A review of tonight's “Fargo” coming up just as soon as I show you which part's the flank steak…
“Yeah. Tired of this life.” -Hanzee
I assumed, based on the structure of last week's episode and the brief allusions to what Ed and Hanzee and the others were up to, that tonight's installment would be largely devoted to showing their perspective on that same time period. And that's what “Loplop” turned out to be, though we got to see more of Lou and Hank(*) than I had expected going in.
(*) The early Lou/Hank scenes at Peggy and Ed's house at least drove home how injured and out of sorts Hank was, which goes at least a little way way to explaining why he didn't think to go into the house first and check on Peggy. But even though I don't know the terrain in and around Luverne and how windy the road to the house was versus the crow's flight path Ed took through the woods, I don't see how Ed could have gotten there on foot that far ahead of two cops in a patrol car.
What I didn't expect – even though the first, second, and third words I would use to describe this season, despite all the violence therein, is “fun” – was for so much of “Loplop” to turn into a dark domestic comedy where the two polite, clueless civilians play house out in the woods while giving Dodd some long-awaited comeuppance.
In hindsight, I should have, since the situation is basically the inverse of the kidnapping at the heart of the plot of “Fargo” the movie, where the ones in power – but also the ones who are terrified and in way over their heads – are the people who weren't criminals before this story began, while the nasty thug is the one bound and sometimes gagged or hooded, and who in time comes to be hilariously in fear for his own life after getting punched, cattle-prodded some more and then stabbed in the chest by a newly “actualized” Peggy.
Though Dodd has had a few comic moments in past episodes (notably his love of a chocolate glaze), putting him in this unlikely submissive position really gave Jeffrey Donovan a chance to be funny. Similarly, putting Ed and Peggy into a rare power position was a great opportunity for Jesse Plemons and, especially, Kirsten Dunst, who both have a long history of comic work (he was a bumbling football player, she was a frustrated cheerleader, etc.) but who have largely been placed into dramatic contexts so far in this story. The sequence where Ed returns to the cabin and discovers that Peggy has stabbed Dodd was delightful, from Dodd's anguished whisper confirming the stabbing to an exasperated Ed telling his wife “You gotta stop stabbing him!”
Man, was Kirsten Dunst so entertaining this week. She's one of this cast's bigger names, and while she certainly hasn't been marginalized to this point, there's been so much happening, and so many colorful performances along the way, that it was easy at times to overlook her commitment to Peggy's chipper irrationality. Narrowing the focus to just these three in the cabin, plus Hanzee wreaking havoc while looking for them (more on him in a moment), allowed her to shine, even if her behavior was nearly as unsettling to watch as it must have been for Dodd to experience as her hostage and victim. (If the guy wasn't such a bastard, I'd almost feel sorry for him being in her optimistic clutches.)
And while Ed and Peggy are completely in over their heads here, it's also fascinating to see how much they've come to embrace their new outlaw roles, and even benefit from them. This is the first time since we met her that Peggy seems actually happy to be married to Ed, and while he's now adopted the Butcher of Luverne nickname Dodd gave him out of necessity, there's also a sense that he doesn't mind, however temporarily, being thought of as a more dangerous man than he really is.
But the most dangerous man in “Loplop” (the title is a reference to surrealist artist Max Ernst's birdlike alter ego) is of course Hanzee, who racks up a body count that includes cops, civilians, and even the Gerhardt to whom he had been most loyal, to the point of supporting a lie that escalated the war with Kansas City and marked Ed for death in this way. On one level, Hanzee is similar to Coen villains like Chigurh (or Coen-esque villains like our old friend Lorne Malvo), in that he brings the potential for sudden, enormous, yet casual violence wherever he goes. But he's not a supernatural agent of chaos like those two. He's a very human man with a complicated, tragic backstory that's reflective of larger problems in our country's relationship with its Native American population (see also the sign outside the bar bragging about all the Sioux who were hung there, and now commemorated by a puddle of vomit below), but also specific to him. We don't know everything about Hanzee, but we know enough to understand that he's long been isolated, never fitting in anywhere, taken in by a white family that still treated him as something other, served bravely in wartime for a country that didn't fully appreciate him, and now gives his loyalty to a man who casually degrades him even when Hanzee has rescued him. As with Dodd, you can only sympathize so far with Hanzee – those guys in the alley behind the bar were racist jerks, but not worthy of bullets in the leg, not to mention his murder of the two state troopers who weren't prepared for him(**) – but the episode and Zahn McClarnon's performance went a long way to helping us understand him, and to appreciate why, after the journey he's been on, Hanzee would be so focused on getting a haircut that might invite a few less sarcastic war whoops the next time he goes for a drink.
(**) We also don't know yet whether he left Constance alive, like the clerk at the convenience store, or if she'll be found dead in the Lifespring hotel next week.
We know from Lou's comments last season that something terrible is still bound to happen in Sioux Falls, and we know Mike Milligan is on his way there. But Lou and Hank again have the Blumquists in their custody, and the Gerhardts' ranks are ever thinner with Dodd's murder and Hanzee's apparent decision to go his own way.
At this stage of this wildly entertaining game, I should probably give up guessing what's coming next and just enjoy it – at least until some of the characters I like more than Dodd walk in front of a bullet.
Some other thoughts:
* Songs this week include “I Got A Line On You” by Spirit, “Bashi Mwana” by Musi-O-Tunya, “Payday Give Away” by Bill Wilson, and “Miss Your Kiss” by Heinz Jahr.
* For the most part, this season has used split screens to keep us abreast of what's happening with multiple locations/factions at the same time. This episode, directed by Keith Gordon and written by Bob De Laurentiis, used it to convey a thematic split, deployed while Peggy and Ed were riding in Dodd's car together, having two completely different conversations, and essentially part of two completely different marriages. We didn't necessarily need the visuals to underline that point, but it was nice nonetheless.
* Also clever visually: we switch from the grainy TV image of the season's latest fake Reagan movie, “Operation: Eagle's Nest” to show more pristine footage of it, which gets across just how absorbed Peggy has become in the story, and thus how distracted she is when Dodd finally figured out how to get loose from his bonds.
* Of course Dodd didn't enjoy Peggy's beans. Doesn't she know he only enjoys yogurt?
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com