Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 6: “No Mo’ Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 6: “No Mo’ Mojo”
Directed by Tim Southam
Written by Nick Damici & Jim Mickle

* For a recap & review of the penultimate episode, “Pie a la Mojo” – click here
Pic 1The finale of Season 2 opens, years ago, as a boy – little BB with the red shoes – is chased into the old church, past that familiar gate. Someone grabs him and smashes a rock into his head. The man removes the gate, takes the kid, then at the lake tosses him in tied to the thing. Others watch on, then they leave, disappearing into the mist. Are they spirits? Watching on as history is repeated and repeated?
I have a feeling we’re soon going to learn more in this last episode.
Pic 1AHap and Leonard (James Purefoy & Michael K. Williams) reminisce on religion’s “strong medicine” v. its “strong poison” in relation to Rev. Fitzgerald (Dohn Norwood), his insane murders. A devastating thing for their East Texas town to wallow in, as the church holds a ceremony for all the boys lost. Everybody’s there, from Sheriff Valentine Otis (Brian Dennehy) to Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack), Dt. Hanson (Cranston Johnson), and many more. The greasy, insincere Sheriff takes the pulpit, shelling out verbal sympathy for the families. Blah, blah, blah. And certainly our heroic pair get no thanks or recognition for their role in, essentially, solving the case on their own. Best of all, in this scene we get to watch Hap and Leonard do their BEST buddy comedy routine, with a lot of pitch perfect dialogue.
Hap: “I aint never been more proud to be an atheist than I am today
Leonard: “Amen to that
Stella and the other mothers who lost their boys do know the truth, that the eponymous duo are the ones who actually figured out what happened, giving them all closure.  Sadly, Hap still has one worry – that Hanson and Ms. Grange are getting together. Likewise, Leonard comes home to find Raoul, who’s tracked down Ivan’s (Olaniyan Thurmon) father; the kid is going home. And much as our man tries to pretend like he’s hard, Leonard is going to miss him; their bonding over Huck Finn and his adventures was sweet. Also, I’d love to see Raoul and Leonard get back together. They’re good.
AND POOR MEEMAW! I miss her. In her wake, Florida and others are left reeling with the news of the reverend, a man who pulled the wool over all their eyes. Left without Meemaw’s wisdom to get through it all.
Florida drops a bomb on Hap: “I always saw myself with a black man.” This is a gut punch. Whoa. Poor fella.
Hap’s got other things in mind, though. After seeing a curious number of angel figurines at Meemaw’s place while he and Florida pack everything up. Across the way, Leonard hears Chester speak to him from somewhere else, saying that the work isn’t done. Hap and Leonard now believe that BB was killed by someone other than the reverend. And I’m pretty sure we all know that someone was Sheriff Valentine Otis, who’s receiving a visit from Dt. Hanson about those red shoes and the very same line of questioning as our duo have on their minds.


Hap and Leonard get talking to Hanson’s partner Charlie Blank (Douglas M. Griffin). He’s reluctant to say much, after his trouble from shooting TJ. But they’re further on their journey now. Towards the truth. They’ve got their eye on the big bad sheriff. Only he’s got his eye on them, too. He’s much too craft. Then, at the diner, they notice the waitress Miriam has a chain: it reads BB.
The boys go see Miriam at home. They show her the BB chain, which shocks her. Such a sad thing to watch, especially when she’s been serving that old bastard every day at the diner. All that’s left is what Hap and Leonard will do, while they try to figure out how to handle Valentine, and when’s the best time for that. Not only is the history of BB with them, the history of the deaths of their fathers, covered up and forgotten is at their backs.
Leonard: “Things change, Hap. People dont.”
They lay what they know at Valentine’s feet. They want to know the truth, about everything. He acts nonchalant about the entire thing. A revelation comes: BB was Valentine’s son, he wears the same chain with the initials around his neck. The mystery thickens. “That boy was the most beautiful thing that ever happened to me,” he explains, and how he couldn’t claim the kid because of the “colour of his skin.” Then they reveal that Fitzgerald never killed BB, which disturbs him terribly.


And who killed him? Just as it’s revealed, we see Judge Beau Otis walk in. He’s visibly upset by the talk. We know now, it was the rightful son upset over the illegitimate child his father had with a black woman who killed the boy. WHOA! Holy fuck, did not see this coming. Great suspense and mystery in the writing led to this moment. The father knocks his son into an empty pool nearby, splitting his head open wide. A sort of strange, bittersweet moment as Hap and Leonard watch the man who killed their fathers die at the hands of his own.
In the meantime, Hap his dad’s old repair truck fixed up with the nice, fresh decal on the side for Bud Collins’ business. He and Leonard head out for a drive, where they bring the old gate back to the church and put it in place again. Full circle, as the two put it.
Leonard: “Yknow, in the end, its always me and you.”
Hap: “Just like the Lone Ranger and Tonto
Leonard: “Yeah, wellcmon Tonto.”
And as they leave the church, the spirits of those who died there, the boys, those taken by the KK, and sweet Meemaw, they appear again in their rightful places, able to move on from the darkness.

Pic 4CAn amazing Season 2! With a distressing, dark cap at the end where we see a tree with a noose in it, and in the yard a woman finishes putting KKK linens on the line. OH, baby. Give Joe Lansdale, Nick Damici, Jim Mickle & Co. the greenlight, SundanceTV! We need a Season 3. Pronto. With plenty of mojo.
Pic 4D

Advertisements

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 5: “Pie a la Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 5: “Pie a la Mojo”
Directed by Tim Southam
Written by Joe R. Lansdale

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Bad Mojo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “No Mo’ Mojo” – click here
Pic 1Hap and Leonard (James Purefoy/Michael K. Williams) have found the carnival at the end of the Idaho-like bus route. They see the ghost of Chester, we see them as boys. And the old man tells them, once and for all: “Finish this.”
Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack) is dealing with Detective Hanson (Cranston Johnson) and it isn’t all roses, either. At the same time, Hap and Leonard are staking out at Meemaw’s (Irma P. Hall) place where she looks after young Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon), who’s not entirely loving being shut in. Lord knows I love me some Meemaw! Ms. Hall is a treasure, and you can see her having fun playing the role. In other news, TJ (Kelvin Brown) helps our boys sneak out of the house under Sneed’s (Evan Gamble) nose.
TJ: “Nobody expects the retard
And now, Hap and Leonard get themselves labourer jobs with the carnival to go undercover, to try rooting out the killer of those boys. Is it all so simple? Well they run into an old friend, the flexible and fun Judy Punch (Bonnie Morgan); she’s too “old for the pole” nowadays, so, carnival it is!
Pic 1AOur titular heroes are on the constant lookout for any clues as to who killed the boys. Everything is suspicious, from behaviour to tattoos to look; anything could mean danger. Leonard drops a nice Ray Bradbury reference calling a tattooed carny serving food The Illustrated Man. They ask Judy if there are any noticeable candidates, and she suggests a few possibles giving them something to chew on. She also gets her hands on employee files for Hap, as well as hopes he’ll put a couple hands on her, too. Instead, he clings to responsibility. To do right by the missing, murdered boys that have piled up over the years. Somehow, despite her wonderful abilities, he refuses. Now that’s some strength, especially for ole Hap.
Judy: “I may not be as limber as I used to be, but I can still do more with six inches than a monkey can with a hundred feet of grapevine.”
Then there’s Leonard, searching the trailer of the tattooed guy. Turns out he’s a big bear of a man in the bedroom, ready to play. And those tattoos, they’re for sobriety. Poor Leonard barely makes it out alive, away from the sexual tyrannosaurus.
Back at Meemaw’s, Ivan is bored out of his mind. Can’t stand reading. Though she tries to show him the joy of it, that it helps you live a life inside the pages without having to always go out, letting you get into the trouble with Huck Finn without having to get into the trouble yourself. But the kid isn’t down for that.
Pic 2Hanson and his partner follow Florida to a garage, where she finds her own way inside. Where Hap and Leonard have been putting up their investigation links, the pictures of the boys, everything they’ve discovered so far. Leading the detectives right to it all. And y’know what they think immediately. Moreover, Sneed tracks them to the carnival, so an APB is out, as Ivan happens to stroll in. Another boy in danger.
In Judy’s trailer Hap and Leonard look over the employees, but the latter’s not sure they can take on an investigation of this size, just the two of them. Police are likely better equipped, yes; do they care as much? Doubt that. Regardless, the cops are already there, searching them out. As is Florida, trying to find them first. She finds Hap, and Leonard tries to get the Reverend Fitzgerald (Dohn Norwood) to get his group of kids out of there in case something bad goes down. After all, it’s the “third Saturday of every October” and tonight is that night.
This whole sequence is edited to perfection, taking us from Hap to Florida, to them together, to Leonard. Hap and Leonard writer Joe R. Lansdale’s (who wrote this episode) daughter is in this episode, too; we see her now and then. But this sequence is so well done, executed with expert directing and writing in combination.
Best part – Leonard saves Hap from arrest on the back of a horse! So Texas, so awesome.
Pic 3When they get out to the crypt, they find TJ there. With Ivan in the car. The big man says he’s “making angels” and that he put Ivan to sleep. Shit. A shotgun cocks in the background, then out comes the Reverend Fitzgerald. He and TJ were doing God’s work, supposedly. WHOA! I actually wondered if this was the case, the reverend that is – I didn’t see TJ coming – but dismissed it, and this surprised the hell out of me.
Rather than go down like that, Hap and Leonard get the jump on Fitzgerald. Then TJ joins in the fight. The boys break out into a brawl, as Leonard kicks the shit out of the (un)holy man with some of that military training. Before much else happens the cops arrive, to find the rev with a shotgun trained on the boys. Nothing more can be said before Fitzgerald turns the gun on himself and blows his face off. Poor TJ wanders out into things, as well. And Hanson’s partner fires on in him preemptively. Brutal stuff. At least Ivan’s not dead!
Now the corpses of those 13 boys in the crypt are uncovered, what Hap and Leonard had been finding out on their own is given credence instead of them getting blamed. Heroes who won’t get any credit, most likely.


