Fargo: The Castle

Posted on December 08, 2015


Here is the problem facing anyone who decides to recap or review each episode of Fargo: There are only so many ways one can say “OHMIGOD BEST TV SHOW EVER” or “I TOTALLY FORGOT TO BREATHE WHILE I WAS WATCHING THIS EPISODE.” And because this season has been so consistently excellent (especially the last few episodes heading into the finale), we feel like we’ve exhausted every superlative we have in our arsenal.

From the opening shots of the episode, introducing us to the history of crime in Minnesota (which is a book we kind of wish actually existed) we were practically bouncing up and down with glee. It was a totally fun, stylish, and unexpected way to frame an episode that was pretty much all about one massive bloodbath. Less creative shows or teams would never have thought to open such an episode in such a lyrical, almost fairy tale sort of manner. And strangely enough, the soothingly pleasant voice of Martin Freeman narrating the tale did more to raise the ominous tone of the episode than a thousand epic musical stings on the soundtrack. It was a fabulous choice.

To be fair, we went into the episode all set to be dazzled because we knew this one was going to feature the mythical Massacre at Sioux Falls that was first referenced in season one and has been foreshadowed all season long, starting with the fake Ronald Reagan film shoot in the first episode. Even without having seen the first season, it was clear that the phrase “Sioux Falls” was loaded with sinister foreboding every time it was mentioned as the location of the late lamented Constance’s Lifespring seminar. We knew – or at least, we thought we did – what was coming. We just didn’t think it would be so damn emotionally satisfying and so full of fist-pump moments

There is a certain flavor of trickster-god randomness to this story; an almost gleeful perspective that allows for anything to happen at any time because the world is a far stranger and more beautiful place than we can imagine. It’s why Peggy Blumquist can inexplicably become the biggest badass in Minnesota and not strain the credibility of the story. It’s why characters seemingly generated from a Mad Libs session, like poetry-spouting mob enforcers, silent identical twin thugs, death-obsessed butcher shop counter girls, drunk lawyers prone to spewing off-the-cuff rabble-rousing speeches, Native-American ninja assassins, and predatory lesbian beauty shop owners can all co-exist in the same story space and never have you wondering if perhaps everyone’s a bit too colorful to accept at once. And it’s why the timely intervention from a flying saucer can save our heroes’ lives and the audience can be expected to respond with an “Oh, right. I was wondering when the UFOs were coming back.” We wouldn’t blame anyone one bit for thinking that scene was too hard to accept, but we have to say it’s been subtly set up all along. In the context of this story, it’s just one more goofy thing to remind us what a strange, anarchic world we live in.

So, “It’s just a flying saucer, Ed! We gotta go!” is a thing that makes perfect sense coming out of Peggy Blumquist’s mouth at that time in the story. It was also the greatest line delivery of Kirsten Dunst’s entire career and she deserves an Emmy just for making it work so hilariously. Underneath the humor of it, though, is a somewhat beautifully cynical illustration that Peggy, for all her talk of realization and self-actualization, can’t even take the time to recognize a truly awe-inspiring moment in her life. At her heart, whether she wants to ever admit it, she’s a shrewd, practical-thinking survivor with delusions that she’s a dreamer. There are patterns buried within random events, which makes them particularly hard to recognize for the people swept up in them.

In fact, we’re starting to wonder if randomness and anarchy aren’t two of the bigger themes of this season. Or rather, we’re wondering if the randomness of the Blumquists’ lives and the sudden turn of events that sprung from Hanzee’s largely unexplained shift in behavior are meant to be a counterexample to the stories of the Gerhardt family, all of whom have seemingly come to tragic ends and all of whom could be said to be the victim of their own shitty choices and behavior. In other words, it’s “anything can happen” vs. “eventually, you get what’s coming to you.” You set those two concepts side by side in a story like this one and you can make massive death and bloodshed seem like the most entertaining and triumphant thing you could possibly imagine.  Mike Milligan’s “Okay, then…” as he surveyed the carnage and quickly got back into his car made for a brilliantly timed and executed coda to the pure manic ridiculousness of the previous hour. We haven’t always loved Bokeem Woodbine’s deliberately sing-song delivery because it sometimes comes off as too much of an actorly affectation, but he nailed the hell out of those two words.

Which isn’t to say this was a pure laugh-riot of an episode. Betsy Solverson seems to be coming to the end of her road just as her father is fighting for his own life. It doesn’t seem likely that Lou’s going to come out of this tale a happy man. Floyd’s death was another big shock that was flawlessly executed by Jean Smart as she went from shocked hurt over Hanzee’s betrayal to sheer surprise at her own fate. We think she probably didn’t get enough to do in the role as she’s capable of, but Smart made Floyd – who is, when you step back from her grandmotherly trappings, a monster – such a nuanced and relatable character underneath her ice-cold psychopathy. If you think we’re being harsh on her, she raised those boys. Enough said.

As for the Blumquists, we’re torn. As we said, the story has more than made the point that even the least likely of events can happen, but it may strain credibility if they both survive this story. It’s a testament to how well their unlikely tale has unfolded and how beautifully both Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons have played them that we find ourselves, against our better judgment (and nature, even), rooting like hell for The Butcher and Hairdresser of Luverne Minnesota to continue to kick ass and get away with it right up to the triumphant end.


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