Sundance’s Hap and Leonard returns for a second season Wednesday and provides more reasons this series should not be flying under the radar.
James Purefoy and Michael Kenneth Williams (both top), as Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, had already established themselves as one of the most interesting buddy teams on television.
The second season, which will run for the same six episodes as the first, premieres at 10 p.m. ET. It’s based on Mucho Mojo, the second book in Joe R. Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard novels.
This time Leonard becomes a suspect in a murder he didn’t commit, and Hap sets out to help him find the real killer. The seriousness of that mission deters neither of them from delivering the stream of droll humor that helps sets Hap and Leonard apart from pretty much every other adventure drama on TV these days.
Alas, this season we do lose Hap’s ex-wife Trudy (Christina Hendricks), who appears only as a box of cremated ashes.
But we’re well-compensated by the emergence of Irma P. Hall (left) as MeMaw, the neighborhood sage who lives next door to Leonard and bakes a wicked pie. Brian Dennehy also comes onboard as Sheriff Valentine Otis along with Tiffany Mack as Florida, a lawyer who comes in handy considering the murder suspicion issue.
For those just joining the telecast – which is fine, by the way; you don’t need to have seen the first season to enjoy the second – Hap and Leonard is set in the late 1980s and is permeated with aftereffects of the Vietnam war.
Hap went to prison for refusing military induction. Leonard served, was decorated and returned with anger issues.
Since then they have both drifted from one job to another, making enough to barely support themselves with help from each other.
This season also revisits a first-season theme that’s not going away: the barriers that Leonard faces, despite being a decorated war hero, because he’s black and gay.
While people were more or less officially required by the late 1980s not to publicly regard this as a negative, neither Leonard nor Hap is fooled into thinking those aren’t factors in how he’s treated.
The murder problem arises when Leonard finds a skeleton in the crawl space under the floorboards of the house where he was raised by his Uncle Chester.
The victim has been dead for years, and so has Chester. Despite the fact Leonard told the police about his discovery, there is almost tangible suspicion among some of the cops that he must have a tendency toward degeneracy.
Purefoy and Williams handle it all like pros, from their easy camaraderie to social problems of the times to slapstick humor and a fascinating crew of nosy neighbors about whom Leonard and MeMaw exchange observations.
Hap and Leonard is also a case where six episodes feels just about right. There’s time to have fun, meet some people, tell a story and leave while everyone’s still enjoying the party.
As they should.