Only thing is, someone has to tell Meemaw the truth. Hanson comes to do it, but Leonard offers. So it’ll be easier from someone she knows personally. Oh, just thinking of it breaks my heart. She takes it on herself, believing it her fault. She did all she could do for the boy, the rev turned him bad, manipulated him. “I thought if I just loved him hard enough…” she tries explaining to Leonard. Meemaw believes the devil followed her after that church was burned by the KKK all those years ago. Bless his heart, Leonard tries convincing her that’s not the case. And she does make a good point about the transformative power of love – Chester changed Leonard, Florida changed Hap.
Then we’re given another blow. Meemaw, as if done with life, gives up and dies right there in front of the pair. Like all of life’s unfairness toppling around us, in the background while they lament Judge Beaut Otis celebrates re-election. Nasty stuff.
Pic 5God damn you, Joe Lansdale! For making me cry tonight. Bastard (I actually love you, man). What an episode. Didn’t think the series could get any better, and then it tops my expectations. “No Mo’ Mojo” is next, the Season 2 finale. SundanceTV better give us another season or I’ll riot.

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 4: “Bad Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 4: “Bad Mojo”
Directed by Abe Sylvia
Written by Abe Sylvia & Ione Lloyd

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Holy Mojo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Pie a la Mojo” – click here
Pic 1A young Hap and Leonard are at the fair. Even back then Hap was in love with Florida, though worried he wasn’t good enough. And the pair loved one another, Hap and Leonard, even then. Unafraid to show their affection for each other. In the garage, present day, Hap (James Purefoy) wakes to find Sneed (Evan Gamble) and a few other cops there to arrest him. Now he’s in a cell across from Leonard (Michael K. Williams), in for the arson he committed. Hap’s in for kidnapping Judge Beau Otis, whom he recently discovered is epileptic; wonder if that’ll come into play again down the road, or if it had anything to do with his killing of their fathers. Hmm.
Pic 1ASheriff Valentine (Brian Dennehy) has a talk with Hap about whether he’s a “troublemaker.” He does not want any trouble with his brother; he is poised to be the new county judge. So it’s either leave things alone with Beau and go home, both he and Leonard, or else it’ll look grim. And no more digging around where neither of them belong. Some rough talk. In an interrogation, Leonard’s dealing with Dt. Hanson (Cranston Johnson) and his racist partner, neither of them being too friendly. As always, Mr. Pine won’t do the dance, not for a black cop or a white cop or anyone else that wants him to tell lies about himself.
Leonard: “And we aint no brothers. Slack or no slack.”
At least he’s out of jail, and Hap, too. Neither of them immediately see a way forward. It’s all over, so Hap heads out to work and Leonard goes to check on Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon). They did their best. That’s all they can do, right?
Florida (Tiffany Mack) has an awkward meeting with Hap at the diner after she didn’t show up for his and Leonard’s arrest. It wasn’t hooking up that made her stay away, it’s the fact they’re constantly in trouble and poking around in some dangerous business. What I love about this episode so far is that Hap seems to be having some strange daydreams, from hooking up with Florida to the Village People. Over with Meemaw (Irma P. Hall), Leonard and Ivan get closer. Then Leonard notices the picture of the church on her mantle, where the gate stood. A troubling thought. It was long ago, when Meemaw was a girl. She tried putting out the far the Klansmen set, burning her arms. Such a sad thing to see when she tells Leonard of what happened that day.


Dt. Hanson is looking at the child’s body in the morgue. His partner Charlie is worried that he’ll be caught “tampering” but it’s only the fact he knows there’s more afoot. Hanson pushes on, he’s starting to feel there is more than meets the eye. Suddenly, Sheriff Valentine arrives, as the detectives hide. The old man is there to visit the body. He has the shoes. Holy fuck. And with the detectives watching on unseen he puts the little red shoes right in the body bag, signing off forms for the medical examiner. Washing his hands of the situation, the body off for cremation. Or so he thinks. There is no way Hanson will let this sit on his conscience, at least not forever.
I love how, using the same line of dialogue, Hap and Leonard both figure out the gate is from a church. It’s just excellent writing, and they each deliver the line is such different yet similar ways that the respective scenes are perfect. Hap does a bit more investigating, trying to figure out if the church he’s located is the one where the gate stood years ago. During a charity boxing event at the church, he gets in on a boxing match and things get heated in front of Florida and the audience as Hap and the pastor throw fists. Ultimately the white boy goes down, not without a decent fight.
Meanwhile, Leonard’s tracking down information on the church. And he’s haunted by the ghost of his uncle Chester, as well as Illium Moon.


Leonard: “Goddamn peckerheads all think alike
Hap: “I thought it was great minds
Leonard: “In your case, peckerheads.”
The pair are getting closer and closer, finding their way to where Old Hope church used to stand. All that’s left are the bricks of the foundation, nothing much standing. Then they fall right through an old, broken floor. Through the basement they find coffins labelled with years. Inside, more children. Disturbing, to say the least. Now the boys have got themselves a handful; way more than that, two arm loads. They set themselves up an investigation, connecting dates, names of the missing boys. An elaborate puzzle they’ve got to put together, because it looks as if whoever’s been taking those boys and killing them isn’t done with whatever they’d planned.
Hanson and his partner are distraught over what they’ve seen. Although it’s the former who’s more interested in actually digging out the truth. Not just that they’re in the dark, struggling for clues. Hap and Leonard are further ahead in their investigation than the actual police force. A great testament to the lack of care put into missing black children; we think it’s bad today, it was even worse in the ’80s.


Hap and Leonard are trailed by the police on the latest leg of their adventure. They pop in to see Stella at the salon. She’s sly, as are the other ladies sitting around getting their hair done. Great moment as Stella tells the cops to find her missing son while they’re so concerned with tracking down the pair. Then the other mothers show up. Hap and Leonard are the only ones looking for the missing boys.
Love the sequence set to Johnny Cash’s “Wayfaring Stranger” as the pair ride a bus, all the young black boys and girls around them. What would otherwise be a beautiful sequence of all the smiling faces, the youthful innocence, is a tragic sight; seeing Hap especially look at them is like a gut punch, knowing any one of them could go missing and barely anyone would flinch as is the case with BB and the others. Haunting sequence, one of the best in the series as a whole.
Pic 4DArriving at a carnival, now knowing part of their map of the missing boys links to the busses and Idaho, Hap and Leonard have more to go on. BB’s little body has been cremated, but the shoes aren’t gone yet.
The next episode is “Pie a la Mojo” and it looks intense! Pumped to see what goes on next in this stellar adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s characters and novels.

