. If I could offer Hap or Leonard any advice, it would be this: Time travel at your own risk. The idealism of youth often stands in stark contrast to the adults we become. As we see with Hap especially, sometimes love alone is not enough to keep the home fires burning.
Up to this point we’ve gotten only glimpses into what happened between Hap and Trudy, and like any good noir story, doomed romance is central to a hero’s (or antihero’s) muddy motivations. Hap isn’t interested in saving the world anymore; he’s more concerned with day-to-day survival—his survival. But being reunited with Trudy has given him something to live for. Whether or not she realizes it, she is, and always has been, Hap’s brass ring—that one unattainable treasure just beyond his grasp. Because the reality is that Trudy did not honor her promise to wait the two years for Hap to get out of Leavenworth. It’s not hard to imagine that the episode’s title refers not only to submerged treasure, but to sunken, seemingly unrecoverable dreams, too.
Not that old Hap isn’t trying to make something good happen in his life. Going after the bank money is a nice carrot to wake him out of his midlife stupor, but it’s also a smokescreen that allows him to spend more quality time with the true love of his life. Howard can see the forest for the trees, as it were. Hap and Trudy have an obvious chemistry that rankles Trudy’s other ex-con/ex-husband. And because of the sparkle Hap has put in his ex-wife’s eye, Howard doesn’t trust either of them—especially after finding them asleep together in the swamp. Sure, he’s a mellow enough guy with pie-in-the-sky aspirations. But Howard also needs to be the alpha male—something that doesn’t seem to matter as much to Hap, who readily admits he’s not the smartest guy in the room.
Leonard, on the other hand, is usually a dominant presence, even in a room full of strangers. He commands attention simply through the sheer strength of his convictions. Leonard is brash, crass, and unapologetic to a fault. Hap sees through the bluster because he gets Leonard, understands that his friend harbors a secret sadness even if he acts like he has nothing to hide. We see this in Leonard’s strained interactions with Raoul, the nurse who’s been caring for Uncle Chester. Raoul gets Leonard, too. But because romance is in play, Raoul wields his sharp insights like a scalpel, cutting Leonard to the quick. He wants love from a man who pines for someone else—which ultimately drives Leonard from his own home and down into the frigid waters of the Sabine River.
As I’ve said before, the search for the sunken money is what drives the plot, but it’s the smaller character moments between old friends that make Hap and Leonard a show worth watching. This is due in large part to how well James Purefoy and Michael Kenneth Williams inhabit their roles. It’s very easy to believe that these men have known each other their entire lives, that they’ve survived through lean times and times of plenty. No matter what life throws at them, they’re in it together. And what they want out of this current endeavor is their cut of the money. They have no interest in Howard’s crusade to save the world from itself.
This, too, doesn’t sit well with Howard, who truly believes every man is capable of creating real change. Plus, as I’ve said, he’s not too keen on the obvious positive effect Hap has on Trudy. Howard finally shows his true colors when he discovers that half of the retrieved money is intact. Hap and Leonard may have recovered the cash from the sunken car, but both men are now liabilities. With this season now at its midway point, we know Hap and Leonard are not in serious peril (yet), but I’ll be damned if I know how they’ll find their way out of this predicament.
Some closing thoughts:
There’s a moment in “The Dive” when Hap checks a payphone for coins. It’s a quick, tiny gesture that speaks volumes about a man who doesn’t seem to believe he’s on the cusp of an ill-gotten fortune.
Michael Kenneth Williams utters some of the episode’s more notable lines, among them “A mull takes as long as a mull takes.” Like all of his dialogue, Williams gives Leonard’s words a gravelly intensity that suggests he’s a man who does not care what the world thinks of him.
I like Jimmi Simpson, and I’m intrigued by his Soldier character. He’s been used just enough in the last three episodes to remind us that a real threat is slowly drawing nearer to Howard’s motley band of merry outcasts. As for his murderous accomplice, Angel, does she remind anyone else of Daryl Hannah’s replicant Pris from Blade Runner? Like Simpson, Pollyanna McIntosh is used sparingly. Despite her brief screen time, she still manages to make quite an impression.