Article by: Frank Memmesheimer
Fargo S2 E4 Fear and Trembling
Down into the black echo.
- Flashback to 1951: Otto Gerhardt takes a much younger Dodd (maybe ten or eleven years of age) to a meeting with a business associate/competitor that turns sour. Mere moments before his own execution, Otto answers his rival’s circumstantial remark “Too bad you brought your kid” with the weighty words: “Boy has gotta learn how men are.” Dodd turns out to be an integral part of the plan to kill his father’s enemy and his goons present; a most violent act which father and son carry out in unison.
- Back to 1979, where Dodd takes Charlie, his brother Bear’s son for a drive. Still somewhat disappointed by his father’s decision to send him off to receive a proper education and be safe from possible violent fallout, Charlie is eager to impress his uncle Dodd with his gun proficiency, despite his malformed right arm. Dodd sees his nephew is longing for recognition as a tough guy and takes him to a bakery, where they rough up two of Joe Bulo’s henchmen. With four daughters and no son of his own, this is as close to his own “Boy has gotta learn how men are” moment as Dodd is ever going to get.
- Lou and Betsy consult a new cancer specialist. Their faint hope of having caught the cancer in time is disappointed, as the already administered course of chemotherapy is declared unsuccessful. Betsy agrees to take part in a trial for the promising new cancer treatment called Xanadu, giving her a 50% change of receiving the actual drug instead of the placebo, prescribed to the study’s unaware control group. At the end of the day, Lou begins to realize he might end up losing his wife to the disease.
- Ed and Peggy reinvigorate the romantic part of their marriage. While Ed is at peace with himself, building dream castles (buying the butchery, having a fall baby, increasing their living space), he is gradually blind to his wife’s discomfort. The growing disconnect is rooted deeper than meets the eye. Peggy is on birth control pills; a fact that Ed is completely unaware of – obviously so, as he openly plans their offspring. Peggy takes it solely upon herself to make a decision that one could argue should be their common decisions, or at the very least subject of joint discussion. Which makes one wonder what else remains unspoken of between the married couple. How future decision will be made. And, above all, by whom.
- Hanzee investigates the crime scene at the Waffle Hut, finding skid marks and a broken piece of glass from a car’s headlights. He discovers Peggy’s car in a body shop, matches the glass, finds dried blood on the passenger seat and retrieves her address from the glove box. He threatens the shop’s owner Sonny and only leaves after Carl appears and reveals his concealed carry. After gaining access to the Blumquist’s home, Hanzee discovers the refrigerator, the recently bleached floor, a burnt belt buckle in the fireplace. He actually found Rye’s killers, yet has to leave the premises as Lou arrives arrives at the house to wait for and talk to the couple.
- Simone Gerhardt finds her way to Mike Milligan’s bed chamber where they share intimacy and her insights about the Gerhardt family’s upcoming decisions. Simone seeks freedom from the life she is living, love, fun, great dreams, and, not least, cocaine, which Mike is more than happy to provide her with in exchange for information.
- Utilizing his newly gained source, Mike and the Kitchen brothers ambush a small party of armed guards taking Otto Gerhardt to see a doctor. Killing his company, the Kansas City heavy hitters leave the outwardly unable to move but inwardly fretting and fuming former crime authority sitting in a parking lot.
- Unaware of these proceedings, the Gerhardt crime family meets with the Kansas City mafia for the proposed sit-down. Floyd Gerhardt rejects Kansas’ offer of acquiring her operation, proposing a counter-offer: partnership, not sale. Joe Bulo breaks it all down to a simple questions: “If we make this deal, can you guarantee your boys will abide?” In a matter of seconds, we see how things are beneath carefully maintained facades. Dodd’s provocation undermines his mother’s authority, increases the dissent between the brothers and jeopardizes the entire deal. Consequently, the backers in Kansas City reject the counter-proposal, lower their initial offer and expect unconditional surrender on the following morning. “Otherwise we’ll wipe every last Gerhardt off the face of the earth.” There is only one way this thing can go now.