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 3: “Holy Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 3: “Holy Mojo”
Directed by Abe Sylvia
Written by John Wirth

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Ticking Mojo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Bad Mojo” – click here
Pic 1Some little black boys and girls play near a graveyard, some hide and seek. Off in the distance are hooded Klansmen on their way towards the church. The children are rushed into a basement, as the white hoods march closer with gas and ropes fashioned into nooses. But one little girl doesn’t make it down, witnessing the burning of her church, the hanging of a groundskeeper. A brutal, vicious moment. She continues to count for hide and seek; better than watching.
Pic 1APresent day, we see Hap (James Purefoy) and Leonard (Michael K. Williams) on their way up to Moon’s cabin, talking about Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack). When they arrive, they find a van in the river with Moon inside, dead. Now the pair worry for what happens to Leonard. Hap wants to move the body, though his trusty buddy tells him: “Thats bad mojo.” The chemistry between Purefoy and Williams is so charming and undeniable, they’re perfect as Joe R. Lansdale’s eponymous characters. Instead of reporting anything to the police the boys sink the van further in the river, to keep on with their own investigation. They also stumble upon the steel gate to which the child under Chester’s house was tied; where the hands remain.
Florida goes to talk with Judge Beau Otis (John McConnell) about recusing himself from the Pine case. She uses the information about Hap and Leonard’s fathers against him, though he acts high and mighty, refusing to bend. She pulls a nice little power move before leaving, eating one of his fries.
At home, Hap goes over clues in the case, putting together all the evidence he can gather. Looking over maps, newspaper articles. Meanwhile, Leonard looks after Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon), cooking for him and trying to imbue the boy with a sense of personal responsibility. He then gets a visit from Detective Hanson (Cranston Johnson) with a warrant to search the place. Ivan takes off, tossing the secret box he holds onto Melton’s (Sedale Threatt Jr) roof. Hmm.


Florida wants the boys to talk to Moon, so Hap’s got to do some covering. Wonder if it’ll take long before the truth comes out. Time being, “dirty old man” Hap can’t keep his eyes off Ms. Grange. She has her hands full with the case, butting heads with Dt. Hanson over Officer Sneed (Evan Gamble) lurking around after assaulting Leonard. Worse than that Sneed spied Ivan tossing that box. Can’t imagine where that’ll lead; someplace nasty.
One good thing – Hap and Leonard find Ivan stowed away in the truck, and he says he knows where the gate came from, he can take them there. One bad thing? Hanson and Florida go to find Moon, and the detective comes across evidence suggesting he’s nowhere to be found. Uh oh.
That good thing, it ain’t so good when Hap and Leonard end up somewhere they shouldn’t be, and a group of neighbourhood women surround the boys. They want them to hand over Ivan. Afterwards, they go to see Stella (Shirlene King), the lady in charge. When they tell her about investigating the disappearance of all those boys, she’s got information that may help – the gate came from a church – and it’s possible her boy was one of the boys taken.
Leonard: “Aint no runninfrom your shadow
Judge Otis shows up at the gas station where Hap works. For a fill-up, and a talk about Leonard. A sassy talk, especially for a man who’s a judge and killed a couple people while driving drunk. For that, Hap cuts up some equipment under the guy’s hood and lets him go on.


Stopping at a store, Leonard comes back outside to find Ivan gone. And a cheap cigar left behind smoking. Sneed? I’d bet on it.
Broke down on the road, Judge Otis is met by Hap in the tow truck. He busts out one of the guy’s windows, then forces him into the woods. He tells the Judge a story about an old man and the dog he loved, a bad, sour dog. One day a kid was bitten by the dog, right in the chest, in the heart. Before Hap can bash the Judge’s head in, he nearly has a heart attack. He leaves the man in the woods to run off eventually.
At a diner, Sheriff Valentine Otis (Brian Dennehy), father of Beau, has a talk with Florida. About jobs, who’s doing them well, who isn’t, on top of what’s been going on in their little East Texas town. Looks like the Otis family are a gang of alcoholics, a running familial trait. Not only that, they love making threats. “Be careful,” Sheriff Valentine warns Florida before heading out.
And Leonard, he goes to see Sneed. Catches him in the bath. Just so happens Leonard brought a bit of salt, a radio; to get the conductivity going for when he tosses the thing in – except the unsuspecting officer doesn’t realise it’s a battery-powered radio. He also grabs a handful of Sneed’s balls, squeezing, looking for info about Ivan. Sneed gives up information about Melton, which is where he brought the boy. Leonard goes to Melton’s, finding Ivan shot up with drugs by the nasty dealer and his friends; he brings the kid to Meemaw (Irma P. Hall) then goes to clean up the neighbourhood.
Pic 4AFlorida goes to tell Hap he needs to lay off Judge Otis, or else Leonard’s ending up behind bars. She wants him to be honest, about everything. He reveals that Moon is dead, though she knew. And a bit of honesty goes a long way to getting the two together, which Hap was leaning for since he met Florida.
While they get down, Leonard gets busy. As in molotov cocktail busy, tossing some fire into Melton’s place and watching it burn. On the roof, the box burns, too; what was in it exactly? We’ll never know, likely. Something to incriminate Leonard, and luckily Ivan chose not to leave it at Chester’s for anyone to find.
What’s most interesting? Meemaw has a photo on her mantle. One of a church, and standing in front of it is the gate to which that child’s body was tied. This is the church we saw those Klansmen attack in the opening scene. BOOM!


What a stellar followup to the second episode. Just awesome adapted writing, the characters are so vivid and intriguing. Purefoy, Williams, Mack, everyone is doing a fine job with the performances. Can’t wait for “Bad Mojo” next week! What do you think the boys will get up to? And can Florida help Leonard avoid the slammer?

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 2: “Ticking Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 2: “Ticking Mojo”
Directed by Maurice Marable
Written by Abe Sylvia

* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, “Mucho Mojo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Holy Mojo” – click here
Pic 1Young Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon) wakes in the bed at Leonard’s (Michael K. Williams) place, a bit disoriented and rightfully scared. Then he runs into the old man from the van. He chases the boy, but Ivan gets the jump on him. The old man finds something hidden in a vent on the wall, like an old lunchbox.
Ivan escapes then waits in the weeds for a chance to run. Only he can’t once a bag is thrown over his head and he’s whisked off.
Pic 1ALeonard’s in jail, of course. Fingered in a lineup by Melton (Sedale Threatt Jr), who got pissed on last time by Mr. Pine. He meets with his attorney Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack) and Hap (James Purefoy). Things don’t look great. They’re okay, for now. Except he’s got to ride out the weekend in jail. The police are also flooded with lots of black women, looking for their missing children, wanting to know more about the investigation. Heartbreaking and tragic.
Florida and Hap try to rally the mothers, all of them knowing the police aren’t doing anything for the missing kids. So it’s another case of Hap being placed in a position to help; both the community and his best friend Leonard. However, the mothers all reveal that Chester Pine came to them in a suspicious way, every last one remembering his name. Very troubling. We discover Chester put Florida through law school. Huh! Then again, as she notes: “Thats what they do.” As in those who prey on children.
One of the officers interviews Leonard, along with a sac of oranges, a hammer, some books. Old torture techniques. In the meantime, Hap tries to get in to see his buddy with some Nilla wafers. He’s too drunk. And Leonard takes a hard beating before Detective Hanson (Cranston Johnson) stops the psychopath cop.
Pic 2At a black church Hap shows up to sit with Florida, stopping the congregation in their tracks. She refuses, so Meemaw lets him have a seat in her pew. Hilarious to see him clap with no rhythm next to all those happy, celebrating black worshippers. Reverend Fitzgerald (Dohn Norwood) preaches about the sheriff’s department not helping. And right then Sheriff Valentine (Brian Dennehy) strolls in to take the pulpit. He and Judge Beaut Otis stand up there together, Valentine talks about trying build bridges, blah, blah, blah. Nobody’s buying it; not the congregation, not Hap, either.
Meemaw (pointing to Hap): “You see that man standinthere? That is the only white man I like.”
Otis: “What about Jesus?”
Meemaw: “Jesus wasn’t white
In his cell, Leonard gets a visit from a creepy old man. Is he the man from the van? He does some voodoo stuff, sprinkling a line of salt in front of the cell. He hands over a book. One about cowboys, from Leonard’s childhood. Inside are hollowed out pages containing a chicken’s foot. Next day is court. No bail for Leonard and a trial in six weeks. Judge Otis is definitely one of the racists running things behind the scenes in East Texas.
The bombshell? Otis is the one who ran down Mr. Collins and Mr. Pine on that dark, rainy road. Holy fuck. Hap now has something he can hold over the judge’s head to get Leonard out on bail.


