This review contains spoilers.
Have you actualised, fully? Peggy’s vision at the beginning of this episode was a rather Lynchian way of underlining just how far out of their depth she and her husband are. Having stumbled, literally by accident, into a pattern of poor decision-making that has led to them on the lam with a dangerous man in the boot of their car, the Blomquists find themselves having to justify their position. It’s probably easier the less they actually think about it, or to put it in the New Age wisdom terms so beloved by Peggy, if they don’t think, just be.
As forms of denial go, it’s rather handy. Peggy’s mental distancing from the reality of her situation enable her to do things that she wouldn’t otherwise do – stabbing the bound Dodd for instance – that convince her captive that she’s crazy and helping to sustain her position long enough for it to become really dangerous.
Peggy has been a difficult character to like. Her earliest appearances showed her as a manipulative figure, whose marital unhappiness manifested itself in the calculated mistreatment of her husband, himself a miserable figure whose limited desires never fully coalesced with hers. By now, we’ve come to see a different Peggy and her blossoming happiness, even if it is fraudulent, contrasts so sharply with her earlier appearances that her misery only now becomes clear. Although the groundwork is done by the writing and the audacious use of hallucinatory life coaching sessions, Kirsten Dunst’s performance is crucial. Her Peggy appears as a figure liberated from misery, a woman made more free even as the, excuse me, actuality of her situation becomes ever more problematic. She’s found the freedom to become violent, but only through a curious dissociation, unaware of the pain she can inflict with abandon. ‘I hardly stuck him’ she protests about he first stabbing of Dodd, foreshadowing the even more painful knife work that came later.
This episode’s deliberate playfulness with time (it worked as a pair with last week’s episode, the first three quarters of this edition running parallel with the events of the previous) worked very well, delaying once again Ed’s negotiation for help from Mike Milligan and pausing the progress of the story for us to spend this time in the company of the Blomquists, secluded from the rest of the action (the increasingly irritated Dodd notwithstanding) and seeing the pattern of their marriage in more detail. The relationship is not flattered by the focus. Once again, the split screen proves more than a period affectation and instead offers a visual reminder of their emotional estrangement. There’s a curious dynamic at play, with the more that Peggy’s personality emerges, the more that Ed’s retreats. He shuffles through life in a daze at the best of times, but faced with a noisy and dangerous proximate problem he becomes all but impotent, pressing on through the kidnap like it’s all some boring routine.
Our additional time with the Blomquists is accompanied by some extra attention on Hanzee, who, it would seem doesn’t lack for attention of a more malicious type as he goes about his own routine. He’s a fascinating figure, a sort of hitman Tom Hagen, with the crime family but never quite of it, even as he does the most to promote its interests. His scene at the bar offered several minutes of raw discomfort, tempered only by the audience’s knowledge that he is more than capable of handling the situation for himself. Indeed, when the moment came to flip things around, the only real regret is that he was so restrained.
It was, nevertheless, a rather cavalier move by ordinary standards. He was probably convinced that he had little left to lose, officially a wanted man and a component of a criminal institution that is collapsing around him. He approached his surprising appointment with Dodd with the demeanour of a man completing his final mission on Earth (though really, does he have any other manner?). It was inevitable that he’d be a key figure in the episode’s tensest moments, firstly with the shop owner and secondly as he sat for his ‘haircut’. That particular scene was almost unbearably tense, the newly-actualised Peggy behind him, in Ed’s line of sight but utterly unable to receive the silent messages he tried to transmit from his eyes. No possibility of communication there, as though there’s something unutterable between them, like a split screen.
Read Michael’s review of the previous episode, Did You Do This? No, You Did It! here