“It’s the way you’re unfriendly. How you’re so polite about it. Like you’re doing me a favor.” – Mike Milligan
Noreen Vanderslice (Emily Haine) cannot put that book down. During her shifts at the butcher shop, we’ve barely seen her look up from her tattered copy of Albert Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus,” which also happens to be the name of tonight’s Fargo episode. In his essay, Camus explores mankind’s fruitless search for meaning in a Godless world built on chaos and the absurd. Rather than conclude that a life without meaning is not worth living, Camus argues that if we accept there is nothing more to life than an absurd struggle without hope of reward (like in the Greek myth of Sisyphus), then we can truly be happy. Accept the struggle and deal with it, man.
Or in the case of the Gerhardt clan, accept there is no way in hell you can match blows with Kansas City. That would truly be a Sisyphean feat for their “small time” operation in Fargo. “Know thyself,” as Bear put it. As they continue to argue over how to handle the situation, the family seams are coming apart. Dodd’s still got something to prove and wants to go to the mattresses; Floyd just wants to figure out a way to get through it with their family legacy intact.
For her, the deep Gerhardt roots and respect they’ve earned in the area are more important than money and beating their chests at intruders. But those corporate Kansas City boys don’t give a damn about history. As Joe Bulo explains to Mike Milligan, they’re all about the pluses and minuses. They’re not bloodthirsty gangsters who simply blow away anyone who refuses their offer. They’ll kill the Gerhardts only if it’s profitable. Profit dictates their actions. Hell, they even have a research department to determine whether they go a peaceful or murderous route.
Bulo decides it’s best for them to try and find Rye Gerhardt, the youngest and easiest to persuade. (Prog rock band) Mike Milligan and the Kitchen Brothers are tasked with finding Rye, which is also what Lou Solverson, Skip, and Dodd Gerhardt spend most of the episode doing as well. With everyone sniffing out a dead man, things were bound to turn tense and, in true Fargo fashion, darkly comedic.
Lou was joined by Ben Schmidt (Keir O’Donnell), a local Fargo cop who lays it out pretty clear that the Gerhardts are a clan to be afraid of. “It would be better if it was your own prints on the gun,” he tells Lou outside Judge Mundt’s office. Contrasted with Lou, Ben’s a realist. He’s accepted his place on the totem pole (under the Gerhardts) and doesn’t want to revolt against it. Lou, on the other hand, believes his badge should mean something to the Gerhardts and to Mike Milligan.
When it’s clear these forces don’t accept his badge as something to respect, Lou seemed genuinely confused. Confused to the point where he needs two pieces of cake. In one of the tensest scenes yet, Mike and the Kitchen Brothers don’t bat a lash at his gun or badge. Not even when Lou makes the crack about Mike’s mom. Like Lorne Malvo, Mike is rootless. He lives as a characteristic of Camus’ absurd life, where he’s free to think and behave as he chooses. And Lou has a tough time with this.
The Lou Solverson we saw in season 1 is stoic and content with his place in the universe. He stood his ground in the face of the absurd (Lorne Malvo) because he accepted that it exists. In season 2, we’re witnessing Lou transform into the wiser Lou of season 1. He’s just now facing the absurd (Mike, Kitchen Bros., senseless violence) on the home front. This brand of absurdity is different from what he witnessed in the war. And it’s changing him. I think it’s pretty damn fascinating to watch.
His wife Betsy Solverson has better police instincts than him at times, as she showed tonight when she connected the dots between the missing Rye, the shoe in the tree, and the skid marks outside the Waffle Hut. This sends Peggy Blomquist into a panic and she comes up with the genius idea of having Ed crash the car into a tree to explain away the busted windshield. It worked for her drunken uncle, she says. It doesn’t go quite as planned for them. Ed winds up in a neck brace and their car gets a busted rear bumper.
Ed sure is a having a shit week in Fargo’s tremendous second season. What did ya’ll think?
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
I WANT TO BELIEVE
No real juicy UFO action this week but there were a few moments of interest…
- “Time is ticking down to get the typewriters…the spaceships, really.” Did I hear this wrong? Did Skip call his typewriters “spaceships?” There’s no closed-caption option on the screener I have, could someone confirm Skip said “spaceships”?
- One of the Kitchen Brothers was reading “UFO Magazine” on the toilet.
Lou runs into a conspiracy theorist at the pumps who delivers a few disjointed bits about the UFOs. The most notable thing he said was, “When strange happenings occur, they are near.”
- The shot of the graves on the Gerhardt property was a nice way to convey their deep roots in the area.
- I’m itching for another showdown between Lou and Dodd now. Two men have big stones and clearly want a go at each other.
- Every time there’s a scene with Joe Bulo, it makes me eager to see more of Hamish Broker (Adam Arkin), the head of Kansas City that we only saw in silhouette in the season opener. I loved Arkin’s short stint as elder crime boss Theo Tonin on Justified and I look forward to him stepping into some villainous boots once again.
- Charlie Gerhardt (Allan Dobrescu) is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. It’s interesting that he came from the loins of Bear, a giant of a man who chomps down turkey legs while delivering stern fatherly advice. The fact that Bear had a son and Dodd had all girls is a good setup for some brotherly strife down the road.
- Simone Gerhardt (Rachel Keller) is a wild card if I’ve ever seen one. Dodd obviously has nothing but disdain for his floozy seed. His slamming her in the car door made me cringe and most likely did away with whatever minutia of devotion she had towards him.
- Let’s hope Peggy doesn’t make it to the Lifespring seminar. It was a real thing that began in the mid-70s and just a cursory bit of Googling brings up the involuntary servitude and wrongful death lawsuits that were brought against the for-profit new age training company.