With Leonard out, Florida and Hap try to get him laying low. He isn’t happy. Worse still, he doesn’t like that they’re leaning towards Chester being involved in some shady shit. Either way the truth is coming out. Whether it’s a truth Leonard can handle dealing with is another story. But he packs up and gets ready. Meanwhile, Raoul is worried about Ivan. This leads Leonard to discovering his broken cowboy that’s been there since he was 9; the one Ivan smashed on the man’s head. This and the pennies on the windowsill, a chicken foot hanging from the ceiling, all leads them to a man named Elia Moon – the eerie old man, who also spends quite a deal of time near children.
Off go our two brave self-made detectives. They find a shack up in the woods, booby trapped, the entire place covered in dead animals and skins. They stumble onto the old man hiding in a closet. He’s been waiting. An odd duck, though seemingly harmless. He says Chester was actually trying to figure out the mystery of the missing boys before he died.
At the same time, it’s revealed Melton is the one holding Ivan. And he wants the boy to hide something at Chester’s house.


Over at home Leonard sees Ivan is back, acting like nothing’s wrong. Later, Raoul also reveals to Leonard he’s been seeing somebody. Upstairs, the kid a box Melton gave him: is there incriminating evidence inside? I’d bet on it.
Hap gives an alibi for Leonard in 1986. They were seeing a Howard Hawks double feature: The Big Sleep and Red River. Or y’know, that’s what he says. “Devotion” as Florida puts it.
Back at Elia’s place the old man is worried about “bad mojo” in the air, as all his hung up beer bottles start falling from their strings and smashing all over the ground. An omen? It sends Elia off in a rush. He sees a vision of a little black boy, covered in blood. Right before he drives into the river. Another blow to the case for Leonard.
Pic 5Just a perfect followup to the first episode in Season 2! SO MUCH MOJO.
Bring it on, baby. Give me more.

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 1: “Mucho Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 1: “Mucho Mojo”
Directed by Maurice Marable
Written by Nick Damici & Jim Mickle

* For a recap & review of the Season 1 finale, “Eskimos” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Ticking Mojo” – click here
Pic 1AThere’s a dark secret buried, one that Hap Collins (James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Michael K. Williams) will soon stumble upon. This season we open on someone disposing of a young person’s body, tying them, then dumping their corpse in a lake. Terrible things go on unseen. But it doesn’t take long for them to emerge for all to see.
Back again to the world of the ever fantastic Joe Lansdale!
Hap’s picked up the remains of Trudy; ash in a box. And while he loved her, that’s one less giant mess in his life. Everything for him is messy, from relationships to his piece of shit car door. He gets by for now working as a mechanic. In other news, Leonard’s at home getting a hard back massage from his boyfriend Raoul. He’s got problems with neighbours, too. Nothing that a cane can’t stop, or a bit of piss in the face. What I love about Leonard is he’s gay and black in the late ’80s, so there are bound to be more situations that arise from that, living in the South and all. A little later, he steps through a floorboard in his dead uncle’s old place: now he’s found the secrets long ago covered up, forgotten about.


Leonard: “The dead dont give a shit about what happen toemtheyre dead.”
The two friends go digging under Chester’s floorboards more, inspecting the skeleton they’ve found. It’s a child, a small one.  Same sneakers as the one dragged from the lake. Now Leonard wonders if his uncle knew, especially considering how long Chester lived there and how decomposed the body is currently. So, what next?
A kid runs off with Trudy’s ashes, sending Hap and Leonard on a chase. Then the box gets tossed into a garbage truck driving past. Instead of letting it get away, Leonard stops the truck to get Trudy back.
The boys alert the police to the body under Chester’s house, which marks the place as a crime scene. But you just know them two are gonna get up to something soon enough. The old lady across the street doesn’t believe Chester had anything to do with the body, though the police – Detective Hanson (Cranston Johnson) in particular – are investigating with suspicion. And someone in a van lurks around the neighbourhood. Very likely the one responsible for that body’s existence.
Leonard talks with Dt. Hanson at the precinct, as Hap talks with another detective. Some uncomfortable conversation comes up when Hanson says “you people” enjoy little kids; he means homosexuals. Nasty. Likewise, Hap faces scrutiny about his status as a conscientious objector during Vietnam, all the mess they got into with Trudy and the rest of her friends. After all that they discover there were no feet or hands or sneakers on the body. Was this the work of the man in the van? Hmm. Either way, a lawyer named Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack) arrives to help the boys in their predicament.
Florida: “Dont underestimate mecause Im beautiful, Mr. Collins.”
Pic 2I love watching Hap watch Leonard and Florida pass the hot sauce between each other, putting a load on their food. Such a perfect look, as he tries to get himself a taste and they just keep on shaking the bottle.
After food they start picking through the mystery in their neighbourhood. Meemaw across the street offers what little help she can. Hap and Leonard keep an eye on Chester’s place from hers, and they also have a heart to heart about Trudy. In the morning they meet Reverend Fitzgerald (Dohn Norwood), who does a bit of preaching, though neither Hap nor Leonard are too interested in religion. He talks about Sodom and Gomorrah, fittingly foolish with a proud gay man at the table.
When Leonard goes over to check on his house, he finds Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon), the kid who stole the ashes. He’s nearly dead from an overdose. Unable to locate the kid’s parents, Raoul convinces Leonard to take care of the boy for now in their place, to which he very reluctantly agrees.
One of the detectives goes to meet Hap at the garage where he works. He wants to know more about the sneakers they saw on the body. On top of that he’s suspicious of Leonard being a “darkie” and all. And you know are man doesn’t approve of that shit, so he dismisses the detective rather fast.
Pic 4Trying to dump Trudy’s ashes off a bridge, Hap drops the box in the river. Like the man he is he goes in after it diligently. Then he scatters them onto the water around him, soaking in Trudy, and strangely happy.
At home, Leonard puts Ivan to bed. When he takes the boys shoes off he sees his name written on them, similar to the BB on the red sneakers. Suspicious? Or nothing at all? Either way, right now Leonard’s being taken in by police. Great, now Hap’s going to have to get his ass in gear while his friend is locked up behind bars.
And outside the house sits the man in the van, watching. Who is he?


What a spectacular start to Season 2! Love, love, love this series. Lansdale’s writing, his characters, the atmosphere, it is all palpable in the adaptation by Damici and Mickle.

High-Rise to the Isolation of Socioeconomic Madness

High-Rise. 2016.Directed by Ben Wheatley. Screenplay by Amy Jump, based on the novel of the same name by J.G. Ballard.
Starring Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy, Keeley Hawes, Peter Ferdinando, Sienna Guillory, Reece Shearsmith, Enzo Cilenti, Augustus Prew, Dan Renton Skinner, Stacy Martin, & Tony Way. Recorded Picture Company/British Film Institute.
Rated 18A. 119 minutes.
Drama/Thriller

