Article by: Frank Memmesheimer
Fargo S2 E2 Before the Law
Mommy is doing daddy’s job again.
- The Kansas City crime cartel offers to buy out the Gerhardt family syndicate. Negotiator Joe Bulo (Brad Garrett, left) delivers the message and grants the family time to consider their response. Preparing for their likely refusal to sell out, he discusses contingency plans with enforcer Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine, right) and the accompanying muscle, the brothers Gale and Wayne Kitchen (Brad and Todd Mann, front).
- With crime boss Otto not in a lucid state after having suffered a stroke, his wife Floyd runs the business side of business ever so smoothly, as she appears to have been doing it for quite some time as her husband’s confidante. The seeming vacuum of power prompts the oldest son Dodd to claim the leading position for himself. Floyd expects Dodd to accept his current position while she leads the family empire through this time of crisis. She promises to hand him the reigns of his legacy, after having secured the family’s survival. Dodd opts against waiting and secretly begins forming alliances.
- As Rye does not appear at an important family business meeting, the Gerhardts set out to find him, as of yet being unaware of the circumstances of his disappearance.
- Typewriter salesman Skip Sprang (Mike Bradecich) gets a surprise visit by the Kansas City crew and gives up information on Rye’s plan to talk to Judge Mundt. He seems unaware of what happened at the Waffle Hut. (On a side note: why does everything this guy says smell like a part of a (not so) elaborate scheme?)
- Lou and Hank discuss the evidence in the case of the triple homicide. Lou’s wife Betsy (Hank’s daughter) is the pivotal point where all information converges as both men talk with the only visible woman in their lives more often than to each other.
- On the way to having lunch with his wife and daughter, Lou revisits the crime scene. The can of bug spray on the judge’s table attracts his attention. Betsy finds the murder weapon in the bushes outside the diner. A suspicious vehicle passes by slowly.
- Alerted by Lou, Hank improvises a roadblock and stops the suspicious vehicle, only to encounter the subtly intimidating Mike Milligan and the silent twin goons Wayne and Gale Kitchen (Todd and Bran Mann, or vice-verca?).
- Peggy tries to keep up appearances at work (a hair salon). Asked about her black eye (which Ed accidentally gave her in the aftermath of the deadly struggle with Rye), she offers contradicting stories.
- Salon owner Constance (Elizabeth Marvel), single, and on a journey to self-liberation would like to see Peggy join her cause. While giving Peggy a lift home, Constance breaches Peggy’s well-kept innocent façade and discovers her to be a thieving, lying, rule-breaking “bad girl.” Constance seems attracted by it. (Plus, the stare she gave Peggy’s bottom at the saloon lasted just a little too long.)
- Ed takes a day off from work to clean the car and make the evidence of Peggy’s hit-and-run and his ensuing manslaughter disappear. At night, he disposes of Rye’s body via the means of the meat grinder at the butcher shop.
- Unsuspecting Lou visits the butcher shop after hours and talks to his acquaintance Ed, all while the latter exerts himself to direct Lou’s attention and obstruct his view from spotting incriminating evidence of the reprehensible disposal next room.
This looks familiar…
- Hank stopping Mike Milligan and crew reminded me of season one’s Gus Grimley stopping Lorne Malvo. Both seemingly routine “licence and registration, please”-scenarios subtly turn to matters of life and death as they emit the intense atmosphere of the Sword of Damocles looming over the situation.
- Lou’s surprise visit to Ed in the most incriminating moment possible reminded me of season one’s unsuspecting policeman Vern, ringing at guilty Lester’s door just as the latter is trying to cover up the telltale signs of the wife he had just murdered moments before. The prospect of getting caught any second. The panic. The tension. Close to being unbearable.
Body Count: + 1 (too intensively interrogated by Dodd Gerhardt), totaling 5.
What’s It Really About?
- Dreams of a lifetime, colliding with each other and clashing with reality. Just as Peggy’s and Ed’s hopes and dreams increasingly diverge, the hit-and-run confronts them with a new reality that might endanger it all. Loyalty will be up for negotiation when destinies are about to be chosen.
