Who wants to bet Episode 5 begins with Ohanzee (Zahn McClarnon) doing his own, less pleasant interrogation of Mr. and Mrs. Blomquist (Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst, respectively)? The war is underway, and knowing exactly what happened to Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin) has to be at the top of the family’s list. The Native American veteran — who we learned honed his skills via missions too dangerous for his white brothers in arms — may have been spooked by Lou Solverson’s presence (Patrick Wilson), but he’s also proven to be a patient man with a talent for hiding out. Plus, no one asked him to leave (not that he would listen).
LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Fargo’ Season 2 Episode 3, ‘The Myth of Sisyphus,’ Gives a Few Too Many Facts
More importantly, “Fear and Trembling” officially kicked off the battle between the Gerhardt family and the Kansas City Syndicate, setting up a lengthy showdown we’re betting culminates with the Massacre at Sioux Falls. It’s a safe bet, certainly, considering the indescribable event has been mentioned twice in the show’s history; first in Season 1, when an older Lou Solverson (Keith Carradine) describes the event to Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) as “something […] I haven’t seen before or since,” and then again in the humorous opening to Season 2 in regard to the unjust slaughter of Native Americans. If what happens at the end of this story is more brutal, more memorable and proves the cyclical nature of American culture, than who boy, are we in for a show.
There were moments when it felt like the curtain was about to pull back this week, such as when Grandpa Gerhardt had a gun pointed at him after his doctor’s appointment, But Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) didn’t pull the trigger, instead choosing to wait, amping up the drama and allowing for even more foreshadowing; the best of which came from a young Lou in his warning to Ed and Peggy. “If I’m right, the window’s closing, and you may already be dead,” he told the scared couple. Unfortunately, they were scared for the wrong reasons, and next week — finally — it seems like they’ll pay the price. Well, at least Ed. Peggy has a date in Sioux Falls that God, the devil or Ohanzee can’t keep her from. And so do we.
Dodd is a thug, through and through. Rather than try to explain away how he became such a beast, writer Steve Blackman (and showrunner Noah Hawley) instead chose to prove that Dodd was always this way. Sure, the assassination of a mafia boss at the young age of eight (ish) may have pushed him over the edge, but he hasn’t lost the humanity or humility he had back then. Young Dodd staring at the corpse, transfixed by what he’d done, came back into play when he lovingly asked for his mother’s forgiveness in the back of the car. The shame he felt could only be solved by his mother’s love, just as the justification for murder was only given by his father’s guiding hand back in the day. The key scenes served as honest character development rather than easy exposition, nice bookends to the episode and they definitely added viewer investment to a man who’s only been bad news for the Gerhardts — and everyone else — so far. Now we care a little bit more about Dodd when he starts “busting heads” next week.
Call us suckers for silence, but there is some damn fine acting going on these days by professionals portraying mute characters. First and foremost, there’s the work of Janel Moloney on “The Leftovers, who — while trapped in a vegatative state — conveys so much even when she’s merely holding a mirror up to the viewer. Then there’s Michael Hogan on “Fargo.” As Otto, the head of the Gerhardt Family mob who suffered a stroke in Episode 1, Hogan convinced us of his character’s vitality and vehemence so quickly we’re able to read his mind now, as he stares helplessly at his family’s murderers. We almost expect him to get up out of his chair and whack every last one of them, physical impossibilites be damned. And he just might, but until then, he remains a quiet force to be reckoned with.
(This section highlights the unexpected trouble “Fargo” regularly showcases, usually to tragic or comedic ends.)
I mean, we have to talk about Peggy, right? Her decision to continue denying the accident has now officially put the Blomquists on the clock. And make no doubt about it: This was her decision (or decisions, really). She was the one to try to cover up her accident in the first place. She was the one to put Ed into a life-or-death choice. She was the one to demand he help her cover it up. She was the one to cut off Ed before he came clean to Lou Solverson in his last opportunity to do so.
So why aren’t we calling for Peggy’s head? Precisely because it was her choice. Hawley and his writing staff have framed Peggy as a put-upon woman among put-upon women. Her main motivation in life is to be able to make decisions for herself, rather than letting a man make them for her. By seeing her through this lens and observing the expectant pressures of her domestic lifestyle, we forgive some of her forcefulness — even when it becomes dangerous. Basically, she’s in two bad situations: having run over a member of the mob (and covering it up), and being born into a sexist, oppressive time period. In essence, we’re rooting for Peggy, even as we watch her make mistake after mistake — and this last one may prove fatal.
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(This section highlights the unexpected glee “Fargo” regularly showcases, teased by tragedy or humorous beginnings.)
While not quite gleeful, “Fear and Trembling” also ran with a theme of less-than-pleasant sexual encounters. First, Peggy suffered through feigned child-making with Ed, popping her birth control immediately after intercourse all while her hubby talked about raising multiple kiddies behind a white picket fence. But the real “surprise” came when Mike Milligan received a not-so-happy ending to his freeform lovemaking with Simone Gerhardt (Rachel Keller). Doesn’t she know by now that you don’t do that sort of thing without asking?
“Fargo” is heartbreakingly portraying the many different conflicts Americans face. From the threat to family businesses by massive corporations played out in an external war between gangs, to the internalized fear for one’s family and their safety as seen within the Solverson home, Season 2 is tackling as much ground as the America’s Northern half has to offer. Next week, when the bullets start flying and the people start dying, we’ll know how well it pays off. But the setup has been worth the time.
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