This review contains spoilers
2.7 Did You Do This? No, You Did It!
‘It’s hard to be simple’, says Hank in his customary grandfatherly tones, ‘in times of complication’. It’s a somewhat pat piece of wisdom, but one that’s entirely suited to the bewilderingly complicated scenario that we have before us. Two thirds of the way through the season and positions have become so thoroughly entwined that it’s difficult to imagine a sword sharp enough to cut through the knot.
Not that a violent shortcut is completely off the table. As the opening montage loudly reminded us, this world, however complicated, is a terrifyingly violent one and the prospect of any resolution coming through words alone seems very remote indeed. We started with a double Gerhardt funeral and finished with another (possible) burial and a putative patriarch in the boot of a butcher’s car. For all her hard talk, it’s not too hard to sympathise with Floyd as she tries to negotiate a way out for her family from a position of weakness.
‘Old timers had it worse’ she says, in the middle of her interview room conversation, ‘used to be ten born, two survived’. It’s understandable that she’d try to undersell her difficulties here, but things are obviously worse than she’s letting on. Her sympathies are with former generations who lost their children as a matter of routine. She’s losing them as a matter of business.
The members of her family that she doesn’t lose at the hands of outsiders will be lost at the hands of each other. The painful scene between Bear and Simone, from difficult car journey to desperate encounter in the frozen woods acted as an agonising summary of the problems that have befallen this family. For Bear, Simone’s actions were the most unforgivable treachery, the work of someone who is so estranged from his concert of ‘family’ she can’t even bring herself to call her own father ‘dad’. True, Bear and Dodd do not see eye-to-eye and don’t even like one another, but family is family and betrayal cannot go unanswered. If that also provides an opportunity for intra-familial redress for the trials of his own son, then all the better.
Simone, tragically, was trapped by the very complications that defy simplification. Her arguments and, later, pleading, rang a true note. What’s the point of remaining loyal to a family (for which, read ‘father’) that betrays their own duty to love? Her attempt to secure a way out proved messy and, in all likelihood, fatal. This was an appropriately difficult scene to watch and was perfectly handled by Rachel Keller and Angus Sampson, who found a painful eloquence in inarticulacy.
Inarticulate is not a word that we might expect to apply to the loquacious Karl Weathers but, confronted with the reality of Besty’s illness, he nevertheless found a touching gap in his expression. His attempt at being supportive (The Breakfast King of Loyola!) was well-intended and well-received, even if it wandered from the usual path of sympathy. Fargo has a curious habit, inherited from the Coen Brothers, of talking around a topic to make a point (example: Mike Milligan and the wheelbarrow story) but occasionally goes for a direct hit. Betsy and Karl’s conversation showcased both approaches, going from John McCain and the thumbscrews to Betsy declaring that she’s happy for Lou to remarry and that the pills she has been taking are the sugar ones.
The warmth of the Solverson family, with whom I’d include Karl as a member, stands in stark contrast to the cold bonds of the Gerhardts. This may be deliberate. Where the Gerhardts, particularly Floyd and Bear, have to remind one another that they have obligations to one another, Lou, Betsy and co just get on with it, their sweetly mundane conversations weaving through their days. The folksy charm of Fargo’s dialogue is an affectation, but it is not without purpose and never more so than in the natural portrayal of these relationships.
Mike Milligan is another character with a charming turn of phrase, only he has a tendency to deploy as a means to demonstrate his confidence and lack of fear. His unwillingness to raise his voice or telegraph his emotions is probably what causes most people to underestimate him and is therefore quite deliberate on his part. Hamish Broker certainly thought that this was a man who could easily be disposed of, even if that meant unleashing the dread ‘Undertaker’ to do so. Milligan’s swift despatching of the Undertaker was funny, given the imposing build-up, but it suggested that perhaps even the audience has been underestimating the philosophical hit man. It was a timely reminder that he is a force to be reckoned with and that Ed Blomquist’s offer (presumably made after Bear refused to take his call) promises a bloody conclusion and that this complicated situation might have a simple ending after all.
Read Michael’s review of the previous episode, Rhinoceros, here