After Fargo reestablished itself with “Waiting for Dutch,” let’s see where things pick up when some Kansas City syndicates begin to make their move. And after Peggy and Ed’s less than perfect clean-up job after dealing with Rye, they do just as great of a job trying to maintain normalcy. This is “Before the Law.”
The episode begins with Joe Bulo and three associates being arriving at the Gerhardt home. As they’re checked for weapons, we head inside where Floyd sends out her grandson, Charles, played by Allan Dobrescu, to gather up his dad and uncles.
In a barn, Dodd, with Hanzee, tells a story about his grandfather fighting in the war. The Brits caught him in a raid once and hung him by his thumbs for six days straight. Riveting tale, but the hostage can’t hear because he’s a. dead and b. his ears have been cut off. Charles enters to let Dodd and Hanzee know that Grandma wants them. Did I mention that the dog starts going through the bucket with the dead man’s ears?
Dodd, Bear, and Charlie head for the house just as two of the four newcomers exit. These goons, turns out, are from Kansas City want to buy them out. They can’t talk to Otto, so they talked to Floyd instead. Dodd doesn’t want Simone, played by Rachel Keller, to overhear this conversation since she’s a girl.
But, as Floyd points out, girls grow up to be women that change boy’s diapers. Still no word of Rye, though. Denise only knows that he had things to do out of town.
Here was the pitch from the Kansas City associates: in this new world, there’s no room for family business. They’re offering to buy the operation and paying the family to run it. For a bit of change, they may earn more, but they’d report to Kansas City instead. Floyd said that she would consult with her partner.
But due to the stroke, Otto is not in a lucid state. He may never be again. Grandpa built this business, but he’s no longer capable of running it. Dodd, as new boss, suggests telling these Kansas City bosses to piss off.
Dodd doesn’t want Floyd to be in charge. But then, she’s got ties to Winnipeg. Plus, she’s in good with Carter B and the Solkerk crew. She’s trusted. But Dodd, as oldest, declares himself to be the boss. End of story. Floyd orders everyone out, but Dodd wants Hanzee to stay, for some reason.
Floyd wants to have her say: how will things go for them in the next few weeks? Grandfather left the ashes of the Weimar Republic and came to this country to build a name for himself. He built an empire from a shoe shine box and only then did he send for Dodd’s father.
And Dodd really doesn’t know this story, even though he says otherwise. If he did, he’d know that he’s just a small part of this. That’s what an empire is- bigger than any son or daughter.
Against his best judgment, Dodd begins to eat as Floyd tells him that his time will come. This moment, now, isn’t it. If he stand by Floyd, then as soon as this crisis is over, she’ll hand this legacy over to him. Now, though, the family needs to find Rye. Whatever he’s doing, bring him home.
The four men, Joe Bulo one of them, discuss the liquidation plan and their approach. Maybe they can get to the youngest one, Rye. The older ones may be harder. To use a metaphor, lobsters have pincher and crusher claws, but which one’s which? As in which son is which claw? Actually, screw the metaphor.
Management says acquire the territory. Whether that’s cash or sending bodies the morgue, that’s up to the Krauts. First Gerhardt to switch sides gets a shiny red apple. Now, Mr. Bulo’s associates do have names, but I’ll introduce them later down the line.
At the Rock County sheriff’s station, Hank actually has the damn shoe that he saw stuck in a tree. He examines it as if looking for a hidden clue to pop out at him.
In Luverne, Minnesota, Hank stops by House Solverson and has small talk with Betsy and Molly, who really wants to hear a story, so Hank and Betsy share a tale about oysters…which boils down to the time Hank and Betsy came to eat hot dogs for dinner once again. Betsy tells Hank that one of the victims from the massacre was a judge. Hank figures it was the old woman.
But, as Lou joins the family, therein lies the question: was the judge just in the wrong place at the wrong time or was this about her?
We then cut to Ed and Peggy’s wrecked car. Smart people would have gotten rid of this and removed any evidence of a struggle or blood, but Ed just sits in deep contemplation and goes through Rye’s wallet. They’re both still rattled by the turn of events and Ed doesn’t want to go to work, but Peggy encourages him to keep up appearances. She doesn’t want to, either, especially with her eye. But there’s still work to be done.
