“Had a case once, back in ’79. I’d tell you the details but it’d sound like I made them up … I saw something that year I ain’t ever seen.” – Lou Solverson, Season 1 Episode 9.
“The Castle” in Franz Kafka’s 1926 novel lies on the outskirts of town. Shrouded in mist, it’s the symbolic source of authority. A place beyond consciousness where a person can transcend this plane to reach their ultimate goal. The problem is, bureaucracy makes reaching the castle damn near impossible. Just like the protagonist in Kafka’s novel, Lou Solverson found himself this week clashing with startlingly indifferent authority figures in an attempt to reach his goal – that being the protection of Ed and Peggy Blomquist. South Dakota PD’s dismissal of Lou’s insight into the Kansas City/Gerhardt war and foggy jurisdictional politics led to a massacre in what turned out to be the bloodiest and most shocking episode of Fargo to date.
Not only did “The Castle” offer rabbit punches to our guts, but Lester Nygaard himself, Martin Freeman, returned to narrate! Did his voice make anyone else’s heart swell? How brazenly confident Noah Hawley and his team are to not only switch up their storytelling approach between season 1 and 2, but to also toss a narrative grenade into the penultimate episode. Throw in a narrator a week before the finale? Have him read from a storybook? Of course they can.
We opened on Freeman reading from “The History of True Crime in the Mid West,” a book that, for those who pressed pause on their DVRs, recounted some familiar events, but also revealed a bit about Peggy’s background. The book states that she was raised by a single mother, Nora Knutson, who died of breast cancer when Peggy was only 10. She then went to live with her widowed aunt Agnes on a farm. She was the only child in the area – making it a lonely upbringing indeed. Then she met Ed in 1970 while in high school. At first she dated Ed’s friend Tim, until he left for Vietnam and never came back. Ed was there to console Peggy and while his early romantic advances were rejected, she eventually warmed up to them and they became a couple.
This not only fills in some character blanks, it also speaks on Peggy’s rabid desire to “actualize” and take control of her destiny. From her mother dying to being alone on the farm and having her first love taken away from her, Peggy hasn’t ever gotten to call the shots. The ball’s been in somebody else’s court. But now that she’s consumed with “don’t think, be,” she’s out there making moves – with Ed by her side, of course. Kirsten Dunst was amazing once again. Enough to even impress Hank Larsson, who once called her “touched.” And while Ed may be the Butcher of Luverne, tonight it was Peggy who took the initiative – clocking Ben Schmidt with the shotgun and getting the jump on Hanzee. She actualized the hell out of their escape.
This time she bested Hanzee by tossing hot water in his face. That’s twice she’s gotten one over on him. That’s definitely more than can be said of the Gerhardts. The poor, poor Gerhardts. Hanzee shooting Dodd in the head was a case of a dog who’s been kicked around for too long. Here he lured the rest of the Gerhardts to Sioux Falls, but it should be noted that it seems like he tried to get Floyd to stay behind when he spoke to her on the phone. But she didn’t and Hanzee knows he’ll be looking over his shoulder the rest of his life if the top Gerhardts are still around, knowing he betrayed them. Even if you saw that stabbing coming, it was still pretty shocking.
When Bear saw his mother crumpled on the pavement, he lived up to his name. Lou grazed a bullet off his ear, then licked off two more shots before getting tackled to the ground by Bear. We of course know Lou doesn’t die, but Bear was doing on a number on him. If it wasn’t for extraterrestrial intervention, he may very well be dead. More on that UFO in a sec.
But first let’s mourn the Gerhardts. Aside from woman-beating, chest-beating Dodd, it was tough seeing them go. Simone died on her knees in the woods. Her treachery a product of being abused by Dodd. Floyd died a moment after realizing Hanzee had betrayed them. Even more painful is the fact that she died without knowing the fate of Simone and Dodd. And Bear died fighting in a blind rage, lit up in a UFO’s spotlight. A helluva way to go.
