Hap and Leonard season 2 episode 2 review: When is a win a win?

Hap and Leonard season 2 episode 2 reviewEven though Hap and Leonard may only be eight episodes now into its run on SundanceTV, a pattern is starting to emerge from the rubble. Through the early episodes, you get a few morsels of the central mystery, and then some big teases at the end that things are going to get from bad to worse.

In the closing minutes of Wednesday’s “Ticking Mojo,” we saw one of the few people who could help clear Uncle Chester and Leonard Pine careen into the ocean. This made matters all the more challenging for poor Leonard, who found himself abused and at the mercy of a system that didn’t seem altogether intent on helping him over the course of the episode. As a matter of fact, it took Hap having to blackmail a judge in order to ensure that his best friend was released in the first place.

In terms of backstory, this episode was essential just from the vantage point of learning that Judge Otis, upon seeing Hap, had no recollection that his actions many decades before were the reason why Hap and Leonard grew up the way that they did. Hap faults him for the death of his father, and understandably so — it’s one of the reasons why he said what he said to him at the church, not knowing at the time that he would be presiding over Leonard’s court case later on. Otherwise, wouldn’t he be a tad kinder in the moment, even if he didn’t want him to be?

Leonard’s release was great, but it still left him, Hap, and Florida in a tough spot given that they still don’t have the proof necessary to get him the proper verdict. They debated for a time having him flee to Abilene to stay with Florida’s sister, but he eventually opted against it. He’s got a life in East Texas, a nephew he finds himself suddenly caring for, and of course his best friend. Leonard’s a fighter, a decorated war hero — the idea of him staying and fighting is indicative of his past. This isn’t meant to slight Hap and his own defector history, given that those extenuating circumstances are well-documented already.

Leonard’s won for now, but how long will that last? Is he any safer on the outside? These are valuable questions to ask.

The quality of the mystery

The thing we wondered the most is how this town, given its long history of unsolved mysteries, especially involving young black children, isn’t getting more national attention. The crowd of mothers at the police station was a sad and viscerally appalling scene in terms of the police department’s own negligence. Maybe they make assurances that they want to help, but they still employ someone who is fine to beat Leonard to a pulp, only to then send him off to the hospital with an excuse of “he fell.”

Hap and Leonard is producing a great whodunnit through two episodes. It’s also giving you strong, at-times subtle character moments. We appreciate the character choice to focus more on the present this season than in the past during flashbacks. We’re sure some expected the craziness of Soldier and Angel to be matched, but we’re glad that it’s not. So far, this is a mystery that’s about people, culture, and relationships above all else. This episode may not have been flashy, but it was certainly entertaining to watch. Grade: B+.

Where we go from here

We will have a preview for Hap and Leonard season 2 episode 3 online shortly over at the link here.

What do you think about Hap and Leonard season 2 so far, and the presentation of the central mystery? Share in the comments. (Photo: SundanceTV.)

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