Dodd considers everything that Floyd told him. He tells Hanzee that Bear’s thrown in with Mom, and that’s his loss. If Dodd presses hard, the distributors will stand with him, but he needs Rye. Dodd tasks Hanzee with finding Rye and bringing him to Dodd. Not Mom, but Dodd.
After a quick stop by Bud’s Meats to fill Bud in on Ed’s whereabouts- bad clams, you know- Peggy heads to work at the hair salon, where coworkers discuss the Waffle Hut massacre. First Watergate, and now this. What’s the world coming to? It’s here that we’re also introduced to Constance Heck, played by Elizabeth Marvel, who asks if Peggy told Ed about the seminar.
She did, and though it’s a lot of money, Peggy insists that they’re saving up for something else. But Constance sees this as Peggy thinking that Ed’s needs outweigh her own. And though Peggy says that we, meaning her and Ed, have a plan, Constance points out that the word “we” is a castle, hon, with a moat and a drawbridge. You know what gets locked up in castles? Princesses. Don’t be a prisoner of “we,” Constance says. Take the seminar.
Oh, and someone apparently took the case of toilet paper from the back. Why someone would do that, I don’t know.
Lou Solverson talks to a superior and now believes that this massacre will lead to interstate issues. He’ll coordinate with Sheriff Larsson and head to Fargo soon.
Back at Watson’s Typewriters, Joe Bulo’s associates pop in just as Skip is taking a call. Skip claims that the call was about being double billed. The place isn’t technically open, but the men are fine with that. After all, they’re not really customers, but they want to know Rye Gerhardt’s whereabouts. Skip plays dumb, thinking that the men need a character reference, but the men know that Rye worked for Skip.
How do they know this? Skip, after having a few drinks, told Big Jim Suggs at the Pig ‘N Poke that he had a Gerhardt in his pocket. One of the men, looking to speed this along, puts Skip’s tie through the typewriter and keeps him there while waxing a tale about a problem he experienced with an automated coffee maker from Sears that is, pardon my French, a real piece of shit. The man types his complaint, choking Skip with every key stroke.
The damn coffee maker sounds like a fat man having a heart attack. Is this why our once great nation is going down the crapper? But anyway, the man completes his letter- yours in peace: Mike Milligan, played by Bokeem Woodbine. Skip eventually spills that he told Rye to talk to Judge Mundt.
Back at House Blomquist, Ed gets to work cleaning the car. After taking a quick peek at Rye’s frozen corpse, he tosses some garments into the fireplace.
After a quick scene of Betsy getting a blood transfusion, we cut to her on a drive with Lou and Molly. Lou’s captain said to hold off on going up to Fargo so some chain of command nonsense can be sorted out.Lou stops at the now closed up Waffle Hut. As he looks around for something that he missed, he spots a can of bug spray.
Outside, Betsy and Molly build themselves a snowman. Molly heads over to grab some sticks and instead picks up a balloon that reads “Get Well Soon.” Random, but then Betsy does some more digging and finds a gun buried in the snow. Neither of these items will serve as good arms for the snowman.
Lou heads out to find his wife doing his job, but then also spots a car passing by with three men looking in their direction. Not ominous at all.
Mike and his associates continue along until they’re stopped by a police barricade manned by Hank. Mike does the talking since the fellas up front doesn’t like to talk to strangers. When the three men exit, they present their identification to Hank. Turns out the other two men are brothers: Wayne Kitchen, played by Todd Mann, and Gale Kitchen, Brad Mann.
So what’s this stop about? Hank asks if he would find weapons if he searched them. Mike tells Hank that they were just passing through and though they’d stop for waffles, but imagine their surprise when they found the location closed and now a crime scene.
Hank asks about the men’s shoe sizes- a truly odd question indeed. Mike is a 10 and judging from the Kitchen Brothers’ middle fingers, they’re an 11 and not a 2, because that would make them toddlers. Seeing that no crime has been committed, Hank lets the men go, but he does note that he has the men’s names and their license plate.
He’ll radio ahead to make sure the men make it out of State. But if not, he’ll put out an APB to have them rounded up.
