This week’s episode of Fargo felt like it was constantly in motion. Everyone from both sides of the law seemed to be driving, running away, or sneaking around each other. When the action slowed down to allow more intimate moments, we got to see some of the best acting so far this season – particularly from Kirsten Dunst and Nick Offerman, who both managed to deliver simply outstanding performances in very brief scenes. Alongside these soul-bearing moments, “Rhinoceros” boasted a whole lotta bullets, mayhem, and suspense. Not to mention two very big cliffhangers.
Before we get to those I want to talk more about Dunst and Offerman, this week’s MVPs. With her labyrinth of magazines and bizarre organizational habits, it’s been hinted that Peggy is, as Hank Larsson put it, a little “touched.” Even with Ed in handcuffs and the butcher shop a pile of ash, she still desperately tried to pretend everything was normal. When she finally let all the air out of her lungs, she explained to Hank what’s behind the magazine hoarding and desire to leave. It was a helluva moment, her describing how suffocated she is living in Ed’s childhood home. In the same place where Ed’s mom “changed his undies.” It’s easy to see how a woman in her place would be drawn to a program like Lifespring.
As loquacious lawyer Karl Weathers, Offerman was a force of inebriated nature. His relentless (and well-rehearsed) boasting was only matched by that impossibly tense moment outside the precinct where he talked Bear down. Staring down the barrel of a shotgun, Karl convinced Bear that for the sake of his 17-year-old son, the best course of action is to return home and let due process play out. That probably wasn’t the first time Karl had a gun pointed at him and that moment where he says, “He’s only 17,” the look on his face told us that he saw kids that age die in ‘Nam. He seemed to be thinking about those kids when he delivered the line. What a seriously powerful scene for Offerman. The look of relief and anguish on his face afterwords spoke volumes.
Like they exhibited in the first season, Fargo’s writers are ridiculously good at settling the audience in to character expectations and then adding a well of depth on top of it. When I say “expectation” I don’t mean cliché. I simply mean we get used to thinking about a characterin a certain way and then a few episodes down the line they can still surprise us in an organic way. Remember when Bill Oswalt adopted the Sudanese kid? It was out of left field but still made sense for the character. Same deal with Peggy’s magazines and Karl’s heartfelt plea for Bear to go back home to the Gerhardt compound…
…which moments before was shot to shit by Mike Milligan and the remnants of the Kansas City mob. Like she was ordered to, Simone told Mike exactly where her dad and the rest of the Gerhardt army were driving off. Clever bastard he is, Mike sees it as an opportunity to strike at the Gerhardt compound while it’s tapped out of men. Only Floyd, Simone, and Otto are inside (so it seems) and they left us completely hanging as to whether Mike and the boys shot and ran or are taking things inside. Either way, it looks like they may cross paths with Bear and his crew next episode.
Dodd, on the other hand, was our other big cliffhanger. How great was it to see Dodd, a guy rotten enough to smack around his young daughter, get taken out by Peggy? And with his signature weapon, the cattle prod, no less. What she does with him afterwards is up in the air. Maybe her fugitive husband will get home soon and toss another Gerhardt in the garage freezer. Or he could be used a one big bargaining chip. Ed is on the run and like Hank says, we know where he’s going. He just wants to protect his family. But right now the cops and Hanzee are on his tail. Run hard, Ed.
Season two is halfway over and Noah Hawley and his team continue to surprise with interesting character turns and a high suspense. I will say after the last two episodes I’m feeling a bit of action fatigue. I wouldn’t mind a little pull back in the next episode to catch my breath and focus on the small character moments like the two brief, exemplary ones this week.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
- Of course Mike Milligan can recite “The Jabberwocky.” It just makes sense.
- Not only did Peggy take out Dodd, she also apparently smashed a sink over the head of one of his men. Or did I miss something? Was the sink previously shown on top of a shelf?
- This episode exhibited the show’s best use of split screen yet, particularly when Hanzee is creeping outside the precinct and the Blomquist’s house and when Lou is convincing Karl to represent Charlie. Great visual storytelling, not just a gimmick.
- Anyone else hoping Otto recovers enough from his stroke so we he can hear Michel Hogan’s gravely voice lay into Dodd for being such a petulant twerp?