A big theme this season has been the death of the family business (the Gerhardts) and the rise of corporate America (Kansas City). With the massacre at Sioux Falls, we may have seen what Joe Bulo once expressed: wiping every last Gerhardt off the face of the earth. On the flip side, the Kansas City presence has been reduced to Mike Milligan and Gale Kitchen. If they were just a couple minutes earlier getting to the Motor Motel, they might be dead as well. Call it luck, call it manifest destiny (as Mike would), either way Kansas City has a damn strong upper hand in the war right now.
But where does Mike go from here? Who’s left to kill, extort, intimidate, or recite Lewis Carroll to? Wherever the road leads him, I sincerely hope he gets to make some kind of wave in the finale. Seeing that it’s now impossible for him to get his paws on Dodd, a tête-à-tête with Hamish Broker is certainly in order. Mike’s such a resourceful, cunning fella, I have a strong feeling he’ll walk away from this season alive.
Speaking of “alive”…Betsy fainted, dammit. We know the cancer takes her eventually, but I know a lot of us were hoping she at least dies after 1979, off camera. Amidst all the bodies that have piled up this season, having her die in the finale is the most gut-wrenching thing I can imagine. Especially if Lou isn’t by her side when it happens. But I don’t think Hawley and co. are that ruthless. When Betsy goes, Lou, Molly, and Hank will be there (oh god I hope so). So here’s hoping Hank pulls through as well – at least long enough for him to answer one or two questions about the project he has going on in his den.
Now back to that UFO. All season we’ve seen reflections of it and tonight the show went full The Man Who Wasn’t There. In the Coen’s film, it’s part of Ed Crane’s dream sequence, but the UFO in Fargo was the real deal. Everyone saw it. It was one big, loud deus ex machina, that saved Lou from getting strangled by Bear and gave the Blomquists a nice head start on Hanzee. But what does it mean? Hawley has stated in interviews that they wanted to capture the paranoid, Big Brother undertone of the times. The UFO suspicion was a great way to add weight to that. Lou has been at war with “the absurd” this whole season and the flying saucer could be the ultimate symbol of that. He looked up at it in sheer awe. When it was gone (the aliens were probably bummed with all the violence they saw), Lou walked away from the motel with a stern, determined swagger. Also, the use of “Run Through the Jungle” (covered by Britt Daniel), a song about Vietnam, infers that Lou is in full-on war mode. Now that’s he’s seen the face of the absurd, he’s ready to put an end to this carnage.
What’s your take on the UFO? Simply a bold deus ex machina or does it have deeper meaning?
See you all next week for the finale, “Palindrome.” Any forecasts or desires for the season 2 send-off? Sound off below!
Inside the Rushmore Grocery Store bathroom, when Hanzee is seeing to his scissor wound, “Senor Greaser Was Here” is scrawled on the wall. Senor Greaser is what the Coen Brothers called the grease pencil they used while editing Fargo. It’s even thanked in the film’s credits.
- Impressed by Peggy’s gusto in stabbing Hanzee, Hank refers to himself and the rest of the police as The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight (1971), a Mafioso comedy and one of Robert De Niro’s earliest films.
- In hindsight, this small exchange between Floyd and Bear was a tragic one:
“I miss them all.” – Floyd
“We’ll be together again. On high.” – Bear
- Anyone else find it odd that when Lou made eye contact with Floyd he didn’t bomb up to the motel full speed with the cherry tops wailing? Why take his time getting there?
- I like how messed up Ed still seemed from his near death experience. He was a little slow this week after getting nearly hung to death by Dodd. Like I said last week, you don’t recover from something like that very quickly.
- Peggy’s reaction to the UFO was absolutely priceless. “It’s just a flying saucer, Ed. We gotta go.”
- Also priceless was Mike Milligan’s reaction to the carnage him and Gale Kitchen pulled up to at the Motor Motel. “Okay then…”
- South Dakota PD is corrupt as hell. Lou told the trooper that the Rushmore grocery clerk was dead inside and the guy just brushed it off. I was as pissed as Lou at that clown.