Mike considers this a minor miracle. The state of the world today and the level of conflict and misunderstanding, that two men could stand on a lonely road in winter and talk calmly and rationally, while all around them, people are losing their mind. Mike and the Kitchen brothers depart.
That evening, Ed waits for Bud and Noreen to exit Bud’s Meats for the night. After they leave, Ed spots Peggy leaving in Constance’s car. Once Peggy’s left, Ed starts up the truck and pulls up outside Bud’s Meats. He then gets out and pulls a burlap sack into the building. Nothing about this is a good idea.
Peggy arrives at home. Constance decides to pop by the bathroom. As she washes her hands, though, she’s unable to find any paper towels. When she checks the cabinet, she finds rolls and rolls of toilet paper. What, does Peggy need that much just to wipe her ass?
Anyway, Peggy finds the car spotless, save for the big damn hole. Constance calls Peggy a bad girl. She can usually tell, but Peggy had her fooled. That bruise on Peggy’s face? A dust-up, even though Peggy apparently wasn’t in the car. Constance is not mad about the toilet paper. All she had to do was ask. Or maybe Peggy likes breaking the rules. Constance leaves.
Hank joins Lou at The Waffle Hut. Lou informs him that Betsy found the murder weapon. Now he’s wondering what else he missed. Hank says that the fellas he met were interesting, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Lou wonders why he’s still at this spot. It’s a convergence, Hank says, but Lou isn’t in the mood to talk about it. Lou mentions a guy on a boat that liked to smoke cigars. Out on the river, one day in 1974, Lou was on the wheel and this kid, maybe around 19, came up, lit his stick, and didn’t see the bullet coming his way. Was shot right through the cigar. One in a million shot. The look on his face when he fell, just like the cook, was one of pure bafflement.
Then Hank talks about a German captain that hanged himself in a bunker in 1945. Eyes bugged out and everything. Then, in 1962, Hank responded to a suicide. Found the fella in his bathroom, swinging from an electric cord. Times are different now, though. After World War II, the area went six years without a murder. These days, sometimes you wonder if the boys brought the war home with them.
Ed, with complete clarity on his face, feeds Rye’s body through a meat grinder. He’s unaware of a certain Lou Solverson pulling up right outside Bud’s Meats.
Just as Ed turns off the grinder and hacks off a hand- sending fingers scattering on the floor- he hears a knock at the door. He spots Lou, who talks about his double shift and what happened at The Waffle Hut. Lou asks if Ed can help him out with a third of bacon since Molly really loves it for breakfast and the family is fresh out at home. Though Lou offers to pay, Ed insists that it’s on the house.
But then one of Lou’s coins goes rolling on the ground not too far from one of Rye’s fingers. The two go to pick it up, but the phone rings. Ed eventually takes the call- it’s Peggy, who doesn’t like being home by herself and wants her husband to come home. As Lou heads off, Ed, seemingly safe for the moment, picks up the finger and heads back to the grinder as the episode comes to a close.
If there’s a thought going through my mind while watching Fargo, it’s something along the lines of “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” The thing about both this and the previous season of Fargo is that it takes some time for the storyline to get going and for the puzzle pieces to even begin piecing together. That’s evident here in “Before the Law.”
While it’s a bit slower paced compared to “Waiting for Dutch” and not as humorous, this episode help create the familiar sense that this small, unassuming town has just been rattled by this unexpected murder. Granted, Rye’s death hasn’t gone widespread yet. We hear murmurings of it discussed at the salon and both Lou and Hank are still trying to find connections, but even in a small town like this, world travels fast.
Lou and Hank’s discussion towards the end gets at the heart of what’s happening all around them: after a period of peace and quiet, some force comes in and begins to unravel the calmness, throwing things into hysteria. Again, we aren’t there yet, and given Lou’s description of this case to Malvo in Season One, we’ve got a long way to go.
But in essence, Lou and Hank’s talk shows how unforeseen circumstances, even if minor, can turn everything upside down because of the evil in people. The smoking soldier on the boat didn’t expect the one in a million chance of being shot and Hank didn’t expect that this homicide would come after this long period of peace. In the grand scheme of things, three people being killed in a small town waffle diner isn’t the end of the world, but in a quiet population like this, it’s enough to shatter what little quiet there is.