- Fathers and their daughters. And lifelong relationships: Hank and Betsy, Lou and Molly.
- Men. Their war stories. Not knowing how and when to talk about them.
- Women. Tough, yet underestimated in an all-male world. Floyd Gerhardt has been long running the family business in spite of prevalent repudiation: “She’s tough but, you know, a girl. […] A woman can’t be boss.” Betsy, though weakened by chemotherapy, keeps the Solversons together and advances the police investigation. Lou admits: “Mommy is doing daddy’s job again.”
- Families. Sheltered, yet fragile (the Solversons); hopefull, yet doomed (the Blumquists), usurping and protective of their own, yet inwardly divided (the Gerhardts).
The Tell-Tale Moment
The camera captures this moment – no longer than the blink of an eye, really – that might carry great significance. It hints at the possibility that not all things are as clear-cut as they seem. Nor is every person whom we deem them to be, by the look of things. Let me elaborate. The two serious Gerhardt brothers Dodd and Bear could not be more different. Dodd is the oldest and heir to the throne. He is fast to talk and act; protective of the family empire. He is easily offended though, impulsive, over-the-top, rash in his decision-making. Stylish, as he pays close attention to his outward appearance. He wants it all, and he wants it now. He’s the incarnate strong appearance of a promising successor. In contrast, his brother Bear offers a crude sight: wearing his working clothes most of time, he is uncombed and unshaven. Where there is food, he is not far. Always busy with handy work, getting his hands dirty on the family ranch. In no way does he appear to be management material. The impression, however, is most misleading. He is a good listener: considerate, evaluating, even diplomatic at times, yet not to be mistaken for being soft. He is a thinker, able to ascertain the scope of decisions beyond their immediate repercussions. He is a strategist, the one brother slow to anger, a diligent worker. He is in for the long run.
Mike Milligan’s foretelling observation gives food for thought and speculation: “You know how lobsters have a pincher claw and crusher claw?” But which brother is which? That, indeed, is the question.
Now to this moment. Floyd sends her grandson to fetch Dodd and Bear from their respective daily labor. We find Dodd, along with his right-hand man Hanzee, who does all of Dodd’s actual/dirty work for him, in the barn, where he is boasting verbosely about family history to a guy, whose ears he had Hanzee cut off earlier. The unlucky, tortured debtor actually dies without either of them noticing it. Bear, however, we find outside, doing his own handy work, tending to the daily chores of the farm, keeping the world turning, urging his offspring to do so as well. We find him outside, at the grindstone, grinding his axe for things to come.
3,75 / 5 Stars
* * * *
Fargo S2 E3 The Myth of Sysiphus
High Noon all day long.
- Interim leader Floyd Gerhardt calls for a meeting with her associates where promises, made generations ago, are consolidated. The alliance agrees to side with Floyd against the attractive offer of the Kansas City mafia to purchase the trucking operation. Dodd, however, tries to take the reins of the session and demands full-on war against the Kansas City mafia. “I say we hit ‘em and hit ‘em hard, or otherwise wither and die.” Floyd appeals to reason: “We’re a peace-time family. We’re small-time. We won’t make the first move.”
- Bear decides for his resisting son Charlie Gerhardt (Allan Dobrescu) to leave the ranch until things with Kansas City cool down. Dodd does not seem to take precautions regarding his four daughters.
- Lou’s fact-finding trip to Fargo turns out to be a venture right into the center of the mysterious circumstances obscuring his investigation. He connects with his investigative counterpart Ben Schmidt (Keir O’Donnell) Fargo PD, is alerted by the suspicious behavior of a very squirrely Skip Sprang, visits the Gerhardt farm where law enforcement seems suspended, and finds himself at gunpoint with Mike Milligan and the Kitchen brothers. Enemies are made, as Lou and Dodd exchange a long, intensive stare. Those two will meet again, for sure. An informative trip that produces many pieces to a puzzle of a scope yet unknown.
