Hap and Leonard: Mucho Mojo – The Boy in the Red Sneakers!

Michael K Williams as Leonard Pine , James Purefoy as Hap Collins – Hap and Leonard: Season 2 – Photo Credit: James Minchin/SundanceTV

The final scene of Hap and Leonard: Season One was of a body beneath the floorboards of the house that Leonard inherited from his mean old Uncle Chester.

That body turns up the premiere of season two – dubbed Hap and Leonard: Mucho Mojo (SundanceTV, Wednesdays, 10/9C) – and, along with a small brown box, provides a lot of trouble for the titular best friends.

The second season premiere, also entitled Mucho Mojo, opens with a mysterious figure anchoring the body of a boy in red sneakers, wearing what look like dogtags marked BB, to a wrought iron gate and dumping him in the river, and then progresses to a fisherman pulling the body out of the water.

In the show’s present (1988), Hap (James Purefoy) picks up a box marked ‘Trudy Fawst; Date of Cremation: May 21, 1988’ and heads home.

Michael K Williams as Leonard Pine – Hap and Leonard: Season 2 – Photo Credit: James Minchin/SundanceTV

Meanwhile, Leonard (Michael Kenneth Williams) takes action against a punk who’s been watering his roses with piss. When he stomps inside, his foot goes through the floorboards and he discovers the body. Shortly thereafter, Hap arrives and they crawl into the crawlspace and take a closer look – it’s a boy in red sneakers!

There’s a diversion while an albino kid steals the box, but Hap and Leonard tell the police – who are less than thrilled. Especially since when they look at the body, the red sneakers are missing – along with boy’s hands and feet.

Aside from one punch – and the discovery of the body – there’s not a lot of action in the episode. This is not that kind of show.

Adapted by Nick Damici and Jim Mickle for television, this is a series that – while it will undoubtedly have its share of violence – is about its characters and the world they live in.

Douglas M. Griffin as Det. Charlie Blank, Brian Dennehy as Valentine Otis – Hap and Leonard: Season2 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/SundanceTV

The punks next door to Leonard aside, this is a town where the black community is tightly knit and racism and homophobia are more casual than casual – when Leonard is questioned by a black Detective Hanson (Cranston Johnson) – whom we met in season one, Hanson makes the assumption that gays are also pedophiles. When he asks, ‘You people like little boys, too, don’t you?’ Leonard shuts him down hard and fast with, ‘I though you was my people. And I like little boys about as much as you like little girls.’

Mucho Mojo is, essentially, the first chapter of a novel, introducing the new characters and reacquainting us with the returning ones – while setting the tone and shape of what’s to come.

Who, for example, is driving the van that appears to following Hap and Leonard? Chances are that it’s the same person who dumped poor BB in the river – and is he the same person that put the boy’s body under Uncle Chester’s – now Leonard’s – floorboards?

Was Chester involved? Did someone have a beef with him? He might have been a mean old man, but he did take in Leonard when his parents died.

Tiffany Mack as Florida Grange – Hap and Leonard _ Season 2 – Photo Credit: James Minchin/SundanceTV

Another key player must be Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack), who becomes the duo’s lawyer – springing them from what might otherwise have been a different kind of interrogation.

Then there’s Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon), the albino kid, who seems likely to be around for a while. He might have taken Trudy’s ashes as a joke, but his second appearance in the premiere is no laughing matter.

We also become reacquainted with Meemaw (Irma P. Hall), the neighborhoods de facto grandmother and meet her grandsons, TJ (Kelvin Brown) and Reverend Fitzgerald (Dohn Norwood) – who engages Leonard in philosophical discussion on the status of gays in the Bible.

Director Maurice Marable maintains the deliberate pacing and carefully structured storytelling that made the show SundanceTV’s highest rated original series. He makes the most of medium close-ups and two-shots (the sequence in the funeral home features one that is one of the ep’s funniest bits – playing against the gravity of Hap’s errand) and lets things develop within a steady frame much of the time.

The result is the television equivalent of quicksand – if you’re not careful, it’ll suck you in.

Final Grade: A+

Updated: March 14, 2017 — 9:45 pm