A wife sells her hair to afford a platinum chain for her husband’s watch. The husband sells his watch to buy his wife a set of jeweled combs for her hair. One bummer of a Christmas, but one that taught the couple that it’s not the price of the gift, but the sacrifice in the effort that matters. This is the story of “The Gift of the Magi,” the short by O. Henry and the title of this week’s Fargo.
In this case, it’s the sacrifice Peggy Blomquist made so that Ed could buy the butcher shop. She sold the car to mechanic Sonny Greer – turning her back on Lifespring and the dream of an independent, more fulfilling life (or whatever the hell Lifespring scammed people into believing). But, like in the O. Henry story, the gift giving doesn’t go as planned. It in fact goes very, very awful.
In a scene tense enough to choke viewers out through the screen, the butcher shop goes up like a bonfire – along with Ed’s dreams. What made this scene nearly unbearable to watch is that we want all the players to make it out alive – Ed, Charlie Gerhardt, and nihilistic Noreen Vanderslice. Virgil, well, he had a cool scar but the hell with him. Ed’s a killer twice over now. Murder tends to kill a person’s soul a little bit each time, so it’ll be interesting to see what Ed transforms into by the end of the season. He’s not going to be the warm wannabee patriarch he was in the beginning, that’s for sure. Maybe the myth of the “Butcher of Luverne” isn’t too much of a stretch from what’s coming down the line.
I’d like to pause and reiterate here: Christ, what a rumpus that scene was.
Speaking of rumpus, “The Gift of the Magi” kicked off with a gloriously gruesome Gerhardt ambush on the Kansas City crew. KC may have the corporate backing (so to speak), but the Gerhardts know the land. Did anyone else throw a fist pump when Hanzee did his damn thing? Though, he did it no so thoroughly, leaving one very angry Kitchen brother alive. Still, I rewound that Hanzee part a few dozen times.
Mixing this violent scene over the Ronald Reagan’s speech about government needing to uphold the institutions civilization was founded upon (“above all, family”) was brilliant, as it showed a corporate entity clashing with a family business. Before being beheaded by Hanzee, Bulo explains that the age of the mom and pop store is over and that corporations are the real way to make money. This theme has hung over the entire season so far and now that Bruce Campbell has finally arrived, it’s only going to get juicier.
This week was light on Lou, but the scene he shares with Reagan in the bathroom was fantastic. Lou opened up to Reagan, talked about the “sickness of this world” being the cancer inside Betsy. Then he questioned Reagan about how America is going to pull itself out of the mess it’s in, to which Reagan offered nothing but a quiet pat on the shoulder. Lou’s confusion with the absurdity of the world grows more every episode.
He returns from the Reagan detail to find the butcher shop on fire. “The look” that Lou talked about last week? Seems it was his turn to wear it. Whether Ed and Peggy will try to run from his help or accept it is still up in the air, but it’s looking like their only chance of survival is possibly going into custody. Then again, that didn’t work out so well for Lester Nygaard last season.
Last week, I pined to see more of Bear Gerhardt, specifically a little backstory on how he became the calm, soft-spoken man he is. Nothing on that this week, but it’s clear he’s a walking powder keg. The tenseness between him and Dodd is getting real thick and I have a feeling once Bear catches wind of what happened to Charlie, he’s going to explode.
Rating: ★★★★★ Excellent
I Want to Believe:
- It seems young Molly is into UFOs. Betsy seemed taken aback by her daughter’s crayon drawing.
- In case you didn’t know, “Hanzee” comes from a Lakota word meaning “shade.”
- Allan Dobrescu delivered another amazing performance as Charlie Gerhardt. This kid is so, so good. Dobrescu portrays all of Charlie’s anxieties and eagerness in a truly nuanced, encompassing performance.
- It was great to see Emily Haine do more than have her nose stuffed in a Camus book. The exchange between Noreen and Ed about the certainty of death, right before death comes a knockin’, was brilliant.
- Great turn from Nick Offerman this week. Crying during Reagan’s speech then getting all giddy when he meets him outside – pure gold.