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Hap And Leonard snatch defeat from the jaws of victory

Illustration for article titled Hap And Leonard snatch defeat from the jaws of victory
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The next chapter of Hap And Leonard picks up about where “The Bottoms” left off, with Hap and Trudy on the riverbank in each other’s arms, only it’s morning now and Howard and company are standing over them. So first of all, what kind of idiot is content to sleep, like, 20 feet away from where an alligator attacked him? “A hard dick knows no conscience,” Hap and Leonard keep saying. I suspect they’d say the same about caution. And I suspect that’s what Trudy was counting on, because the other question the scene brings up is how did Howard find them so easily if Trudy was the only one who knew they were looking at a tributary instead of the river proper? Well, based on the way things turn out, which is Trudy and Howard cheating Hap and Leonard out of their share of the heist, it looks like Trudy wasn’t exactly on the up and up with Hap the night before. She’s been working with Howard this whole time. That peek of a smile she shows Hap as they’re all standing there is really a smirk. And those easily excused questions about the first scene turn out to be bread crumbs to the end.

I won’t say you underestimate Hap And Leonard at your own peril though. It’s far from a steel trap, even when you just strip it down to its narrative machinery. Just look at the contrivances that lead to the ending. The whole gang’s at Leonard’s, because of increased police activity after Soldier and Angel, well, Angel alone kills someone else. (And that’s it for Soldier and Angel this week. They really don’t seem that invested in finding Paco.) The gang has successfully fished two safes out of the river, and they’re trying to open it. That is, Howard and Paco are. Hap and Leonard aren’t even in the same room, let alone paying attention. Okay, so the show has a bit of a hangout vibe, but have Hap and Leonard really forgotten what they’re doing? They’re hosting some armed, tenuous allies on the verge of striking it rich. Money and guns, the two objects with the most power to change plots, are at the center of the scene, or should be. But Hap and Leonard just mill around, get goofy, drift away. I repeat: They don’t even stay in the same room as the safes. That’s how much they apparently trust these guys to stand by their promise. What a perfect setup for Howard to sneak up on them with a gun drawn and politely inform them that they won’t be receiving their share of the loot. It’s a predictable twist told well enough—in particular the sliver of Howard’s unannounced approach visible just behind Hap—but this is a case where asking how this happened leads to a stumped writers room.


Still, talk about greed steamrolling ideals. The unmistakable subtext of “The Bottoms” becomes text here. Over breakfast Howard finally explains what he wants to do with the money, although he’s still not specific enough for my tastes. In jail, he read a bunch of corporate success books and learned what makes businesses thrive: infrastructure and diversification. His innovation: Apply corporate strategies to leftist activism. Unfortunately all we get are the bullet points of his mental PowerPoint. Howard’s corporation is all but named Generic Special Interest Group. It’s hard to tell if Howard has a Bond villain plan for this money or what. And the struggle between idealism and pragmatism is both timely and timeless. There’s meat here, but Hap And Leonard is mostly interested in the grill marks. Anyway, Howard and Trudy and the others put up a good show of being true believers, but as soon as they get the opportunity they rob their working class partner and abandon the spirit of brotherhood to make off with more money. Hard to imagine they really care much about any greater good.

Hap’s the wannabe Greenpeacer here. Leonard has to remind him that he has to shoot the alligators if he wants to protect his buddy. During his own dive, he’s hassled by visions of animated chirping yellow birds. Leonard tells him the hippie van isn’t a time machine, but all through the episode Hap reminisces about when he was drafted, which means we get to see impressionistic glimpses of Hap’s longhair days. It was 1968 or thereabouts if the typically rich soundtrack is any indication: The episode opens with Margo Guryan’s “Love Songs,” Hap and Leonard listen to “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair),” and the Fly-By-Nights’ “Found Love” is the build to the big dive. It turns out Trudy convinced Hap to refuse to serve (but apparently not as a conscientious objector?), which left him in prison for two years. She promised she’d be there when he got out. We don’t see what happened then, but she’s not exactly a woman of her word. Which is why Leonard turns off the radio during “San Francisco,” one of Hap’s trigger songs, snapping him out of it. In the funniest bit of the episode, Hap begs him to turn it back on, and Leonard tells him to try. Hap slowly reaches for the dial, and at the last second Leonard smacks his hand. Funny with a bite: Leonard is truly suspicious of leftist ideals in general and Trudy in particular. He’s there to check Hap.

It doesn’t take much convincing to get Leonard back on the team once he’s assured Uncle Chester’s okay. He says he’ll mull it over and fussily insists, “A mull takes as long as a mull takes!” That turns out to be just a few seconds, and then he’s out the door without a word to Raoul. Why can’t he at least tell his once and maybe present partner where he’s going? He’s so angry. Leonard’s grumpy in the morning, he over-Tabascos the sweetly cayenne-battered omelet Raoul made for him, and now this. It’s hard to imagine Leonard enjoying sex even though we’ve seen it with our own eyes. He only has eyes for Hap. That’s probably because Hap gets him. He doesn’t take the surliness personally. He knows that’s how Leonard expresses even affection, because he knows something about Leonard’s damage. That bond might be what saves them. Trudy can manipulate Hap, but she’s never counting on Leonard.

Stray observations

  • “The Dive” is written by E.L. Katz and directed by Nick Gomez.
  • Raoul is Hap And Leonard’s latest victim to fashion. He appears in a gray sleeveless V-neck that’s just too short to reach his waist and just too long to be intentionally baring his midriff, and his navy scrub pants have his underwear slightly bunched in the back. It’s immaculate. The only person on this show who’s ever put together is Trudy and only when she’s going to work. Remember that overdone black dress she first shows up in? Every costume on this show needs to take it down a notch or come up a little or at least get patched up, and it’s beautiful.
  • I take that back. Angel and Soldier have a way with clothes. Pictured up top is Angel’s latest outfit.
  • Howard asks, “Why wasn’t the spirit of the ‘60s sustainable, Hap?” “I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure the marijuana had something to do with that.”
  • Hap asks Leonard how his uncle is. “He alright. Stopped calling me faggot. Then again he can’t talk.”
  • RIP that poor woman who walks into a future murder scene—emphasized by the stalker camera leading her into the house—calling, “Are my little meow-meows hungry?”
  • When Howard, Paco, and Chub have Hap and Leonard at gunpoint, Howard says, “Boys, it looks like the shoe is on the other foot.” Hap replies, “Howard, I don’t even know what that means in this context.”

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