★★★★★
POSTER
Almost from the opening, High-Rise caught me as impressive. Part of that is because I find J.G. Ballard’s writing beyond thought provoking. The other is because Tom Hiddleston commands an audience’s attention similar to the old school Hollywood leading man. And finally, a large part is due to Ben Wheatley. Ever since I had the chance to see his debut feature Down Terrace there was something worth the attention in his directing. It only got better as he moved through an excellently varied catalogue of films including Kill List, my personal favourite of his SightseersA Field of England, as well as some other projects. While each film is vastly different from the other his style is one an auteur. In each of his works there’s an existential question, of some sort, whether that be about family, loyalty, love, work, and much more. Writer Amy Jump has written several of his features, alongside Wheatley. She is also a great writer with an uncanny ability to look into human nature honestly, whose talents are solo here in adapting Ballard. A job she does well.
Together in High-Rise, using Ballard as the foundation and source, Jump and Wheatley explore an earlier view of the future. Yet for all its madness this story is certainly a great analogy for the war of classes in society, at any point. Particularly, though, in a day and age where billionaires are profiting the most, paying the least for their transgressions, as the poor end up footing the societal and economic bill, this is a book and film that holds as much if not more weight than first when Ballard conceived it.
Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 3.34.31 PM
Dr. Laing: “The facial mask simply slips off the skull
Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 3.05.36 PM
It’s literally dog eat dog now. Or man eat dog. From the beginning, Wheatley shows us the resulting chaos. Similar to how Hitchcock spoke of showing his audience ‘the bomb underneath the table’, and then for the rest of the film letting people sweat it out wondering… when will it go off? So it’s a perfect place to start the journey. Now we’re left to watch as Dr. Laing (Hiddleston) and all the other inhabitants of the towering titular high-rise complex descend into the madness of their isolated, socially divided existence.
One of Ballard’s interests as a novelist lies in the convergence point between society and technology, between human psychology and technical advancements. In Crash, he examined a very physical space of body horror where the human body and the metal of cars meet in a disturbingly erotic nature. High-Rise examines a more psychological and moral space than anything physical. As everyone of all kinds is mashed together in the elaborate complex, which for all its space becomes more claustrophobic over the course of the film, the moral compass of its various residents and their respective concern for fellow people in different social classes begins to spiral. Downward. So in effect, Ballard’s main themes are that the higher we get in terms of technology, often the lower we get in social skills, but more importantly in social and moral empathy.
Laing is completely oblivious to his class privilege. He tells a cashier to keep the change, but she can only reply: “There isnt any.” Brief little bit of Jump’s excellent adaptation. A little later he’s completely humiliated at a fancy costume party where everyone’s dressed in centuries old party clothing. Then thrown out. A great juxtaposition of moments for Laing to experience.
Three big characters in High-Rise have significant names. Royal (Irons) – the main sitting at the top of the throne. Wilder (Evans) – the primitively violent man, arguably the first to fully succumb to the influence of the divided complex. Then there’s Dr. Laing himself, whose name is lifted from psychiatrist R.D. Laing, which connects with his concept of schizophrenia as a type of self-defense mechanism against certain social situations and events. They all play pivotal roles, as the isolation and almost blissfully ignorant nature of high-rise living (a microcosm of social structures) takes its toll in so many intensely brutal ways.
Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 3.28.27 PM
Wheatley often works with cinematographer Laurie Rose. In fact, if I’m not mistaken he’s essentially shot all his feature films. His eye for composition, alongside the directorial choices of Wheatley, always serve the best interest of the subject matter. Plus, he captures everything so rich and full that it jumps off the screen. No matter what type of things he’s shooting. From the bigger, more grand scale shots to the close, tight moments, Rose has a wonderfully classic sense of filmmaking. At times he and Wheatley go for experimental sequences, but mostly they craft a beautiful, old school-looking film that’s modern in theme. It’s a story that was written back 1975, likely started a little earlier, so Rose and Wheatley bring this interesting ’70s vibe to their atmosphere and look while exploring the modern themes in that space rather than update it completely to a contemporary setting.
You could easily see some filmmakers shooting this, as well as writing this, in a complete vision of future today. With the trio of Jump, Rose, and Wheatley, the J.G. Ballard adaptation they give us is the one which the author imagined, as a vision of the future in the 1970s. Everything, right down to the set design, is absolutely astonishing.
Then there’s Clint Mansell, whose work many recognize from his various collaborations with Darren Aronofsky among other scores he’s composed. He does fantastic things with a bunch of orchestral pieces, as well as the iconic electronic pieces he’s known for, too. The opening sequence is accompanied by some nicely fitting orchestra. Later, electronic scores pulse us towards the violent finale. Having Mansell a part of this team only makes the film more effective.
Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 3.29.36 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-28 at 3.32.53 PM
For me, this is a 5-star cinematic experience. Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump, Laurie Rose, as well as every one of the actors involved, particularly Tom Hiddleston and Luke Evans, each do a perfect job bringing this J.G. Ballard adaptation to the screen. Notably, this was previously deemed ‘unfilmable’ in Hollywood. So take that, big wigs. Wheatley continues an impressive career. He is a visionary director and every bit deserving of his status as an auteur filmmaker. Jump brings her wonderful writing to the table, and along with Rose’s keen eye they’re able to make Ballard palatable, exciting, and every bit as brutally engaging as his original novel. This is available as of this writing today on VOD. But I’ll also be heading out to see it on the big screen as soon as it shows up here. High-Rise is the type of film I’ve seen on VOD, I’ll see in theatre, then be damned sure I’ll buy up on Blu ray. Great cinema, great minds, great actors.

Hap and Leonard – Season 1, Episode 6: “Eskimos”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 6: “Eskimos”
Directed by Jim Mickle
Written by Jim Mickle

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “War” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, “Mucho Mojo” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.04.08 AM
The finale has arrived, and after Trudy (Christina Hendricks) abandoned Hap and Leonard (James Purefoy/Michael K. Williams), they were left with the vengeful Soldier (Jimmi Simpson) who still mourns his dead lover, Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh).
In the aftermath, Leonard’s place is covered in police tape, and Hap laments to the dog: “I miss him, too.”
Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.04.47 AM
We flash back to their precarious situation at the end of the previous episode. Outside, Jimmi is killing the dogs, taunting Hap and Leonard inside. The episode flashes to after it all again, as Hap starts to take down all the boards over the windows, trying to put everything back in its place. He’s sporting injuries from the shootout. Obviously, Hap is now safe from Soldier. But what exactly’s happened in the meantime?
At a literal and figurative crossroads, Trudy sits in the van. Over at the house Soldier keeps on taunting, especially about Trudy, mocking Hap for having trusted her too many times. The title of the episode, “Eskimos”, comes from a conversation about how Eskimos supposedly share women, so on. A nice anecdote. Then, from nowhere, Angel reappears. Not dead at all. In fact, she proceeds to kick the absolute shit out of Hap and Leonard. At least until the latter snaps her neck. Well now, Soldier’s really upset.


Hap: “Guns, huh? Who needs guns?” (Soldier shoots him in the arm)
Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.13.26 AMScreen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.14.27 AM
Amazingly enough, Trudy does come back. She drives right through the side of Leonard’s house, crashing into Soldier, saving the two pals. At least for the moment.
In an impressive scene, Hap holds a gun on Soldier but refuses to pull the trigger. He is thoroughly a non-violent man, only when pushed to the brink. And still, Trudy pulls the trigger herself. So there’s a juxtaposition between the two lovers, as Hap is tough but doesn’t always take the hard road out, whereas Trudy usually takes the hard road everywhere.
In the bloody moments following the showdown, Trudy reveals to Hap she drowned the bird in the sink. It reminded her of their relationship, her failures. She says “I love you“, only both Hap and Leonard are passed out in the backseat. Ah, their love is always complicated by something new. Meanwhile, Trudy passes out behind the wheel and they casually roll into a ditch coming to a full stop.


In hospital, Hap wakes to a vision of Trudy, who bids goodbye. She walks down the hall with the old Hap, the long haired hippy Hap, the one with too much optimism, before having to go to jail and figure out the harshest bits of lie. A sign that the old Hap is definitely dead. And Trudy, too.
Cut back to that rainy night when little Hap and his father stopped in the rain to help the black man and his boy. Here, we see the unifying moment between young Hap and young Leonard. That night their fathers were both killed, after a car crashed into them on the wet road.
Back to their present day, Leonard wakes up to Hap sitting by him at the hospital. They’d been out several days. The two of them ruminate on their relationship, Leonard talks of the war. However, things feel fractured, and it’s possible this has forever altered their relationship. Also, Hap ends up being questioned by FBI and local law enforcement. They want to know about the job Howard and Trudy enlisted him for, as well as Leonard, and all about the car in the river, so forth. Turns out Angel and Soldier were on the radar awhile. But as for Hap Collins, he’s in the clear currently.


Hap sets out to find the hidden goods himself. Mostly, he finds old sentimentality, and a little bit of dog shit. Leading him to a ton of money jammed into the dog food. Stacks of bills inside; lots chewed, some no worse for the wear.
What I love about this series is the emotional aspect. Joe R. Lansdale writes great crime fiction, but writes even better characters within that framework. He gets into Southern Gothic at times, even a bit of a take on the hardboiled detective genre. Above all else, he is a crafty writer whose characters, particularly those of Hap and Leonard, leap off the page. Here, they are adapted incredibly well, and especially Hap is a touching, complex character. Purefoy gives a wonderful performance, nuanced, and brings out the best in Hap. So watching him cobble together all the cash, for Leonard, for the Children’s Trust Fund, it is a real class act type sequence. Because we really recognize the goodness in Hap here, despite him getting wrapped up in ridiculous schemes such as the one Howard and Trudy had going.
More than that, we see another scene of young Hap, who witnesses the police covering up the drunk driving deaths, blaming it on young Leonard’s father being a “coon” and all. So not only is there a bond between the two boys, there’s further evidence as to why Hap became the man he is now. A beautiful and sad scene all at once.


