All things must come to an end; both happy and sad.
Season 2, Episode 4: “Fear and Trembling”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Steve Blackman
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Myth of Sisyphus” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Gift of the Magi” – click here
This episode begins with a flash to 1951 – Moonbase Freedom starring Ronald Reagan (not an actual film) plays in a small movie theatre. On the way there, a boy and his father rattle along in a truck. Over top of the scene Count Basie plays, “Topsy”. A man named Kellerman (Kai Lennox) sits waiting for the father. Ends up with dear ole dad about to be shot in the back of the head, but then the young boy ends up knifing Kellerman in the back of the skull. Turns out, this is little Dodd and papa Otto back in the day.
Otto: “Like the heads of Easter Island”
Otto: “Not a sound”
Back in their current timeline, Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan) is teaching his nephew Charlie (Allan Dobrescu) the ways of the Gerhardt clan. They end up at a restaurant where Dodd tasers a man violently, getting Charlie to join in on the action with a few punches. Nice bonding. Surely Bear (Angus Sampson) is going to be REAL happy with his brother showing his son – someone he wanted to be away from the family business – the dirty, gritty ropes. Not just that, we get a bit of Devo’s “Too Much Paranoias” to boot. Jam.
At the same time Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) accompanies his wife Betsy (Cristin Milioti) to the doctor where they have an extremely frustrating conversation. Essentially, she’s asked to be part of a trial for an experimental drug, but naturally there’s no guarantees she’ll get anything real. Possibly just a placebo, like “a Smartie – you know, a Smartie.”
Then there’s Ed and Peggy Blomquist (Jesse Plemons/Kirsten Dunst) who are trying to go about their lives. In fact, among all the madness they’ve become involved with – re: Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin) – they seem to be gunning for a baby. Or at least Ed is, anyways. Their problems are plenty, and it’s not as if they’re going away any time soon.
Ed: “Today’s the first day of the rest of our lives”
Hanzee Dent (Zahn McClarnon) is more and more a character I’m interested in. At first, he seems like the typical bad guy, the silent man waiting in the wings to do crazy things. But then we see him at the crime scene, we watch him check out tire tracks and look into the sky like a clairvoyant. Though, he isn’t. Just a smart man who has obviously spent his life around these types of nasty situations. Clearly we’ve seen this already last episode in “The Myth of Sisyphus“. We’re just expanding further. He tracks down the Blomquist car at a garage, where a very Coen-ish type mechanic character gives up a little too much information about Ed.
Then we get a glimpse of Hanzee’s character. Is it true? He talks about being a Tunnel Rat during Vietnam, after the mechanic mentions being in the war himself. Very brief, before Karl Weathers (Nick Offerman) interrupts and shoes Dent off.
Mr. Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) has ended up in bed with Simone Gerhardt (Rachel Keller). Shit. That can’t be a good idea, can it? She’s clearly not too worried about her family, especially not daddy Dodd whose fists are a little too liberal around the house. But still, Milligan certainly isn’t making things easy for himself. Then again he doesn’t feel like the type of guy who cares about things being easy; in short, he’s a bad motherfucker. Or, at the very least, one cool cucumber.
Lou heads over to the garage where Sheriff Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) is on the scene. They get the scoop on Hanzee, though, you can be sure Lou doesn’t exactly feel right about any of it. He has a brief flash to his run-in with Ed at the shop recently, which will come to bear later on.
The Gerhardts, lead by mama Floyd (Jean Smart), head to a big meeting with Joe Bulo (Brad Garrett); Milligan is curiously missing, no doubt held up by Simone. Then Floyd lays it all out on the table – they will not be backing down: “Partnership, not a sale,” she tells Joe. But it’s evident Floyd is one tough lady. She tells Bulo a little bit about her hardships, then makes clear: “We’ll fight to keep what’s ours ’till the last man.”
However, as we could’ve already assumed, Bulo isn’t too keen on taking the offer straight up. He wants assurance the Gerhardt boys will follow mom’s orders. Floyd tries her best to assure Bulo this will be the case, though, Dodd makes a scene. We’ll see how things go from here.
As if Otto Gerhardt (Michael Hogan) hadn’t been through enough with his stroke, Milligan had to go and make things worse. He wasn’t still with Simone. While Floyd met with Bulo, Mike and the Kitchen Brothers killed the men transporting Otto around. I thought they were actually going to kill Otto off, but Mike simply gave him a Godfather homage: “Joe Bulo says hello.” Then at the table, word reaches Bulo and the counter offer is rejected. Things are about to get even more dark and violent than ever before.
More Blomquist drama. Poor Ed. He wants to buy the shop so bad, the meat shop where he works, but Peggy’s been less than upfront with her unsuspecting husband. He’s trying his best to get things straight with her. Peggy went and dipped in when Ed thought they were clear on the money situation – even worse, Constance (Elizabeth Marvel) pushes her into being an independent woman, which is great, but Ed isn’t even being a bad guy. She’s basically fucked them and Ed only wants to buy the shop so they can be better off – instead, Constance is telling her what to do while trying to make it appear as if Peggy is living free.
