“You’re gonna need to bring your guns with ya.” – Hap Collins
That certainly escalated quickly.
After patiently setting up the world, characters, and plot in the first two episodes, Hap and Leonard slammed the gas pedal to the floor in the second half of tonight’s episode. But before getting to the semi-successful dive for the money and Howard’s inevitable double-cross, there were some character developments to pay off from last week’s episode.
So much for Leonard finding some kind of romantic happiness with Raoul. Their awkward morning after veered between squirm comedy and the ugly truth as each man realized why they had broken up in the first place. Leonard’s discomfort with Raoul’s more effeminate tendencies and Raoul’s disappointment at Leonard’s brutish behavior was all too believable as it built from remarks about place mats to how much hot sauce should be put on eggs to the (probably spot on) complaint that Leonard pushes people away if they get too close to him. Raoul even twists the knife an extra little bit by comparing Leonard’s difficulty with intimacy to the way Uncle Chester pushed his nephew away. Not surprisingly, their brief tryst ends with Raoul slamming a door and Leonard sneaking off to help Hap dive for the money, despite his belief that it is a fool’s errand. Anything, it seems, is a better option to Leonard than trying to talk out his issues with Raoul.
Hap and Trudy have their own morning after moment that is different, but no less awkward than Leonard’s. Waking up on the shore of the river after their close encounter with an alligator that chased them back into each other’s arms, Hap and Trudy find Howard, Paco, and Chub looking on in suspicion. For the first time, the unstated is stated as Howard and Chub wonder aloud if Hap is looking to find the money on his own and cut them out. On top of that suspicion is Howard’s jealousy over Trudy’s feelings for Hap. As Paco stares on menacingly and Howard glares down Hap, the tensions between the rest of the crew and Hap finally feel like they could lead to danger for him. Not surprisingly, this sudden tough guy posturing on the part of Howard and Paco comes when Leonard is not around.
Taking advantage of Leonard’s absence, Howard again tries to recruit Hap into his plan for how the money can be used for—as he puts it—“fighting for equality, fighting against the man, fighting against corruption.” Bill Sage is so good at supplying conviction to Howard, the character comes off at times as a glad-handing politician who actually believes every impossible promise he makes to gain a vote. This has given his scenes some unexpected deadpan comedy which might have reached its peak as he explains to Hap how he wants to use the money to create a corporation that will promote liberal causes. Howard’s plan is empty of specifics and sounds like it was formed during a stoner brainstorming session, but damned if he doesn’t sell it. He has suckered in Trudy and Chub—and possibly Paco.
While Hap does not seem to be falling for the pitch, his conscience begins to nag at him about his abandoned youthful idealism that Trudy has referred to on a consistent basis. While “The Dive” obviously refers to the actual dive for the money, it could just as easily refer to the constant diving into Hap’s past with Trudy via some flashback sequences that certainly clarify why Leonard is as hateful toward her as he is.
Flashbacks that are presented as memories, hallucinations, and dreams finally show why Hap refers to Fort Leavenworth as his “alma mater.” When he received his draft notice, instead of declaring himself a conscientious objector or moving to Canada or even going to Vietnam, Trudy encouraged Hap to refuse outright, going to prison to make a point. She even goes as far as promising to wait for him to get out. A promise she clearly did not keep. Despite her youth and Hap’s acceptance (albeit with reluctance) of the plan, it is a fairly unforgivable choice on her part.
I have been re-reading Savage Season as this season has gone along and the most striking change that Mickle and Damici have made from Lansdale’s text is the apparent alteration to Trudy. In the novel, Trudy is a straight-up manipulator. There is never any question that she is using Hap and is using her sexuality and his soft spot for her as his first love to control him. Part of this characterization can be attributed to the novel’s use of Hap as narrator, but part of it seems to be Lansdale reaching back to the hard-boiled femme fatales found in the pages of novels by James M. Cain and Jim Thompson. Between Hap’s broken-hearted point of view and the homage to an earlier style of storytelling that did not have to worry about political correctness, the character of Trudy works just fine as an antagonist and plot motivation for Hap.
But Mickle and Damici seemed to realize what worked fine on the printed page would prove troublesome in the series. A running subplot in the series has been the tug of war between Leonard and Trudy about the best way to “save” Hap. Trudy wants to reignite the idealism he once held in the ‘60s and Leonard wants to shield him from further harm caused by his devotion to Trudy and her deeply-held, but untenable liberal idealism. Trudy contributed to Hap’s near destruction in the past by encouraging him to go to prison for his beliefs, but experiencing prison and being left by Trudy, is what has led to his current cynicism. With the full knowledge of why he went prison and the role Trudy played in that decision all out on the table for the audience, now might be a good time to rethink what Trudy’s role is in the series.
Up to this point, she has been both starry-eyed idealist and a woman who has reluctantly been hardened by life’s realities. While the writing and Hendricks’ performance have given Trudy a much more sympathetic angle than she had in the novel, it is worth remembering that she sought out Hap out of necessity (as the one person who could possibly find the money) first. It was not until spending time with him again that she seemed to soften and remember what exactly she had with him during the good times. Even when she gets angry with him for what she sees as his cynical worldview, her frustrations seem to be aimed as much at herself for realizing her role in his disillusionment by leaving him when he was in prison at her urging.
In the novel, Trudy was in on the double-cross and that fit her character. It remains to be seen if the series version of Trudy knew what Howard, Chub, and Paco were up to. But it should be noted that when her accomplices end the episode holding Hap and Leonard at gun point, she is in the bathroom looking at herself in the mirror with what appears to be guilt and regret. Mickle and Damici may have softened Trudy’s harder edges from the novel, but I’m willing to put down money that the next episode will reveal her to have been in on Howard’s planned double-cross. Poor Hap.
It is worth noting that this is the first episode not written by Mickle and Damici and that it was directed by Nick Gomez. Along with writer E. L. Katz (a veteran indie horror screenwriter who made a splash with CHEAP THRILLS, his directorial debut from two years ago), Gomez maintains the tricky tone established in the first two episodes. I especially loved the beautiful/eerie scene that finds Hap hallucinating in the frigid river and seeing Cheep, his and Trudy’s canary from the old days, swimming about as a hybrid bird/fish. It was a goofy but effective way to show him losing his bearings and falling into the past in a dangerous situation.
Of the three episodes that have aired so far, The Dive was the strongest. While I still feel like some scenes toward the end were rushed, Gomez and Katz did a good job of capturing Hap’s inability to view the present without being haunted by the past. Unfortunately for him and Leonard, he failed to learn the proper lessons from the mistakes he made as a young man.
Hap and Leonard (Season one, episode three: The Dive)
(Airs on Sundance Channel, Wednesday nights at 10:00 pm EST)