And despite a triple homicide and the world apparently going down the crapper around them, there’s still time for civil conversation. Mike Milligan has a keen, if not cynical, outlook on the world. In between so much madness, the possibility of liquidation, and questions of shoe sizes, and despite being questioned by an officer due to suspicion, Milligan maintains this calm demeanor about him.
To Milligan, the world might be in a shit state right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to be complacent. Take action, fight back, write an angry letter, or tell your competitor that their best days are behind them. We don’t know much about Milligan right now, which I like, but he seems like the person who, if he wants something, he’ll do whatever it takes to get it.
There’s a quiet menace to Bokeem Woodbine’s performance. I’ve seen a few reviewers compare him to Lorne Malvo in the first season, and I get the comparison, but think it’s way too soon to make that call. He seems to have a dark side to him, but from the smirk on his face, he has more of a sense of humor than Malvo did.
I’ve seen Woodbine in a few performances, but each time I’ve seen him, he’s always carried a sense of presence in a short amount of time. The best example I can think of this is Jasper, Texas. He’s not in the film very long, but with what little screen time he had, he gave a memorable performance.
It’s interesting how much of the ongoing issues make their way back to Rye. The man may be dead, but he’s the linchpin to everything happening now: the Kansas City syndicate is searching for him, as are the Gerhardts, Lou and Hank still have yet to figure out the shooter’s identity, and the Blomquists are just ready to get rid of him.
With him gone, the Gerhardt family is more stuck than they already were, in addition to Otto’s stroke. And the power struggle has divided the family, with Floyd, being the matriarch and best connections, as the favorite to maintain leadership. Like grandfather going from having nothing to something, Floyd is looking this potential negotiation in the long term. She sees the big picture, but now Dodd, who just wants to be in charge because he feels that it’s his turn.
Meanwhile, the Blomquists appear to be a tad more careful than Lester Nygaard, but just as fearful that they’ll be discovered. But even with them being as unassuming as they are, it’s not hard to see that there’s something different about their ordinary routine. The scene with Lou coming very close to discovering Ed grinding Rye’s body- a nice callback to the wood chipper scene from the film- had a good amount of tension to it.
At this point, there’d be no reason for Lou to suspect Ed at all. In fact, he seemed to be giving Ed the benefit of the doubt since they were both working longer shifts than usual. So Lou knows the feeling, but we also know that the Solversons, based on what we know from the previous season and how Betsy and Molly found evidence for Lou, are meticulous when it comes to investigations. If something is off, they’ll get a whiff of it.
Sticking with the Solversons for a second, I like how we’re getting little scenes with Betsy and Molly that tells us plenty with so little. We know that Betsy isn’t in the best condition right now, but she’s doing her best to remain an active part in Lou and Molly’s lives. And she’s careful. When Molly finds the gun, Betsy makes sure to hold it by the barrel. So it’s not hard to see how Molly picked up her detective skills.
Peggy is an odd one. She’s also trying to keep up appearances, but is less careful about it than Ed. Sure, Constance isn’t suspecting her of a hit-and-run, but she at least gets that there’s a bad, looser side to counter Peggy’s normal personality. Well, as much as you can glimpse from her stealing toilet paper, which is another issue by itself.
Ed and Peggy don’t appear to be desperate for cash, so unless Peggy’s ass is always caked with shit, which isn’t out of the realm of impossibility, or if she’s a kleptomaniac, it’s strange that she’d need so much toilet paper.
Oh, and Constance looks like she may have the hots for Peggy, but we’ll see if that pans out at all.
So “Before the Law” was another solid installment of Fargo. This being the first episode that creator Noah Hawley directed, it was an impressive watch. It built on the premiere’s story while giving us more of the lurking men of the Kansas City crime syndicate. Lou and Hank see that there’s darkness afoot, but they’re still fighting to stay one step ahead of any madness while remembering that, even if it’s a one in a million chance, it doesn’t take much to create havoc.
At the same time, the mild-mannered Blomquists are trying their best to avoid detection, and they look to be in the clear right now, until someone notices something fishy about the meat.