No time to relax yet. We may have had a few firefights last week, but things continue to escalate here. This is “Rhinoceros.”
The episode begins at the Blomquist household. Ed is hauled off in cuffs while Peggy maintains that her husband is innocent. Ed says nothing on the drive to the sheriff’s department. When he and Lou arrive, they Betsy and Noreen waiting. She was worried about the fire, after all. There’s no need for Noreen to be there, so Lou tells Betsy to take her home.
Meanwhile, Charlie Gerhardt is released from holding so he can have his one phone call. He’s given five minutes.
At the Gerhardt farm, Bear talks with Otto about Elron, the oldest Gerhardt brother, who died in the Korean War. There’s a picture in the hall of Otto with the kids at the lake. What would he have done since he was the oldest?
Soon, a truck pulls up and Dodd arrives. Bear heads in just as Simone tells him that Charlie is on the phone. Dodd has words for his daughter: he knows that she has no respect for anything, but does she know what a whore’s life is. He wants to look out for her and has expert advice on a whore’s life is: five good years, five bad years, and then some half-dick sweat stain grinds you out like a goddamn spent cigarette.
Bear, having learned about Charlie’s incarceration, rushes out and begins to beat the hell out of Dodd. He punches him over and over again until Hanzee holds a gun to him. Dodd brings up how much Charlie talked about he was ready. Dodd says that it’s time for Bear to get the belt. Bear can have the strap or the buckle. Bear chooses the buckle. But Floyd rushes out. She’s having none of this bullshit today and says that Dodd will split the family apart with his actions. Well, that was conveniently timed.
As the Gerhardt clan prepares to head out, Floyd demands that Bear find Charlie while Dodd is instructed to find and kill this butcher, who is not make it through the night.
Inside, Simone makes a call to Mike Milligan, who learns that most of the family left the farm maybe half an hour ago. A whole army of them went, almost. She’s upset that her father called her a whore which, while Mike figures is technically true, Simone figures that it’s her body and she can do with she wants with it. Yay for women’s rights, I guess. Simone tells Mike that the Gerhardts are headed for Luverne. Not only that, she tells Mike that she wants him to kill her father.
Milligan asks Simone if she has any last message for her father. She does: kiss my grits. As the syndicate heads out, Mike recalls and recites Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky. He continues his tale as he, Gale Kitchen, and other associates head off to take care of business.
Back at House Blomquist, Hank learns that Peggy likes her house and magazines in a certain way. She has to stay up with the latest trends, which is why she keeps the beauty magazines. There’s more to life than Minnesota, apparently. She knows there are questions, but she has a seminar to attend in Sioux Falls. Hank, though, has five deaths on his hands and Ed is in jail, so Peggy shouldn’t count on getting there early.
This wasn’t attempted robbery, Hank says. These men came to kill him. And Hank isn’t trying to be dramatic. He brings up the 15 dead in Fargo due to this war. Peggy calls her and Ed just bystanders trying to actualize. These are modern times, she says. She can be more than a mother. Hank senses that Peggy is touched by this, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Peggy just has dreams. Hank reiterates that someone tried to kill her husband and succeeded in burning down the shop.
Peggy’s response? Life’s a journey. The one thing you don’t do is stay in one place. Maybe she and Ed will go to California. Before Peggy makes plans, Hank tells her that a forensics team is coming to check the car for blood. You’d be surprised at what could be found on the atomic level, even in the 1970s. Peggy says that they need permission, but they got it since Peggy sold the car to Sonny, who is technically now the owner.
Now flustered, Peggy tries to intervene, but Hank demands to know what happened the night she hit Rye Gerhardt.
Lou and Ed face off in interrogation. He gave Ed and Peggy the chance to confess. Ed says that he’s just trying to protect their family. Yeah, but there’s still a meat cleaver in a man’s head and this war may have started when Ed or Peggy hit Rye Gerhardt. Ed can’t stop thinking about Noreen’s book about the guy who pushes a rock up a hill. Every night, it rolls back down, but he doesn’t stop. Each day, he starts pushing all over again.
What Ed’s saying is that whatever’s thrown at him, he’ll take it and make sure to protect what’s his. But Lou says that these men won’t rest until Ed and Peggy are dead. Right now, Ed asks for his lawyer. He’s seen shows like Ironside. This is too important to make a mistake, so he wants a good lawyer. If the lawyer says so, then he’ll talk.
Karl and Sonny talk at a bar. Well, Karl talks, anyway, about plumbers. A cop named Percy Bluth, played by Joe Cobden, tells Karl that Ed Blomquist requested his services. Someone needs the services of the best lawyer in town. Also the only lawyer in town. Karl has had a few drinks, but he’s ready to run circles around the Rock County sheriff’s department, even though Lou is only a state cop. Shut up, Sonny.
