“Nothing, just…well, it’s been a day.” – Mike Milligan
For most, feelings of emptiness and rampant confusion tend to spring up sometime in our 20s, when the demands of society and proper adulthood begin to well up. For surrealist German artist Max Ernst, these feelings crept in when he was about six years old. Following a series of traumatic events, the artist created an alter ego: Loplop, a bird that acted as both a manifestation of the chaos going on in his mind and as his source of inspiration. Loplop emerged from the mental conflicts Ernst was experiencing and as a result, the bird drove him to artistic encouragement and a sense of being.
Which is just what Peggy needs – sense of being. Or, at least, it’s what she thinks she needs. Over the course of a few episodes, Peggy Blomquist has gone from a slightly “touched” beautician afraid she’s not living up to her full potential to a murderer (the goon she snuffed with a sink, it was kinda glazed over but I assume he’s dead). The longing is still there – she even planned on keeping her plans for the Lifespring seminar after Ed was arrested/nearly killed – but that foggy desire piled on top of the sheer pandemonium in her life has culminated in the vision of a well-dressed man in her basement. It’s presumably John Hanley Sr., real life Lifespring founder and Peggy’s very own Loplop.
All of her Loplop’s talk about “fully actualizing” climaxed in Peggy’s big epiphany: don’t think, just be. In order to live up to her full potential she needs to stop thinking about what it is she wants to be and just be it already. And boy howdy did Miss Peggy be in this episode. Kirsten Dunst has been killing it all season, but “Loplop” is the give-her-the-Emmy-already episode. It was a solid hour of double-barreled brilliance for Dunst, who deftly walked the tightrope of fragile femininity and over the edge psychopathy. One minute she’s stabbing Dodd Gerhardt to “teach him some manners,” the next minute she’s spoon-feeding him beans and pouring her heart out about how it’s all her fault Ed is stressed. The truly remarkable thing is that Peggy is such a fully–formed character in the hands of Dunst and Noah Hawley that both sides of the coin are utterly believable.
Along with her newfound gusto, Peggy’s decision to be has given the marriage a boost. They’re closer than ever. Watching the scenes with Ed and Peggy, it’s clear they’re in full ride-or-die mode now. It’s a stark difference from the cold distance we saw between them at the beginning of the season. Much like the doomed lovers hiding from the Nazi in the cinematic cutaway, Ed and Peggy are in it all the way down the line.
Ed himself underwent a bit of a transformation this week. Well, even if he didn’t actually realize it. You don’t kill two people and not undergo some form of cosmic change within. But Ed did refer to himself as the Butcher of Luverne for the first time and said aloud that he’s “killed people before.” It was a form of chest beating to Mike Milligan, no doubt, but also a personal confirmation for Ed. A pseudo-moment of clarity, if you will, for Ed. It was terribly funny that Ed tried to sound tough about begrudgingly killing two people immediately after Milligan effortlessly killed the Undertaker and his cronies.
Side note: Jesse Plemons looked like the living dead for the third act. That hanging scene and what followed, Plemons looked like absolute hell on earth. He also acted the hell out of those scenes. I know no better example of the “Minnesota Nice” than Ed offering Hanzee a pop after just coming out of a noose. Holy shit.
All of that imagined bravura Ed had crumbled the second he walked into Dodd’s booby trap. Hell, we should stop here to appreciate Jeffrey Donovan, the cat we’ve loved to hate this season. Dodd was a menacing, despicable figure representing the worst side of the Gerhardt clan – the overly proud, violence-is-the-answer side that beat his own daughter and buried people alive. He was also a dimwit suffering from crippling tunnel vision, but you’d never say that to his face. In “Loplop” we got to see sides of Dodd we’ve never seen before. Or of any other Gerhardt, for that matter, besides his daughter Simone. The whimpering, desperate side. Ironic, isn’t it? Donovan also got to show a lot of comedic chops.
It took Dodd being tied down and stabbed for him to show his humorous side, who knew? Donovan exhibited pitch-perfect timing, nuance, and delivery the entire episode. Even when he was lecturing a hanging Ed on the trappings of women, he walked that line between terrifying and buffoonery. His comedic performance with a pillowcase over his head surpassed any other “gags” this whole season. It was great to see Donovan have a bit of fun before, you know, he got shot in the head by Hanzee.
What we witnessed this week with Hanzee Dent was an incredibly smart, dangerous, and exploited man simply fed up. At this time, 1979, in American society, Native Americans in many places were still considered sub-human and anti-American. This was only six years after Wounded Knee (look it up) and the rise of the American Indian Movement (look it up). Dent wasn’t a part of those social movements (it appears he’s been a Gerhardt for a long time), but he did do three tours of Vietnam and deserves a stiff drink when he wants.
Hanzee’s scenes were tremendously interesting tonight. At the bar, he saw a bigoted plaque memorializing the murder of Natives. Then he went inside and calmly endured further bigotry. Then he was followed outside and ultimately called a “mongrel” and “half-breed” by the man he’s been protecting, Dodd. How Hanzee fell in with Dodd and the Gerhardts is ambiguous. But it’s clear he’s sick of bending over for anyone. In many Native cultures, the cutting of male hair is a symbol of mourning. To me it felt like Hanzee “fully actualized” something he’s known for a long time – these folks, not even Dodd Gerhardt, are his friends. Up until now, Hanzee seemed like the ultimate badass. The Anton Chigurh of Fargo. This moment, where he completely lets his guard down in front of the Blomquists, was a beautiful moment of fragility and acceptance.
Like most things in Fargo, beauty is cut short by violence. A pair of scissors to the shoulders. And we left Hanzee on the run, Dodd dead as a doornail, and the Blomquists with their hands up once again.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
- As Lou is walking through the Blomquist’s basement, he passes the old wooden board game Labyrinth. A fitting detail inside the maze of magazines.
- After years of chopping meat and bone, Ed’s got one hell of a right hook. I wouldn’t mind seeing Ed Blomquist and Plemon’s character in Black Mass square up.
- The crane shot of the Blomquists driving away from their house, followed by the slow pan back to Lou and Hank pulling up was pure, cinematic gold.
- “If I kiss you when we meet would that be inappropriate?” – Mike Milligan. Even when he’s in an episode for all of two minutes (one of those being a rewind to the previous week), Bokeem Woodbine can hit hard. It was such a great delivery of that line after just killing three men in his hotel room. Also, I loved how his sleeve gun jangled when he signaled for Gale Kitchen to get a pen.