Three months down the road. Hap’s back to working in the rose field, drinking Silver Spurs by the handful at night, smoking his pipe. Then up turns Leonard, healthy, if not a little banged up. He’s got to attend the funeral of his uncle. Regardless of the rift between them, Leonard cares for the man, seemingly always did. And good ole Hap accompanies his friend to the burial. Whatever had come between them before, the wildness of the things in which they got involved, it’s now lightening, but that’s always been clear – these two are friends for life, and even if something gets in their way briefly it would have to be a life altering event for them to completely split apart.
Hap remarks how life is not like Leave It to Beaver, there isn’t always closure and things don’t always cauterize at the end of an episode, to provide relief, so it all can start fresh next time. Ironically, this is the case. For the moment, anyways. Because after Hap turns out the light stating “No more drama for a while,” below Uncle Chester’s house, buried under the floorboards, is the skeleton of a small child. What sort of misadventure will this bring in Season 2? This opens the setup for Lansdale’s novel Mucho Mojo from the Hap and Leonard series, a dark bit of subject matter, too.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.47.43 AMScreen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.50.10 AM
Let’s root hard that SundanceTV does the right thing and gives this a renewal. Lansdale deserves it, as do Hap and Leonard because there’s so much more to explore with them – their relationship, their world and its landscape – and many stories to be told! A great, fun, and at times wild season.

Hap and Leonard – Season 1, Episode 5: “War”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 5: “War”
Directed by Jim Mickle
Teleplay by Nick Damici

* For a review of the previous episode, “Trudy” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “Eskimos” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.27.49 PM
The penultimate Season 1 episode of SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard starts out after the betrayal in the previous chapter, on the part of Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh) and Soldier (Jimmi Simpson) with the greasy Paco (Neil Sandilands).
But we step back in time, to when Hap Collins (James Purefoy) was a little boy, and the racism in Marvel Creek is alive and thriving. A minstrel show is put off, as people crack up laughing and enjoy it, far too much. We see little Hap and his father driving, when they notice a black man on the road with car troubles. Then the worst looks like it’s about to happen.
Cut back to the 1980s again. Angel and Soldier, with Paco alongside, have Hap, Leonard (Michael K. Williams), Trudy (Christina Hendricks) in tow. So what kind of madness will we see this time around? Surely Hap and Leonard aren’t going down without a fight.


Naturally, Trudy is disgusted by Paco, having been an intricate part of their team before. He’s a man of his own, though. Meanwhile, Leonard tells Hap: “If you see a chance, dont you hesitate.” For the time being, they go along to get along. They start digging up the money from their little treasure hunt. And poor Leonard’s the one designated to do the shoveling. Typical.
Except, down in the dirt there’s no money. Just an empty box. Turns out Trudy moved the cash somewhere else. Soldier takes her aside for a little heart to heart, though, she’s one tough cookie.
Love the dialogue. Not only does it keep in the spirit of Joe Lansdale, it’s just solid television writing, and keeps the scenes moving along at a nice, spirited pace. There’s wit, there’s profundity at times, others it can even be silly as hell. Dig it all around.
Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.35.24 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.41.18 PM
Soldier: “The biggest balls in this room are swinginfrom a cooch, I gotta love that.”
Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.41.28 PM
With only Trudy holding the whereabouts, things might get to looking ugly. Well, not until Soldier’s had himself a nice meal of french toast a la Angel. A set of handcuffs Leonard uses in bed end up chaining him and Hap down; nice little touch there, especially his mouthy response to Paco.
But the situation is starting to get scary. Soldier is a psychotic, as is his partner/lover in crime. The headstrong Trudy will not reveal where the money’s hidden, despite Hap trying to convince her otherwise. “Who are you, Joan of Arc?” sighs Soldier. This may lead her somewhere dark and disturbing. My favourite scene so far comes when Soldier throws on some VCMG, “Spock” to be exact, and starts dancing. Right before Angel reappears with a toolbox. Lots of interesting things to use. Nothing really works on Trudy, though. Even a semi-crucifixion. Until Howard suggests they put some pain on Hap, that’ll get her mouth jawing.


Soldier: “I figured you more of a Soul Man
Leonard: “Country got soul


Finally, Hap reveals he’s pretty sure where Trudy put the cash – he’d seen something on her shoes which gave her away. What’s most interesting in this scene is the bond, again, between Hap and Leonard. It’s stronger than the one between Hap and Trudy, even as lovers. Because Leonard stopped Howard from bashing Hap’s face in. Then when Leonard faced a bullet, Hap stopped it all. He could’ve really stopped things when Trudy got that nail in the hand. Yet he didn’t. He saved that card for Leonard.
Ole Howard bites the dust. I knew somebody had to. But the chaos goes on. Hap’s busy leading Soldier to the right spot. Can they slip themselves out of this mess?
At the dog pens, Hap goes in to try digging out the money. Then they throw a plan into action, as does Trudy, stabbing Paco through the eye after hauling her hand off the table and using the nail in self-defense. Everything goes wild. Hap and Leonard run off, though, the latter takes a bullet. Trudy manages to do Paco in. But Angel and Soldier are still lurking about, just as ready as ever to do more damage.


Hap and Leonard go back for Trudy, holing up in the house. Outside, Soldier removes an arrow from Angel’s neck, one Hap gave her. And so Soldier watches as she fades away, whispering sweet nothings to her; a tender relationship for two maniacs, all the same. Will this only serve to make Soldier more crazy?
Right now, Leonard’s bleeding out quick, and Hap decides running is their best option. Well, Hap plans on carrying Leonard, but still – high tailing it is their only shot.
The plan gets interrupted by Soldier. And then Trudy leaves, fast as she can. Alone. Another double cross in the books for this Southern femme fatale. How are Hap and Leonard about to squeeze out of this one?


The final Season 1 episode, “Eskimos”, comes out next week. Stay with me, folks. Loving this Lansdale adaptation to the fullest!

Hap and Leonard – Season 1, Episode 4: “Trudy”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 4: “Trudy”
Directed by Nick Gomez
Teleplay by Nick Damici & Jim Mickle

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Dive” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “War” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 2.13.05 PM
After the end of last episode, Hap Collins (James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Michael K. Williams) find themselves taken hostage by Howard (Bill Sage) and his gang. Of course, Trudy Fawst (Christina Hendricks) and lets it all happen.
We watch Trudy take it all in. Heavy. She thinks about years ago, life before. The bird in a cage comes from Trudy here, as she tries to let one out into the wild: “Its time to be a bird.” Instead this turns into us seeing a bit of a sadistic side to her come out. When the bird won’t fly away, Trudy opts to drown it instead. Yikes. The look in her eyes says so much.
Out in the living room, Hap and Leonard on their knees get an explanation about Howard needing to “appropriate” their share of the money because there wasn’t enough left after the moldy portion. A potent word from Trudy – “sacrifice” – referring to Leonard and Hap giving up their share for Howard, Trudy and the crew. When Hap knows all about sacrifice.
The greasy crew, including Chub (Jeff Pope) and Paco (Neil Sandilands), hold Hap and Leonard at gunpoint. Hap digs a hole for them to bury the money, considering the police presence nearby. Best is when Leonard stands tall against the barrage of weaponry pointed towards him, and refuses to fill the hole in with the money; shows how he does not let anyone walk over him.


Later, Hap and Leonard end up getting Chub to talk. He gives up the plan for them to buy cocaine. That’s their plan for “sustainable income” in order to do a “Robin Hood” scheme; “to beat the system,” preaches Howard. Lots of great dialogue here in this sequence, as Hap and Leonard both give the gang a talking to, as well as take the piss at the same time. They up duct taped on the porch, bitching at each other in their unique way. Again, as I’ve said plenty already, Purefoy and Williams do such a perfect job with the characters, they really give Joe R. Lansdale’s writing justice in the sense that they make these two friends seem so believable, so natural together. You wouldn’t know but they’d actually been friends for most of their lives. Further gives authenticity to the writing, as their relationship makes everything else flow so organically.
Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 2.20.54 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-18 at 2.22.57 PM
Leonard: “Nice girlfriend you got there. Got more faces than a diamond.”
Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 2.24.36 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-18 at 2.31.06 PM
We get a deep look in Trudy during this episode; as if you didn’t know already with the title. But there are a frequent glimpses behind the mask, both frightening and also human. In the series’ current timeline, Trudy wrestles with her actions, and flashes back to the last time she really worked Hap over. I mean, she isn’t a monster. She’s a human, she is a lover. But there’s a certain amount of con artist in her, too. And ruthlessness. Yet she does question Howard: “Is this who we are?”
Chub also reveals his softer nature. While Paco’s a stone cold bad ass, Chub regrets how things went down. Further fueling the fire, Leonard tells him they don’t respect him, and says he’s just a “walking talking porkchop” in their eyes, which makes me laugh but makes me pity Chub at the same time. He refuses to acknowledge the group doesn’t particularly cherish him.
I dig the flashbacks in the series to this point. They’re never overly long, though, this episode dives a bit deeper than any yet. Still, they’re filmed in a slightly different grain, they have a dreamy feel. In this episode particularly, Trudy narrates us through some of the flashback, giving us some expository stuff but in a nice snippet-like way. They really do come off as pieces of memories.


