This Fargo review contains spoilers.
Fargo Season 2 Episode 7
I have heaped a whole lot of praise on this current season of Fargo. I think the cast is fantastic, the writing is idiosyncratic and tightly wound, and almost every shot is dripping with style, yet for the first time this season, the frigid winds of the setting have left me a little cold.
Don’t take it the wrong way, but this may have been my least favorite episode of the season, and I’m completely ok with that. Not every episode can be a five-star outing, but for some reason, being the age of the recap and Twitter-critics, one subpar episode can send a fan-base spiraling, claiming that the whole season has been derailed. Especially in these short episode order seasons, TV pundits act like every minute is precious, so they must not be wasted. I’m writing this before I know how the Internet will react, but I’m hoping that one bruised grape doesn’t cause anyone to claim that the whole bushel is tainted, because the thing is, even the weakest episode of Fargo is better than most TV shows.
My biggest issue with this episode is how it addresses last week’s events. We last saw Hanzee in hot pursuit of a fleeing Ed, so how did Ed get away? What did he and Peggy do with Dodd? These questions aren’t answered until the episodes final shot, when Ed calls Mike Milligan letting him know that Dodd’s in the trunk, but how does Ed know Mike? How did he know what hotel he was staying at? The other cliffhanger from last week was the Gerhardt home being shot up, and that’s glossed over so quickly, with Otto’s death treated like a mere afterthought. We’re dropped into the middle of things so awkwardly that it almost felt like I had missed a week of the show. I’m not saying that I need my hand held, or that just because the episode didn’t instantly satisfy my needs that I should dismiss it, I’m just saying for a show that seemed to have such a strong grip on pacing, this episode felt like a stall.
That being said, I think that they pumped the episode that had the thinnest plot with the most tricks stylistically. The camera work, editing, hell, all of the production elements have been stellar all season, but tonight, they were mesmerizing. The overhead shots of Bear leading Simone out into the woods, The Goodfellas-esuqe opening montage, the subtle nods to Coen-verse (the Kenny Rogers cover and the sly Knutsens name drop) not to mention those elevator mirror scenes that had me scratching my head thinking, “how did they film that?” Every frame was like a little treat tonight. I couldn’t focus on Betsy’s moving speech to Carl because I was so enthralled by how the two characters were framed in the shot. It is really beautiful work by veteran TV director Keith Gordon.
Speaking of Betsy’s speech, death really hangs heavy over this episode. From the opening moments, to what may have been the end of Simone’s tragic arc at the hands of her uncle Bear, the shadow of death was looming large over everyone. With the one son missing, one son dead, and a husband fresh in the ground, it’s death that leads Floyd to align herself with the police, but something tells me she’s working an angle. Death even comes metaphorically for Mike, when his racist, unsatisfied boss sends a man called the Undertaker to, well, take over, but Mike quickly sends the Undertaker to meet his maker. The contemplative, yet withholding nature of the episode suggests it may be a calm before the storm, but after all of the thunder last week, I was looking for more lightning and less meditation.
Reviewing all I’ve written, I’d say that I still largely enjoyed the episode. I loved watching Flyod and Hank interact, and Lou and Mike’s talk about manifest destiny pushed the post-modern capitalism theme I’ve been harping on even further, it’s just there’s too much in this episode that’s purposely left unknown, like what happened with Ed, Dodd, Hanzee, Simone, and whatever the heck that was in Hank’s den. Now there might be a reason for all of this, but right now it’s all just a bit frustrating. Still, as I said, the weakest Fargo episode is still better than almost any other show currently on the air.