Then in the background, Hanzee rolls by giving them the eye; Ed meets his gaze briefly, you can almost see it shake him.
A little later Mr. Dent strolls into the Blomquist garage, alone, quiet. He knows the ways of murder. He rubs the floor, smells it, and then looks up to find bleach on a shelf nearby. There’s an amazing presence Zahn McClarnon displays, as Hanzee walks around the house and examines everything, flicking his Zippo open to have a look here and there, even finding what looks like Rye’s belt buckle in the fireplace among the ashes. Over top of the scene plays “Song of the Earth” played by the Philharmonic Orchestra, a piece by Gustav Mahler.
Perhaps the most tense of all comes when State Trooper Solverson goes to see the Blomquists. They feed him a nervous, awkward story about what happened with the car – and Ed happens to spy, out the corner of his eye, the fireplace has been moved around a bit. Uh oh.
Yet Lou seems to want to help. At least in the sense he gives them the benefit of the doubt. He goes into a story about war, the look in a boy’s eyes after he’s been shot – the sort of unaware sense, not realizing yet what has happened. Lou’s identified that look in Ed and Peggy. He straight up knows, even bluntly stating who the man was they hit. All the same, the Blomquists keep up the charade. A very great moment comes when Ed looks up at a painting on the wall – a picturesque landscape of a farm, the ideal, the dream they hope to attain – and you can see he’s just not willing to let go of the hope that they can get out of this without admitting to what they’ve done. But Lou knows, and he tries telling them to be careful anyways.
At Ranch Gerhardt, the boys are wondering what mama Floyd wants to do about Bulo and the coming onslaught. “It’s war,” she tells them defiantly.
But what I love most about this moment is how they cut from one strong woman to another: Betsy. She’s sitting at the kitchen table staring down her experimental drugs, about to go to war herself. Nice little shift. Plus, there’s a good little scene between her and Lou when she goes out to find him on the lawn. He laments about how “we used to know right from wrong” – we, the society. It’s strange because we don’t often get such a strong and righteous type of character like Lou. Yet in the Fargo universe, we do get those characters. They come into such incredible contrast with the darker, more malevolent characters at play. So, to see Lou dealing with his wife fighting cancer, as well as watching the world he knew and loved slipping away bit by bit, now with seemingly normal and moral people like the Blomquists covering up murders, it’s a tragically exciting situation character-wise.
Every week I’m left craving more. One of the best shows on television, ever. Next episode is “The Gift of the Magi”, directed by Jeffrey Reiner.
Stay tuned for another one. Looking forward to it!
Season 2, Episode 3: “The Myth of Sisyphus”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Bob DeLaurentis
Starting with the last episode, “Before the Law“, Noah Hawley & Co. have been instilling this season with a great bit of existentialism. For those who may not know, “Before the Law” is a story told to K in Kafka’s The Trial. So immediately with the name of that episode came other implications. Now, with this 3rd episode, “The Myth of Sisyphus” moves slightly from strictly existentialism to Albert Camus and absurdism; the name of this episode is one of Camus greatest essays.
Keep thinking back to certain moments. Particularly I’m reminded of the previous episode when Sheriff Larsson (Ted Danson) sits talking with Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson), how they talk about the war coming home with them, as if searching for meaning, some reason why violence – terrifying violence – is right at their doorstep. And this is where Camus certainly comes in: there’s an absurd aspect to the human want and need to define life’s meaning, to find something they can point to and say “THIS IS IT!”, because life merely unfolds however it wants and there’s nothing else to change or stop it. Life just happens.
This episode opens with a strange moment. Hanzee Dent (Zahn McClarnon) pets a rabbit while remembering seeing a magician as a young boy, pulling one out of a hat. Then he snaps its neck off-screen, walking back towards the Gerhardt house. “Yama Yama” by Yamasuki begins to play, which is pretty great. Another montage to start things.
Then the Gerhardts have some visitors. They’re “talking about the Kansas City Mafia“, Floyd (Jean Smart) tries to lay things out as the matriarch in charge while her husband sits near catatonic after a stroke. Her son Bear (Angus Sampson) continually backs her up, while constantly eating. Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan) wants to go warring, but Floyd does not. Their visitors agree if any trouble comes the Gerhardt way, they’ll “cut the god damn nose off their face“.
At a small restaurant of some sort, Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) is late for a meeting with Joe Bulo (Brad Garrett). They have a quirky conversation about hair, soft water, and Agree shampoo. They also talk about whether or not the Gerhardts will be killed, or whether they’ll be offered more money. They’re still looking for Rye (Kieran Culkin). Good luck.