Hap and Trudy have it out a bit, as the former sits with Leonard asleep on his shoulder, both duct taped to one another still. Trudy is going for broke on this latest scheme, following Howard – “Even if it means this?” asks Hap. So who knows what’s next for the unshakeable duo.
In the morning, Leonard decides they should just get up and go, glider on their back and everything. So they do. While Chub sleeps, they manage to get up and start heading towards the wood. They argue and bitch and get a good ways before Paco’s there, right behind them. Good effort, fellas. More duct tape for them both.
Then everyone’s packed in the van. Trudy and Howard decided on their own to only give a “deposit” for their cocaine deal, which drives Paco wild. And who are they meeting exactly? Why it’s Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh), and the maniacal Soldier (Jimmi Simpson). Certainly not going to be any trouble, right?
Things start getting brutal once Soldier calls Leonard a “nigger“, over and over, and Chub does not like that. He gets mouthy, not making anybody happy. And then Paco blows his brains out. Soldier and Angel take control of things, and Howard is devastated. It was all a fuck over. Paco did them in dirty. I knew something had to happen either way. Problem is they never brought all that money, so y’know, now they’ve got to go get that so Soldier and Angel don’t splatter everyone’s brains around the room.


Soldier: “Shhhhh. I do like to hear myself as Im speaking.”


On the way in the van, Soldier gets crude, wondering who Trudy is with currently. He figures it’s whoever has the “biggest ankle spanker“, which he determines is Leonard. Of course it comes out he’s gay and more of Leonard being a straight up bad ass. All sorts of focus on Trudy, taking her down a few notches. Then there’s more of Soldier getting naughty, talking about Angel, their sexual relationship. Finally, Trudy defends herself a bit and says she won’t give Soldier “the satisfaction of being scared“, which makes things incredibly tense. Even worse when the cops are parked on the road where they’re all headed. “I love cops,” says Soldier with an odd look in his eyes.
Soldier does a good song and dance until Paco pulls his crossbow and pops a cop. This starts a massacre, as they finish off the other one, and Angel shoots a few more “essential” rounds into the already dead one. This horrifies everyone in the van, naturally. Hap and Leonard are along for a very dangerous ride.


Extremely excited for the next chapter, the penultimate “War” again directed by Jim Mickle. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans. It’s getting dark and dirty now.

Hap and Leonard – Season 1, Episode 2: “The Bottoms”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 2: “The Bottoms”
Directed by Jim Mickle
Teleplay by Nick Damici & Mickle

* For a review of the Season 1 premiere “Savage Season” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Dive” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 3.30.06 PM
After the fantastic premiere, Hap and Leonard continues with the second episode, “The Bottoms” – named after one of the Joe R. Lansdale novels.
A couple little black kids head out into the woods where someone was supposedly hung. One of the boys has a gun with him, but they end up getting creeped out and running off after finding a tree with a rope over it. Even worse, they stumble across the dead cop from the premiere’s finale – the one murdered by Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh) and Soldier (Jimmi Simpson).
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 3.30.22 PM
Poor Hap Collins (James Purefoy) wakes up, still next to the Marvel Creek sign. He’s clearly hungover, and dying to take a leak. Hilarious, brief scene where he starts pissing on a bit of roadkill, but moves over politely: “Sorry, buddy,” he tells the dead animal.
Back over at the shack where Howard (Bill Sage) and Trudy (Christina Hendricks), and the others, lay their heads. Except everyone else is already up, including Chub (Jeff Pope) and Paco (Neil Sandilands). So instead of getting themselves out of there quickly, Hap and Leonard (Michael K. Williams) are saddled with Chub and Paco at the request of Howard.
Then up shows Prescott Jones (Jay Potter) trying to convert a few lost souls over to the Lord. He “sells the Lords word“, apparently. But Paco comes out and drives the man off in as unfriendly a fashion as possible. I can’t help but wonder where and how Prescott will end up back in the mix. Can’t only be a one-off scene, seems too convenient.
With Paco and Chub along for the ride, off head Hap and Leonard. The four don’t get along perfectly, that’s for sure. I’m interested in Paco, what his backstory might be, especially considering the intro to Soldier at the end of the premiere episode. Paco and Leonard certainly come up against one another, while Hap smirks and goes along to get along. For now.
Later on, we get more on Hap’s character, as well as Paco. Those who know the stories already know Hap went to jail as a younger man for refusing to go to Vietnam, so there’s a whole other aspect to Hap (especially in his relationship to Leonard) we start seeing. Also, Paco was part of a group called The Mechanics; he was “a bombmaker who blew himself up“, so says Hap. And then a great scene where Chub gets stuck in a muddy pit, before the boys haul him out – Chub ends up losing his pants to the muck.


Cut to a diner where Trudy works. She serves some customers who would rather flirt. One of them knocks a drink over purposefully. At the next table, Soldier and Angel sit eating; he quickly picks up the drink for Trudy. They have an awkward encounter, too. Almost ominous. “She likes it bloody,” Soldier explains re: Angel’s meat preferences. Closer and closer come the villains to Hap and Leonard’s front door.
Back at the weird hippy ranch, Howard serves up tofu for everybody. Evidently he’s a vegetarian: “Didnt see that comin‘,” says Leonard with all possible sarcasm. Then there’s Howard, who we get more of – a hippy with big ideas, but no what to execute them himself. He sort of represents the worst of idealism. He has lots of plans in his head, lots of dreams. But he gets other people to do the dirty work, the hard labour. So with all his talk of being for the “have nots“, he uses Hap and Leonard like any other member of the upper class would the proletariat. They’re both expendable working hands to Howard. And Hap knows that, in his heart. He just wants money, to get out of the hole he’s in right now. Trudy says that Leonard sees the world “through dirty glasses“, but Hap replies: “Maybe the world is dirty.”


Trudy: “Maybe I should leave, so you two can put your dicks on the table, next to them toothpicks.”
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 3.50.50 PM
Now we see more of Uncle Chester (Henry G. Sanders) in his little house. He’s writing, listening to a vinyl record and eating a bowl of oats. But he quickly collapses from some sort of pain. All alone, on the floor.
Cut back to Hap and Leonard sleeping at Howard’s place. They chat a little before falling asleep. Turns out Leonard at least likes the man’s cooking, specifically those yummy string beans. One benefit of vegetarianism.
The next morning, Hap and Leonard let the air out of the hippy van then take off on their way to start tracking down the bridge on Sabine River. Smart cookies, those two. They go hacking and slashing with machetes through the thick brush, finding nothing other than swamp ahead. Out of nowhere, Hap stops and looks happily into the forest, noticing an old sign on a tree he remembers. They step a little further and the bridge appears. One problem: “Wheres the god damn river?” Leonard asks. It’s dried up, disappeared. The pair head to a bar, so they can lick their wounds. Leonard figures it’s probably a bullshit story out of prison, while Hap sulks. Their friendship is more and more evident all the time, just in the dialogue between these two. They know each other inside and out.
Added to that, in the background of the bar scene you can see Prescott Jones. What’s he up to? Sly dog.


Leonard has to head back into town after hearing about Chester. Trudy gives her condolences. Although, Leonard’s more concerned about Hap: “You just a ball he keeps chasininto the street,” he tells Trudy. She seems to believe Leonard needs Hap more than vice versa. She doesn’t realize they both need one another.
At the hospital, Leonard visits his uncle. It’s touching to see him love his family so much, even while Chester shits all over him for being gay. Moreover, we get a quick moment between Leonard and a male nurse, which almost speaks of romance; yet it’s hard to tell. There’s a flashback then to a young Leonard, watching a dead body get wheeled by under a sheet, while a younger Chester holds him close. His uncle, no matter how surly, obviously meant something to him.
Love the scene right after where Leonard boxes a bunch of tires hung like a bag, and you can see the frustration, the anger in him bleeding out. And the male nurse shows up out of the blue, bearing food. So they do have a relationship! They did, anyways. Apparently they’ve broken up, according to the records he returns to Leonard. Meanwhile, Hap and Trudy take a drive, their relationship coming up in conversation. Love how there’s equal attention paid to these relationships, even getting in a bit of lovemaking between Leonard and his former partner. Furthermore, Trudy explains to Hap about how the new river ended up out of the old one, and where the flooding may have landed the car with the money. Impressive stuff. “A little ambition goes a long way,” Trudy says to Hap: “You told me that once.” But husband Howard’s been left out – he sees the maps with moved pins, the absence of both Trudy and Hap from the shack, and wonders exactly what’s going on.


