SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 3, Episode 5: “Mambo No. 5”
Directed by Michael Katleman
Written by Pam Veasey
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Senorita Mambo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 3 finale, “Monsoon Mambo” – click here
Hap (James Purefoy) and Leonard (Michael K. Williams) are getting some shuteye in Florida’s (Tiffany Mack) abandoned car. Until Hap starts seeing Florida, dressed all in white, asking him to follow her. Then he sees the Ku Klux Klan dragging Leonard away. The ground at his feet are frogs, sucking him under like quicksand. Lucky it’s all a dream.
In the morning, Belinda (Sydney Wease) shows up. Hap tries getting more information out of her about the lipstick case, however, the girl doesn’t talk to anybody anymore. So, Leonard gives it a shot by trying “charades” – at least that’s what Hap calls it, instead of sign language – and this prompts the girl to start helping.
On the walk, Hap and Leonard get to talking. Leonard talks about being in Vietnam and having to call in the “steel rain” (cluster bombing). He talks about being terrified, watching young men beside him die, but pushing through to try saving some of them. All in all, it relates to Florida’s situation: “dead or alive,” the lads are going to get her back home.
“White folk been killing black folk ’round here for years now. Not everything you think is your fault is your fault.”
Officer Sneed (Evan Gamble) lets Chief Cantuck (Corbin Bernsen) know he say our boys in Florida’s car headed back into town, so this sets them all off. Meanwhile, Hap and Leonard get back over to the motor inn. It’s right around the same time Dt. Hanson’s car turns up, towed from out of the ditch where he ended up. But no sign of the detective himself.
A little later, Hap tries to get in touch with Charlie Blank (Douglas M. Griffin) except they’re interrupted after Truman Brown (Pat Healy) and his white supremacist pals turn up. Things get nasty, too. Bacon (Louis Gossett Jr.) doesn’t shy away, either; he makes sure his Klan resistance is well known. Thus ensues a brawl between Hap and Leonard and the KKK boys. It’s satisfying to see Truman try going up against Leonard and getting the shit knocked out of him. Black power, baby!
Except everything gets worse after a bunch more of the Klan get there with weapons, circling our lads. All Hap and Leonard can do is try to make it out in one piece. They make it out, but barely in one piece. Afterwards, Hap dreams of Florida – it’s sad and poignant because he mentions how it’s 1989, and in “ten years” people won’t care about race, sexual orientation, class, et cetera. Oh, my. How wrong we’re proving ole Hap.
In an alleyway, Hap and Leonard are beaten mercilessly by the KKK, especially the latter simply for being black. Truman then decides he’ll cut off Leonard’s genitals, as Hap is made to watch it all. At that moment, Dt. Hanson and Bacon come around the corner – Hanson’s toting a shotgun. Conveniently Sneed gets there, as well. A Mexican standoff in Grovetown. Suddenly, Sneed turns his gun on Truman and tells him to leave.
“When you gonna realise you’re black by association?”
Seeing Hap heartbroken by the racism that’s brutalised his friend is bad, but watching Leonard experience the violence of whiteness is so much worse. Not to mention he’s a Vietnam veteran, who fought to protect other Americans, then he came home to racism, nearly dying from it. What really brought tears to my eyes is how deep a love and brotherhood Hap and Leonard feel for one another, as well as how that affects them. Hap was utterly helpless watching other white men about to do irreparable, tragic violence to Leonard. The pain in both their eyes looking at each other through it all was horrifying.
Officer Reynolds (Laura Allen) is a dirty racist. She intercepts the location of Hap and Leonard for Truman. This leaves our lads and their few friends in Grovetown a bunch of sitting ducks. Bacon’s doing a fine job taking care of Hap and Leonard. Yet neither he, nor Sneed, nor either of our lads know what’s headed for them.
In the meantime, a few interesting things. Hap’s beginning to finally, wholly resent all his activism in the ’60s, seeing as how it, ultimately, did nothing (not entirely true, but yeah). Either way his idealism is slipping a bit. Then there’s Bacon’s realism. He knew all the hippy shit wasn’t going to create lasting change. And Sneed – we discover his father killed a black man and went to prison where he later died. Still hoping Sneed finds redemption through it all somehow.
But again, more interruptions. The Klan’s back, and they’ve brought guns. Shots go off. Bacon takes a bullet, though not a fatal one. Cantuck gets there and sends Truman’s boys scattering, along with Charlie, too. Although it’s not entirely settled, at least Hap and Leonard are getting out of Grovetown alive. The Chief promises to find Florida, which you can take with a grain of salt.
It doesn’t matter what Cantuck plans on doing, anyway. After everyone leaves, Officer Reynolds puts a bullet through the Chief’s head.
There’s a genuine war ahead in the finale of Season 3. Hap and Leonard are preparing to face off against the KKK. This was a harrowing episode. Because we hadn’t yet seen the extent of Leonard’s injuries in previous scenes that take place later in the timeline, it was unsure for a moment exactly how bad he was going to get hurt. Every so often a scene comes along that doesn’t just make me cry, it sort of breaks me inside. For 2018, that’s the alleyway scene in this episode.
“Monsoon Mambo” finishes off Season 3 next week.