Over in Luverne, Minnesota, trusty Lou Solverson (Wilson) chats over radio with Sheriff Hank Larsson (Danson). Their chemistry is continually awesome. A new dynamic comes into play for Lou in this episode. Ben Schmidt (Keir O’Donnell) is working the case on the other end. This fella doesn’t seem quite right. He’s askew in some sort of way. Not sure how yet, but definitely sketchy. Either way, he and Lou end up together for a little while throughout “The Myth of Sisyphus”.
Hank: “Over and out… I guess.”
Peggy Blomquist (Kirsten Dunst) finds herself sweating it out at the salon where she works. Constance (Elizabeth Marvel) is coiffing Betsy Solverson (Cristin Milioti), as father-in-law Hank walks in with a wanted poster for – you betcha – Rye Gerhardt. Then Betsy reminds Hank of the shoe in the tree at the diner, they talk about a hit-and-run situation after the shooting. But slyly, and maybe a bit too ballsy, Peggy jumps in to say “that just don’t make sense“. Somehow, the do-goody Dudley Do-Right in Hank agrees, assuming no good citizen would just run a man down then drive home “with a Gerhardt in the your windshield and cook dinner“. So darkly, hilariously ironic. The absurdity of it all.
Naturally, Peggy rushes to take husband Ed (Jesse Plemons) home from work. It’s almost nerve wracking to watch her stumble around, so close to getting them caught.
Skip Sprang (Mike Bradecich) – former partner on the down-low of Rye – ends up running into Solverson and Schmidt. He’s more than obvious about being nervous; Lou points out he’s a “squirrelly little fella“. In fact, Lou spied him heading over to the office of the judge who Rye killed at the diner. So, this is another man unaccustomed to crime, just as the Blomquists, who will eventually run himself into trouble all because of his own sloppy nature.
Skip runs straight to Rye’s apartment. Instead of Rye – obviously – he finds Simone Gerhardt (Rachel Keller), who is a bit of a problem child for her father Dodd. Hanzee looks after her a little, but Mr. Dent is definitely slightly psychotic. He is way too comfortable with blood all over his hands. I love his presence, though. Hanzee is a mysterious type of character.
But it’s bad news for Skip. He ends up getting taken back to Papa Dodd and the clan.
Simone: “Whaddya say, red man – should we have some fun?”
Hanzee: “You betcha”
Peggy drags out to the woods with their beat up car. She uses a plan one of her uncles came up with after smashing his car while drunk. After the car is taken care of, Rye is already ground up, Peggy believes they’ll be “free“. Nothing goes as planned, but eventually ole Ed gets it right. I feel so bad for him. He’s been pulled into such a mess by Peggy, who continually leads him down the path she thinks is best. Yet at the same time, Ed simply goes along because he loves her. To death.
Lots of other stuff happening at the Gerhardt house. Young Charlie (Allan Dobrescu) wants to have more of a hand in things, but Bear would rather him go back to school and stay out of what’s about to go down. So it isn’t just Dodd who has trouble with his children.
At the same time, Solverson and Schmidt show up at the Gerhardt ranch. This is an amazing scene. Patrick Wilson brings out the inner badass of Lou – “Am I the only here who’s clear on the concept of law enforcement?” But it becomes clear quickly Ben Schmidt knows the Gerhardts a little too well; Floyd comes out and even asks about his mother. After things start to get slightly tense, Lou has to lay down the law and stand his ground. Dodd shows up to toss more fuel on the fire, but Lou does not back down. Not in the slightest. Great, great tension here. I honestly didn’t know how things would turn out! Clearly we all know Solverson doesn’t die – he was already in the first season as an older man. But still, that’s the master strokes of this show and its power: you can already know something, or think you know, and it will find a way to surprise you.
But wait – there’s more Lou Solverson badassery.
He goes to check in on Skip, the squirrelly typewriter salesman. Rather than finding him, he comes across Mike Milligan, accompanied by none other than the Kitchen brothers, Gale and Wayne (Brad & Todd Mann). There’s a bit of a stand-off. Except in the Minnesota plain speak style. Another quality scene, almost better than the previous with the Gerhardts. Won’t spoil too much more here. Though obviously, Lou does make it out. A tense scene with lots of style.
Milligan: “So, where’d you say you saw old Skip?”
Lou: “At your mother’s house. I think goin’ in the back door.”
A chilling end to this episode, definitely the most disturbing bit since the opening shooting at the diner. Dodd and Hanzee put Skip in a dug out hole, making him lie down. Then they back up a dump truck full of asphalt with which to bury him alive. Although it seems like Dodd’s about to let him live, once Skip reveals Milligan was looking for Rye, there’s no hope ultimately. The asphalt covers him, he’s dead. Now it’s clear Dodd is taking the reigns, ordering Hanzee to kill anyone who gets in their way.
Very excited for the next episode, “Fear and Trembling” – another philosophy title. This time from Soren Kierkegaard’s text of the same name, a great read for anyone interested in philosophical thought.
Stay tuned, Fargo fiends! We’ll be back for more next week.