- Ed’s plans for buying the butchery hang in the balance as his check for the down payment bounces. Peggy books her self-discovery seminar, which leaves the account with insufficient funds just when a new potential buyer for the shop appears and Ed is forced to come up with the money in a matter of days. During their street side discussion, Ed and Beggy are openly confronted with their problem of marital communication.
- Sonny and Carl call Hank and Lou to report their run-in with Hanzee. Peggy’s car sparks Lou’s interest. “Front end damage like the kind you get running down a gunman who just shot up three people at the Waffle Hut?” Huh. Thereupon, Lou pays Ed and Peggy a visit to uncover the truth. He confronts both with what he knows: the hit-and-run, the cover-up. While the couple insists on their “accident on an icy patch” pitch, Lou ignores their tissue of blatant lies and offers a change to tell all and get help – “but if I am right that window is closing and you may already be dead. […] You still think it’s Tuesday. You have no idea what’s coming.” Just as Ed is about to crack and put the truth out there, Peggy intervenes and makes the decision for both of them to stick to “nothing bad happened.” Ed reluctantly follows her lead. Her decision. Again. Who will get to feel the effect of it?
Brothers at Odds
To our surprise we learn Dodd may be the oldest brother (alive) but he is not the first-born Gerhardt son. He is the prospective successor only because his brother Elron, first heir to the throne, was killed in Korea. Dodd’s matter-of-fact claim to power is not as granted as it would appear. His tough-guy attitude is the attitude of the second-born, the one rebelling against the older brother during his formative years, the one having set his eyes on something unreachable. Bear, original number three in line of succession, is the brother aware of and content with his position in second row. His idea of manhood constitutes a proper male role model for his son differs significantly from his brother’s. For sure, Bear will not agree with his brother Dodd’s interference regarding Charlie. The two brothers will clash, on this issue or in regard to the direction Dodd is taking the family. One or the other, but clash they will.
UFOs? Calm down and follow the evidence.
All we know about the UFOs so far does not exceed the level of speculation, add a few esoterically hyped incidents. Enter Hanzee, the former ‘Nam tunnel rat, fear instilling, situationally aware Native American tracker, who takes care of things for Dodd Gerhardt. He is a blend of both the rational and the mysterious. Investigating the skid marks outside the Waffle Hut, he is roughly in the same spot Rye found himself in a few nights ago when the lights first appeared. As Hanzee kneels, a bright light phenomenon appears in broad daylight, if only for a matter of seconds. His eyes closed, Hanzee appears to be able to “sense” the light, to “connect” with it, even “soak it up.” Forgive my lack of proper terminology here and my slight disbelief, still. Although, I have to admit: seeing the serious, no-nonsense Hanzee be the one to encounter the lights makes me inclined to believe there could be more to the story than easily excitable folks have led me to believe so far.
Most noticeably, this episode produces the first hard piece of evidence that something is up. Comparing the time displayed on Hanzees pocket watch and the time displayed on the wall clock inside the Waffle Hut reveals a time difference of 2 hours. Question is: where did they go? Did the wall clock stand still for two hours in the night of the murders and does it still carry the delay? Or did Hanzee’s briefest encounter with the light outside really last for two hours (he checks his watch for the first time after the lights have disappear)? Either way, something is up. And somebody is missing two hours.
Up by 7, totaling 13. Technically, the four killings committed in 1951 could be considered historical since they happen 28 years before the season’s timeline. You find them included in this count, however, since they are on the Gerhardts’ account and proof to be significant for a character’s development: we witness what is most likely Dodd’s first murder. Scary kid to be around.
4 / 5 Stars
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Fargo S2 E5 The Gift of the Maji
- Ronald Reagan is coming to town. His 1980 campaign leads him to Luverne, MN where his town hall speech is met with standing ovations. Carl is moved to tears over Reagan’s reiteration of John Winthrop’s 1630 rhetoric of American exceptionalism (“City upon a hill.”)
