Things get crazy down at the lake.
Foot’s on the other shoe now!
After the temporal confusion of last week’s episode, “Loplop” goes a long way to clarify things. The result is an hour of blissfully organic chaos and off-kilter character interactions, tightly focused on on the Blumquists, their captor, and their hunter. It’s fantastic.
First off, Peggy has “actualized,” whatever that means. She’s turned her perpetual chipperness up to full blast, buried any remaining guilt and fear under a pile of magazines, and pulled Ed into her wake like a sled dog in a landslide. Zapping Dodd with his own cattle prod was just the beginning; in a lonely cabin on the lake, she force-feeds him beans, browbeats him into politeness, and, in a scene so batty even Dodd can’t believe what he’s witnessing, lightly stabs him with a kitchen knife. Twice!
Not that anyone should feel an ounce of sympathy for Dodd, who has been plenty horrible up to this point and almost gets his revenge, but the genuine fear in his eyes when Peggy starts in on him is completely understandable. And Ed is just as helpless at keeping “his woman” under control: “Hon, you gotta stop stabbin’ the hostage,” he mutters meekly. It’s tremendous dark comedy from Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst, and especially Jeffrey Donovan, who spends a lot of the hour chiming in like an extra in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “I’m hurt real bad!” When Peggy offers to help Dodd relieve his bladder, he’s probably convinced she’s going to cut it off, and he may not be wrong.
As we already know, Ed has been trying to get the attention of Dodd’s family for a few days (“Is this the Gerhardt headquarters?” he asks, obliviously, on his first call), even announcing himself as THE Butcher; unsurprisingly, the key to getting Ed to participate in the criminal underworld is just to give him a cool street name. However, Bear has been freezing him out. There’s a cute directorial flourish from from Keith Gordon on one of Ed’s trips to that gas station, building up the dramatic music, showing the phone ringing at the empty Gerhardt homestead, than cutting off abruptly as Ed shrugs and hangs up.
Eventually, he takes a cue from the front page of the paper and gets through to Mike Milligan (the only beat this week that lands a little bit false), who wonders if it would be inappropriate to kiss Ed for delivering Dodd into his hands. “It has been a day,” Mike muses, with what passes for excitement from Mike. Of course, he’s heard all about The Butcher: “And let me say brother, I like your style!” Fortune’s wheel is finally turning for ol’ Mike. Too bad by the time he gets to that cabin, Dodd will be dead, and Ed will be gone.
And the reason for THAT is Hanzee, the half-Indian Gerhardt soldier who has now gone rogue. We’ve only gotten glimpses of his backstory, and Zahn McClarnon’s taciturn face gives away nothing. But now, after a cooly brutal assault at a Sioux Falls bar, Hanzee comes into sharper, fascinating focus. As long as we’ve known him he’s followed orders without question, using his prodigious skills to identify and then locate Rye’s “killers.” He’s been Dodd’s right hand, enduring the man’s belittling epithets in silence. Hanzee served in Vietnam, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, only to return to a country who doesn’t want or understand him.
So do you blame Hanzee for shooting up that Sioux Falls bar, giving those taunting racists Wounded Knees? (Murdering the cops, however, is a lot harder to defend, and it’s the reason the episode ends the way it does.) Do you blame him, when Dodd sees his rescuer come in the door and calls him a “half-breed” one more time, for just shooting Dodd in the head instead? The tables kept turning in that little cabin; first Dodd’s getting delivered to Mike, then he wriggles out while Peggy’s engrossed in a “Ronald Reagan” WWII film, knocking her out and stringing Ed up, only to be stabbed — again! — in the boot by the resilient Mrs. Blumquist. It’s supposed to be a short-lived victory for Ed and Peggy when Hanzee enters, having doggedly pursued them across Minnesota for days. Instead, he shoots the vile Gerhardt down, and asks Peggy for a haircut.
“Tired of this life,” Hanzee says quietly, as Peggy sets to brushing his long hair. He’s tired of standing out in a crowd; tired of being mistrusted and disrespected everywhere he goes; maybe he’s just tired of being a killer. After Vietnam, he may have convinced himself that was all he knew how to do. Is there hope for Hanzee? Will he still have a part to play, after escaping out the back door of the cabin, clutching his bleeding shoulder (Peggy, AGAIN, God, stop it with the stabbing) while Lou and Hank close in from the other side? I hope so. The way this season has been so expertly constructed, each character on their own path with their own conflicting agendas, there’s room for Hanzee to make a final stand. But where, and for whom?
We end, and not for the first time, with Ed and Peggy raising their hands in the face of the law. So it seems these two may actually survive all this, unless they can find a way to escape custody again. She may never get to that seminar (and Constance may never go anywhere, ever — we don’t know), but Peggy’s already learned a few things. If her “actualized” self was too much for Dodd, I don’t know who can get in her way now. God help us.