by Matthew Thompson
The titular pair in Hap and Leonard are a bit of an odd couple. Leonard – a gay, black Vietnam vet – and Hap – a white man who skipped the war as a conscientious objector – were brought together as youngsters by a mutual tragedy. Their divergent paths in the time since haven’t broken the bonds of their friendship. It is this relationship that Hap and Leonard was built upon in its first season and that continues to be the case in Season 2 despite telling a fairly different kind of story.
Whereas Season 1 took the boys on a wild caper as they tried to recover a lost fortune, this season sees them playing private detective in a missing persons case. When the bones of a young boy are found under Leonard’s house, he and Hap become prime suspects in the murder. As the police try to pin the crime on them, they try to uncover the truth, not just to help themselves but to do the right thing for the missing boys and their families. A young lawyer (Tiffany Mack), the local sheriff (Brian Dennehy) and a grandmotherly neighbor (Irma P. Hall) are just a few of the new faces that fill out the supporting cast for Season 2.
Racial dynamics have always been a part of the show, but this year they delved into some darker material on the subject. This largely revolved around the police’s brutal treatment of black suspects and their ignoring of black victims, but there is also a flashback scene involving the KKK that is particularly tough to watch. This along with the central case about missing children meant there was no shortage of serious subject matter to tackle in this latest season.
A large part of the appeal of Hap and Leonard is its sense of humor and that remains intact despite some of this season’s heavier scenes. It comes back to that friendship I mentioned at the top. Just about every conversation between Hap and Leonard had a line that made me laugh. Wonderful performances from James Purefoy and Michael Kenneth Williams and stellar dialogue from the writers make for one of the most believable and well-realized friendships on television. The fact that the actors and writers alike can move between the dark dramatic moments and the lighter, humorous ones is a credit to everyone involved. It is a tough task, but it is handled with aplomb here.
This second go-around was another strong season for SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard and, I feel, even better than the first. I would welcome more stories about these characters in the years to come. Each season has been impeccably paced with a perfect mix of drama and comedy. They have shown the ability to tackle multiple genres and I’d love to see what the future of the series might bring. Here’s to hoping it is renewed for another season.
A few more things (some spoilers to follow):
- Best Episode: This would have to be the climactic, penultimate episode “Pie a la Mojo.” With the police closing in on Hap and Leonard, they make a final effort to find the real killer with an annual town festival as the backdrop.
- Best Moment: During the previously mentioned episode, Leonard rides by to scoop up Hap on horseback just as the cops try to apprehend him. From here they ride off to stop the killer from committing his next murder. It was spectacular.
- This show is based on a book series by Joe R. Lansdale, so credit to him for his part in creating these characters and stories. I hope to give the books a read one day.