Will Hap and Trudy get to be together again? “Im just not interested in the downtrodden anymore,” Hap tells her: “Im one of them.” She wants someone like Howard, but more like Hap and Howard; she wants the ideals of Howard, with the strength, the execution, the power of Hap. Yet clearly, after being a bit of a hippy himself, Hap has discovered what living in the lower class is like. Probably what bonded him so closely to Leonard so many years, forming their concrete friendship.
Out in a boat together, looking for the location of the car in a different spot, a lake near Sabine Island, Trudy and Hap do locate a license plate for the car. They also nearly get swallowed up by gators, or crocodiles; not sure on the biology. Then, after getting onto the shore, the two former lovers come together. Again. It’s hard to deny, their chemistry. Obviously neither of them wants to let the other go, but so much comes between them. Not when sex is on the table, though. And sex on the beach (sort of)? I mean, they’re stuck on each other.


More excitement to come surely once the next episode “The Dive” airs. Stay tuned with me, as we navigate this excellent adaptation of Lansdale further.

Hap and Leonard – Season 1, Episode 1: “Savage Season”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 1
: “Savage Season”
Directed by Jim Mickle
Teleplay by Nick Damici & Mickle

* For a review of the following episode, “The Bottoms” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 12.48.16 PM
The premiere episode of Hap and Leonard begins with a great bit of action and some good ole CCR (“Up Around the Bend”). In 1968, we watch a car chase heading through Marvel Creek, Texas. Cops are hot on the trail of a couple men who’ve clearly pulled off a big heist. In the backseat, one of them bleeds out, money alongside for the ride. Only the driver does a Dukes of Hazard jump and puts the vehicle into a river. The gutshot man makes it out onto the shore, only to pass out and let fly a bunch of bills.
In Laborde, Texas – jump two decades to 1988 – Hap Collins (James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Michael K. Williams) work side by side on a rose farm. They end up fire at the end of the day because cheap Mexican labourers are a plenty. We get a look from Hap to Leonard, almost alerting us to their personalities immediately; Leonard proceeds to tear a bunch of roses up out of the ground. Hap is a little more calm while Leonard is the hotter head of the pair. But they’re incredibly close friends. They do a master-slave routine that might sound dumb put that way, however, it shows the close relationship between them evidently right off the start. Plus, Purefoy and Williams work so well together, their chemistry is what grabbed me quick in the opening to the episode.
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 12.48.24 PM
Leonard: “You can take a mans job, but you cant take his cookies.”
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 12.48.34 PM
The tension in their relationship starts once Trudy (Christina Hendricks) arrives. It’s obvious Leonard does not like her, he warns Hap – obviously Hap’s got a softer spot for Trudy than him. Leonard reminds Hap of an important thing to remember: “A stiff dick aint got no conscience.” But I love Hap, too. They’re both clever and likeable, albeit in their own ways. Hap is honest and straight up, as is Leonard, but they’ve each got their distinct sense of dialogue. Further than that, we get a quick read on Trudy, as well. She apparently criticized Leonard for enlisting and going to Vietnam: “If no one would fight, thered be no wars,” she says revealing her innocently ignorant perspective on life.
And no sooner that they end up in bed together does she admit to Hap: “I need your help.” So does she really have all those feelings she claims? Or is Trudy more trouble than we can imagine? Probably a reason Leonard can’t stand her. So Leonard calls Hap up later, even quipping – “Nice knowinya, brother.”
Love the racial aspect of the series, in the South. All those lingering feelings of the Civil War and other bits of history still float around; to this day. In fact, that’s why Lansdale is suited to be adapted now because it speaks to some of the issues America specifically is still tackling. Even better, Leonard also brings more to the table as a character than simply being black in the South.
When Trudy offers up a supposed plan to make $200,000, all of a sudden Hap seems intrigued. Good for the pocket, bad for the love life/psyche.


Leonard: “This Leonard you talkinto. Not some rose field nigger.”
Hap: “Except you are a rose field nigger. And so am I; a white one.”


Of course Hap brings the deal to Leonard.  We get more of their relationship here, which is excellently adapted from Lansdale. Their bond is strong, as Hap throws a few obviously joking racial jokes around, and you can tell they’re friends for life because Leonard only throws him a smile. Then he throws a jab, the two of them boxing together. Such a good scene. Then we have Trudy in the mix, which Leonard hates. She talks about her husband Howard (Bill Sage) in prison; he ended up in jail with the man from the beginning – Softboy McCall (Trace Cheramie) – who knew about the money at the bottom of the river. Well that guy met a rough death at the hands of a crazy fellow inmate, over a brownie in the cafeteria. Now, only Howard knows the location. And Trudy wants to cut Hap in because he supposedly knows the location of the bridge on Sabine River, having been no strange to that area when he was a kid.
A local cop comes down to see the boys. Leonard’s Uncle Chester (Henry G. Sanders) got into an altercation and threatened to jam a cane up the officer’s ass – “sideways” at that. But what we see here is the other angle to Leonard and his character. His uncle has no time for Leonard’s homosexuality, apparently: “Keep your faggot hands off me,” Chester barks at his nephew.
We further see Hap’s love for Leonard, as a friend. He quietly hauls Chester aside before they drop him off and explains: “Now I dont like dick anymore than you do, but he does. But thats his business. He dont need you ridinhim on it. So you do that in front of me again and Im gontake that cane, shove it up your ass, break it clean off. Understood?” I like that Hap doesn’t mince words and act like he’s making an excuse; Leonard is who he is, and that’s totally fine with him. As it ought to be.
More than that, Leonard shows us how fucking tough he is by knocking a big drug dealer on his ass. And I mean he really works this guy over, and quick, too. So don’t bring foolish stereotypes to this series (as anyone who’s read Lansdale already knows) – Leonard Pine is his own man. A great strong gay/black character.


Another thing I love is Hap not being a fan of guns. Between him and Leonard, they defy any pigeonhole you can try to put them in. They are not stereotypes of Southerners, yet at the same time they are very Southern. Which is a commendable aspect of these characters, obviously coming out of the original series of novels. Lansdale’s characters come out well with Mickle writing.
Another angle to the ever interesting Leonard is that he’s a Vietnam vet. Being gay and black, people might expect him to lean towards the counterculture trend that came out of the ’60s and ’70s. No, no. Not Leonard. He’s got no time for it. We figure this out once meeting Trudy’s husband Howard, as well as his buddies Chub (Jeff Pope) and the disfigured silent-type of fellow Paco (Neil Sandilands). Howard is a hugger, embracing Hap right off the bat, and trying to give Leonard one – though, he only succeeds on the former. A hilarious little scene here, which further shows us how determined Hap and Leonard are; they’ve got no time for Howard’s hippy dippy bullshit. While Howard has noble intentions, or at least acts like he does, they don’t exactly impress either of the pair. Especially not Leonard. Also, there is the fact Hap obviously loves Trudy, who bedded him while still having a husband – seeing Howard hold her hand almost drives him nuts. They’ve obviously got an open relationship. Hap isn’t into that sort of thing; he’s a lover, a real one.


Howard: “And wheres your piece of the American Pie, Leonard?”
Leonard: “Oh, I ate mine.”
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 1.19.56 PM
The finale of the episode is solid. Hap heads off to do a bit of emotional drinking. A suspicious blue car is at the gas station where Hap buys beer. He ends up at the sign just outside Marvel Creek, Texas. A flashback sees a young Hap with his father Bud (Ron Roggé), driving along in the truck. Bud makes a remark about a black man out in the rain, using the word “nigger” – we can see the learned behaviour here, which Hap obviously rejects as an adult. But it presses the issue of how that sort of thing is passed down by family members, in particular. At the same time, though, Bud ends up stopping to go help. Is there more to this story? Or is this showing us there was a good person underneath Bud Collins, even with his use of that horrible N-word? Either way, it tells us about who Hap’s become over the years in some ways.
At the very end of “Savage Season”, we’re introduced to Soldier (Jimmi Simpson). He’s the one sitting in the suspicious blue car at the station. A police officer goes to talk with him about a taillight, discovering Soldier’s possibly high, as well as the fact there’s a noise inside his trunk. An excellent first scene to introduce this character, plus that of the woman who slits the cop’s throat, Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh). They’re in Marvel Creek looking for Paco. Bloody and violent entry for these two, clearly poised as a big threat.


Amazing opening episode to this series. Exceeded my expectations.
The next episode is titled “The Bottoms” after one of the novels from Lansdale. Stay tuned with me, friends and fellow fans.