- While distributing wanted posters for Rye Gerhardt, Hank meets Betsy at the hair salon, where she offers a theory involving the skid marks, the shoe in the tree, and the glass on the ground. She is the first to suggest the idea of a hit-and-run, with Peggy standing mere steps away and listening in horror. Ultimately, Hank dismisses the idea. “It’s not like you’re going to drive home with a Gerhardt in your windshield and start supper.” Oh, Hank, if only you knew… On the other hand, saying it aloud does sound utterly implausible.
- Utterly scared, Peggy fetches Ed and both go out for a drive, intentionally crashing the car against a tree to have a plausibly story at the ready if ever questioned about their broken windshield. “Once the car is fixed, we’re free,” Peggy hopes.
- With Rye still missing, Dodd sends out his right-hand man Hanzee Dent (Zahn McClarnon) to find him. Dodd’s daughter Simone (Rachel Keller) leads Hanzee eventually to Rye’s hideout in Fargo, where suddenly Skip Sprang appears, frantically looking for Rye on his part, after Mike Milligan and the Kitchen brothers had paid him a visit during their search for Rye. At the end of the day, Hanzee and Dodd question Skip about Rye’s whereabouts before smothering his unresisting existence in a hole in the ground.
The UFO conspiracy
Want it or not, this episode delivers three more clues for a possible alien involvement. When Lou surprises the twin goons inside the typewriter store, the one wearing the red jacket and black shirt combo holds a magazine titled “UFO” in hands. Just before Lou arrives at a gas station, the caller to a radio station speaks of little green men. Waiting for his turn at mentioned gas station, a strange contemporary speaks of visitors from above and unnatural patterned landscape. So much for my hoped-for natural explanation.
This episode, too, tauntingly parades foretelling moments right in the sight of its audience. There’s this moment, when Ed and Peggy hastily walk the streets towards home, when they come across a wanted poster of Rye Gerhardt, whom they know to be dead by their hands. After their initial shock, both show a very different reaction – a reaction that, as I believe, mirrors their basic moral structure (what’s left of it) and inadvertently points to their future response. Ed is in shock, not only at the thought of being caught for what he did but at the realization of his actions. He murdered a person. He is responsible for another person’s death. The daunting realization lets him remain in shock in front of the poster. Meanwhile, Peggy, after a few hasty moments of discomfort, quickly glances at Ed before she turns and moves on and out of the frame of the screen. This is significant in two ways: Ed only went through with the disposal of the evidence in order to save his wife. He’s in love with her, he is loyal. To this point, Peggy’s affection for her husband, however, is only administered in small doses. There is a distant, calculating side to her that could muster the “strength” to leave Ed hanging, maybe even pin the murder on him and start over someplace warm. In yet the strongest scene of the entire season we see Ed and Peggy riding home on the bus after their successful car crash. And although we hear them talking (reassurances uttered at an earlier or later point in time), there is silence between them, as we see them. There is nothing left to say between those two. The scene communicates: there’s no us anymore, there’s no we. It’s every man/woman for him/herself now. Only they don’t know it yet.
I’ve spotted yet another tell-tale shot. In a conversation with Lou, Ben Schmidt, compares Otto Gerhardt, head of the Gerhardt crime family, with Adolf Hitler in terms of both being worse than everything that came before them. Only minutes later, we see six-year old Molly, watching TV at home. What is she watching, you ask? “Operation Eagle’s Nest,” a fictional movie about conquering Hitler’s hideout on the Obersalzberg in Austria. Now, how is that significant? It might be so in two ways. First, it could be a pointer, indicating that her father’s investigation of the triple homicide will lead him far beyond enemy lines right into the enemies’ stronghold, where unknown dangers await. On a second thought, it might hint at the opposite. Molly is at home, safely and soundly, as the violence of the world breaks into the living room. Is the violence that comes with Lou’s dangerous investigation about to break into the safety of the Solversons’ home? ‘fraid it is.
Body Count: +1 Skip Sprang (out of his depth and at odds with the Gerhardts), totaling 6.
4,5 / 5 Stars