It’s an episode of reactions, and seeing what condition your condition is in.
Stories used to be simpler, that’s for sure. This, than that. Now I don’t know where it starts or where it ends.
One of the biggest differences between this season of Fargo and the first is how it’s blurred the lines between its villains. Instead of having one clear, malevolent entity for the forces of good to rally against, like Lorne Malvo, Lou and Hank are completely surrounded. But the question of “who is actually the worst?” is hard to answer.
Dodd is the easiest choice, but he’s currently MIA. Apparently Hank didn’t think to look around Peggy’s house before he left? A cattle prod to the heart is likely lethal, but this is Dodd, and this is Fargo. In any case, taking him off the board doesn’t stop the violence. Hanzee is still hunting the Blumquists, because he’s a loyal soldier. Floyd is pragmatic enough this week to make a deal with the Luverne PD (though she still thinks Ed is KC), but her half-smile when left alone hints she may have more up her sleeve.
Bear commits the most heinous crime, shooting Simone in cold blood for her betrayal, as “Danny Boy” plays on the soundtrack (clear shades of Miller’s Crossing in a very Coen-heavy episode), and even though he hates Dodd as much as she does. Or was that why? To punish Dodd, or remove every trace of him? He says as much to the man from Buffalo, but it’s not clear what his end game is, if not simply to protect his mother and his own son. Before her fateful drive, Simone spat “This family deserves the ground,” and perhaps that’s when Bear made up his mind.
Mike Milligan, the Kansas City Syndicate’s instrument of war, is in hot water for the losses he’s taken. The episode opens with a crudely balletic Gerhardt assault through a skyscraper window, like the darkest version of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Mike is told by his besuited bosses that he has two days to fix things before he gets “replaced.” But before too long, the “Undertaker” send to rub him is dead, and the erudite hitman has gone rogue. It was only a few scenes before that he was making his case to Lou on behalf of the Starbucks-ization of regional crime: “We’re the future, and they’re the past.” Now, Mike’s no longer obligated to believe that…or is he?
“Did You Do This? No, You Did It!” is a mouthful of a title, and its directness is out of character for Fargo. The episode it names is a slippery one, with timelines shifting just enough to keep us unsettled and off-guard. Bear ignores repeated calls from Hanzee about Dodd’s location, but Ed makes the same call to Mike. The butcher has Dodd in his trunk, he says. Did those calls happen in the same order? Has Hanzee just been silently following Ed for three days, not acting? Something’s off here, and I wonder whether the re-jiggering happened on the page, or in editing. Things didn’t move with the same sense of purpose as in recent weeks.
Always welcome, however, is the Breakfast King of Loyola, a.k.a. Karl Weathers. The domestic front packs a surprising punch this week, as Betsey’s frustration about being coddled — as Lou has sent Karl and Sonny to keep an eye on her until things cool off — returns to the surface. But as badly as she wants everything to carry on as normal for her family’s sake (especially Molly’s), she opens up to Karl in her kitchen, asking him what she’s been unable to ask anyone else: to take care of them when she’s gone. No John McCain-inspired pep talk can change the fact that she’s dying. Betsey doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her, only to promise that life will go on. Now, if Hank would only tell her what all those symbols in his study mean…
It was during Hank’s interview of Floyd that something occurred to me that gave me hope, and the news of Hanzee drawing first blood at Sioux Falls crystallized it: when Lou tells Molly this story in Season 1, she’s hearing it for the first time. Would that be the case if they were the circumstances of her grandfather’s death? Wouldn’t she know already know that? And while that original scene was written with some ambiguity, it would seem that if Betsey’s time were to run out too, these events would be inextricably linked together in Lou’s mind. But the way it was presented, it was more of a ghost story. This week we heard another music cue from O Brother: “O Death, won’t you spare me over ’til another year?” With three episodes to go, an awful lot can happen, but I’m starting to believe Lou’s family will get their wish.