Patrick Wilson in FX’s “Fargo.”
Emmys for everyone!
This episode was so loaded with award-worthy performances (not to mention top-notch screenwriting and directing) that we feel like Oprah on Christmas day. YOU get an Emmy! And YOU get an Emmy! EVERYBODY GETS AN EMMY! Do we sound giddy, we ask rhetorically? Well, fine. But that’s probably because we’re so pleasantly surprised at how things shook out this week.
Dear GOD, that was an entertaining hour of television, yes? It’s the next day and we’re (obviously) still buzzing a little bit. There’s little point in doing our usual examination of the costuming because none of the characters changed their clothes after last episode – although even that was a telling and evocative choice on the part of the storytellers. Part of the point of this episode was to disrupt the rhythm and cadence of the narrative, which has, up until now, more or less followed a “day into night” pattern for each installment, slowly and methodically. But this episode takes place entirely at night and follows directly on the close of the previous episode, giving it not only that sense of disruption or of things being slightly off somehow (“You’re a little touched, aren’t you?”), but also a screaming sense of urgency; a feeling that the other shoe has already dropped and everyone’s just waiting to hear it hit the floor. Every single plotline lurched forward in this episode, with results both devastating and triumphant throughout – although to our surprise, triumph seems to have won the night this time around. But only this time around. Doom is still on the horizon and will almost surely advance with the sunrise.
What could have been a plodding turn toward unrelenting darkness (because things were so touch-and-go there for a while we assumed there’d be a dozen corpses on the ground before the hour was up) instead became about two very unlikely people holding their own against almost certain death and – for the moment, at least – winning.
Local lawyer and Libertarian Karl Weathers reaches deep down inside himself, ignores his soiled underwear, and overcomes his drunkenness just long enough to miraculously pull out a whopper of well-reasoned rhetoric strong enough to get a crazed Gerhardt and his henchmen to lower their guns and walk away. It was a moment that never should have happened the way it did, but it was a wonderful thing to watch unfold, especially with Nick Offerman giving the performance of his life.Whatever Karl said to get Bear to back off didn’t matter. It’s what was going on behind his face and eyes that really sold the scene. He went from drunken fear to bravado to well-reasoned response to sheer surprise that he managed to pull it off, all through some fabulously executed wordless acting. We just wanted to pat him on the back and buy him a beer when it was over.
Does Peggy actually deserve her fist pump of a moment, though? In talking to Hank it becomes obvious (to us and to him) that she’s just not quite right in the head, is she? Her ability to remain in a state of high denial is impressively infuriating, but also indicative of an obsessive nature with a touch of sociopathy in it. Everything is about Peggy Blumquist and her intense need to get the hell out of the house where Ed Blumquist’s father shat, and out of the town where she knows she’ll never be more than Ed’s wife and the mother of his kids. Not that she’s intent on striking out and making some sort of feminist stand. In fact, she can’t even articulate where she wants to go and what she wants to do. She just wants desperately to be living any life but the life she’s living. That may be understandable, but we think after this episode, it’s clear she’ll run roughshod over just about anybody who gets in the way of her hazy, unformed, but nonetheless desperate dreams. So intense is that need to get away that she manages to use her own hoarding of magazines (itself a physical manifestation of the kinds of mass-mediated lifestyle dreams she’s got for herself) as a way of defeating Dodd Gerhardt and his two henchman. It’s an outcome that seems so unlikely but somehow made perfect sense within the story, given everything we know about the characters. Dodd himself clearly has not the slightest bit of respect for any woman, which caused him to underestimate Peggy, and her mania about getting away from this life is so all-encompassing that it can momentarily turn a Minnesota hairdresser into the biggest badass you ever saw.
So yes. It’s okay to do a fist-pump and a fuck-yeah at the sight of Dodd’s smoking, sputtering self. Both characters more than earned that moment. It’ll probably bite them both in the ass somewhere down the line, but for now, it’s okay to cheer Peggy on.
As an aside, we have to pay special attention to the scene with Ted Danson and Kirsten Dunst, because it never would have occurred to us ahead of time that these two actors would have such an insane amount of chemistry together. Not in the romantic sense; we just mean that it was a true pleasure watching two such seasoned professionals play so beautifully off each other. We think we learned more about Peggy and Hank through the silences in that scene than in all the dialogue each character has uttered so far. We learned that he’s far more intuitive and intelligent a man than he first comes across (which makes sense, given the daughter he raised), and we also learn that Peggy literally has no idea what she wants. She just doesn’t want this.
As another aside, we also have to point out (with no small amount of glee) how the “Butcher of Luverne” and his wife have turned out to be the biggest threat facing the Gerhardt family in some time. Between the two of them, they’ve killed one Gerhardt son, got two of their henchmen killed, sent a Gerhardt grandson to jail, and gave Dodd Gerhardt one of the worst and most humiliating defeats of his life. It doesn’t bode well for either of the Blumquists that they’ve managed these things, but they become more impressive with each passing episode.
If we had one slight complaint – and we more than expect to get some disagreement on this one – we found Mike Milligan’s recitation of Jabberwocky to be a bit pretentious and unlikely. Literally the second he hung up the phone, looked up, and said “‘Twas brillig,” we groaned a little. But to be fair, it was only a small thing and it did absolutely nothing to take away from the brilliance of this episode.
Now if you’ll excuse us, we feel the need to go and watch it a third or fourth time.
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[Photo Credit: Chris Large/FX]
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