- Hanzee delivers Rye’s belt buckle and the story of his demise to the Gerhardts. Where there’s only sadness in Bear for his little brother’s fate, Dodd’s reaction is triumph. “See?” As Floyd inquires about the person responsible, Dodd subtly urges Hanzee to circumvent the truth (accidental death by the hand of butcher Ed from Luverne) and sets up Ed as The Butcher of Luverne, a legendary hitman from Kansas City. Construed to heat up the situation and justify his next moves in his general surge for power, Dodd is untruthful to enforce his will. Dodd leads and Hanzee follows, revealing where his true loyalty lies. His testimony prompts the decision to strike first against the organized crime outfit from KC.
- On the following morning, as the criminal delegation embarks on a recreational deer hunt with the local zoning commissioner, they are surprised by an all-out attack from the Gerhardts’ warfare party. The clash leaves 12 dead (among them the black-jacketed Kitchen twin) and Joe on the run. He is doomed shortly after his escape leads him right into Hanzee’s arms. Joe’s head is delivered to Mike Milligan. It will be upon him (and the remaining Kitchen twin) to deliver Kansas City’s response.
- Simone Gerhardt is caught between both hostile sides, trapped by her own double play. Still, Floyd holds her protective hand over her granddaughter.
- Ed is still haunted by nightmares of killing Rye, while Peggy makes plans for the couple to escape to California. Diverging life plans surface as the Blumquists convene in the basement of their home. Ed’s approach (“stay together, figure things out, make it work”) is fundamentally different from Peggy’s idea: “run away, start over.”
- Lou’s murder investigation comes to a hold as he is detailed with escorting Reagan’s campaign bus out of the state. Ben Schmidt follows the escalation of the conflict between the Gerhardts and KC. Both agree to meet in Fargo in the morning.
- Charlie argues his way into Dodd’s plan to have “The Butcher” killed. Henchman Virgil is tasked with introducing Charlie to the very basics of properly executing a hit. Upon entering the butchery in Luverne, Charlie strikes up a pleasant conversation with Noreen, the ever-reading shop clerk, and returns to waiting Virgil with a pack of meat he was talked into buying by Ed. He fails at his first attempt of leading a life of crime. The decent future his father Bear has in mind for him suddenly seems bright and worth pursuing. Unfortunately, a desperate phone call home does not reach Bear and so Charlie is not absolved from the burden of a second attempt. In the heat of the moment, his guns jams after the first round ignites a fire in the back of the butchery. Virgil, braking into the back door to guarantee a smooth outcome of the operation, is killed by Ed in self-defense. Noreen and Ed abandon the burning building, dragging Charlie, who is wounded by a ricochet, to safety.
- Just as Peggy arrives at the decision to prioritize their life together instead of her own ambitions, Ed returns home with devastating news that the shop burned down and he barely survived an attempt on his life. Before they are packed and ready to leave for good, flashing lights and sirens arrive at their home.
Brothers at Odds
We witness Dodd and Bear share a brotherly moment, showing who they are truer than ever before.
Dodd has nothing but humiliation and contempt for his younger brother Bear, whose loyalty and obedience to the will of the family he mistakes for weakness. In Dodd’s world only Dodd is boss; all means necessary are justified to gain his withheld reign. Bear’s calm consideration is rooted elsewhere.
Bear: “There will be a reckoning one day, brother. All souls are called to account for their actions. In the end, we all get what we deserve.”
Dodd: “You keep telling yourself that.”
Bear does, and so do I. The day of reckoning is coming for Dodd Gerhardt. Soon.
The fateful morning leaves 14 people dead, upping the total amount to 27. For the first time, victims of a certain prominence are among those to be mourned: one of the Kitchen twin brothers and Joe Bulo.
Let me finish on a little side note of appreciation for the creators. I have enjoyed so far how they have utilized a visual narrative style to subtly add their characters’ perspective/perception to the unfolding events. Let me give you a shining example in this very episode. Right before his first encounter with Ed, Charlie’s heart is racing (the audience can hear it) and he envisions who or what is about to walk through that door. His imagination leads him expects The Butcher of Luverne (left) when in reality all he is about to encounter is butcher Ed from Luverne (right).