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'HAP AND LEONARD: Season 3 a racial divide

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Today we have a culture that struggles to grasp the concept of racism. We tend to make smaller matters larger than life. But real racism is alive and well to this day, and the latest season of “Hap and Leonard” from Sundance TV is quite the cautionary tale.

Surprisingly, Season 3 of “Hap and Leonard” (the final season from Sundance TV) defines what it means to live in a world of divide, segregation and basic human rights denied to someone of color. Certainly, other movies or shows take a stab at it, but not with the subtlety of a blunt instrument that embodies Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Two-Bear Mambo,” one of the many Hap and Leonard books the series is based on.

In a brief, but addicting, six episodes, we take a ride with Hap Collins (James Purefoy, “The Following,” “Solomon Kane”) and Leonard Pine (Michael Kenneth Williams, “The Wire,” “Boardwalk Empire”) as they search for Hap’s missing black girlfriend, Florida (Tiffany Mack), and end up in Grovetown, Texas. It is here where walking down a street while being black will not just garnish you dirty looks, but may risk your life as well.

If you are a fan of the show, you know Hap is a white heterosexual and Leonard is a black gay veteran. Both have known each other since childhood and consider each other brothers. These are not good traits to have in Grovetown.

Before even reaching their destination, Hap and Leonard come upon an elderly black couple selling food on a dirt road. When they tell the couple where they are heading, they reply, “Oh, they’ll love you” and wave them away with a rousing laugh. “Love” is not the word that comes to mind.

Upon entry to Grovetown, they are met with those dirty looks. The basic tropes are used to imply subtle racism, such as ordering food in a diner and being forced to order that food to go, or a “no vacancy” sign being suddenly lit up when you ask for a room. The basics are simple and evil enough, but the show doesn’t stop there.

Real racism is coming to find your car with slashed tires, an American flag thrust through the front windshield and the words “N----- go home” emblazoned in spray paint on the door. Real racism is being chased down the street by an angry mob on one side and hooded figures with burning crosses on the other. Real racism is getting hung by a noose from a bridge for doing the right thing.

These are just a few of the violent racist acts, which can still be found in the deep South, that both Hap and Leonard must endure. The latest season isn’t completely about racism, but it is the main theme and one that is not shied away from. Even the town sheriff (brilliantly played by Corbin Bernsen) pays a price for showing the slightest amount of justice for a man of different pigmentation.

There is much to like about this latest and last season. It is a story of myth, love and devotion as much as it is about hate, racism and death. The acting is on point, the writing is superb, and the content is sometimes appalling to watch. It’s not every day you hear someone refer to another person as “not human” while struggling to understand that person as anything other than an “animal.”

“Hap and Leonard: The Two Bear Mambo” is a hard look at a hard subject, and if you don’t walk away frustrated by the racial divide, you might have missed the point. Racism is at its most evil when violence is accepted as a way of life and those with a conscience look the other way. Don’t look the other way. Watch “Hap and Leonard” on Netflix, available now.

To reach Brian Fitz-Gerald email him at bfitz-gerald@rosebudmedia.com.

Hap (James Purefoy) and Florida (Tiffany Mack) share a moment in “Hap and Leonard.”{ } SUNDANCE FILM PHOTOS.
Pat Healy as Truman Brown.{ }SUNDANCE FILM PHOTOS.