Hank has a question for Peggy: why didn’t she drive to the hospital or wave down a passing motorist to call the cops after she hit Rye? Peggy wonders if this is a test. It’s like decisions you make in a dream. If it was her, she wouldn’t look back if she had to run. In addition, this home is Ed’s, not hers. Peggy buy all these magazines because she’s living in a museum of the past.
The conversation is interrupted by approaching vehicles. Hank heads out and finds several vehicles waiting. He tells Peggy to hide and not come out, no matter what she hears. Dodd Gerhardt comes out with the cattle prod and asks for Ed, who is already gone since Lou took him to the station. That’s a well-guarded and impenetrable station, Hank says. Dodd thinks that Ed is inside, but no, he’s not there.
The rest of Dodd’s backup leave their cars and approach. Now Hank is woefully outgunned, but before a shootout can commence, Hanzee, who snuck in the back, comes from behind and knocks Hank out with the butt of his gun.
Dodd and some men enter the Blomquist home and find stacks and stacks of magazines in the basement. No one appears to be here, but they search anyway. A crash breaks the concentration, causing Dodd to shoot one of the other men- and knock over a ton of magazines in the process- and he soon finds the other one knocked out on the ground. He worms between two tight shelves, gun at the ready, but finds no one.
But then here comes Peggy, who turns the cattle prod on Dodd.
Meanwhile, back at the farm, Floyd needs to talk with Simone about something: is she with the family? She doesn’t get to pick and choose. Simone says that she is, but she sure doesn’t sound too confident, you know. Floyd tells her that everyone has a role to play. Take her example and be a leader, because this is their time. There’s no such thing as men’s work and women’s work anymore.
This confidence booster is interrupted by gunfire. The Kansas City syndicate has arrived.
Karl finally arrives at the department for his lawyer duties. He’s ready to fight for the rights of free men. He continues to rant about rights as if an audience is listening, but Lou tells him that he only has 30 minutes. He finally meets face to face with Ed and doesn’t want to hear what happened. He will ask G or NG? Ed, as the client, will shake his head in the affirmative for the letter that best describes his state. But then Ed does not respond to either. Whatever his status, Karl promises to help Ed to his last breath.
So he’s done with 26 minutes to spare. Lou worries that Karl is driving home, but no, Sonny is taking care of that.
But as he goes out, he finds several men with guns greeting him. The Jackboots are indeed upon them. Lou orders Deputy Bluth to lock the back door. Denise, played by Anna Cummer, is to tell HQ that they need every man available yesterday. Oh, and don’t call the sheriff since he may not be able to answer.
Lou speaks with Bear, who he remembers from his brief visit to the Gerhardt home. Lou is confident that backup will come eventually, and no matter what happens, reinforcements will keep coming. Charlie is still being held on charges of attempted murder. Lou knows that Bear has designs on Ed. This thing doesn’t work in Westerns and it won’t here. There are enough guns to hold off the Gerhardt until morning. Bear gives Lou five minutes.
Back inside, Lou learns from Officer Garfield that the doors are locked, but they should be barricaded. Also, destroy the lights. Lou needs Karl’s help since he can probably talk sense into Bear. Who better than the son’s lawyer? Yeah, Karl now represents Charlie instead of Ed. Not sure how that works.
Meanwhile, Hanzee heads around back and has a clear shot at Ed. Lou tells Ed that he’s being helped outside, so he’s temporarily released. Elsewhere in the jail, Karl comes face to face with Charlie Gerhardt.
As Hank slowly comes to life, he hears a transmission on his radio and finally responds. He learns that there’s a mob ready at the department. Though reinforcements are 45 minutes away, Hank needs Lou to hold tight. He can’t go dying without him or he’d never hear the end of it at dinner.
The Gerhardt clan decides to go in just as Karl comes out, declaring that he’s an ally. He introduces himself as Charlie’s lawyer. If he’s going to die, he wants one last smoke. Karl tells the men that the highest powers are ready to meet his demands. Charlie is being processed right now. As the lawyer, Karl advises that Bear is making this worse. Since Charlie is 17, he’ll get a reduced sentence.
Though a witness puts him at a crime scene with a gun, Charlie’s shot missed. At most, he could get attempted murder. The max sentence is 10, but he’d be out in five for good behavior. But if he’s taken out now, he’ll be a wanted fugitive for the rest of his life. The way out? Fall back and Bear take his men with him, and Karl will make sure that Charlie stays clean. That works, but Bear wants the butcher instead. If that happens, Charlie will be linked as an accomplice.
The best option is a fast retreat. After a tense moment, Bear falls back.
As for Ed, he and Lou hopped out of a window and evaded capture. Ed is still in Lou’s custody as the two make their way through the woods. Ed is worried about Peggy, but there’s no time to think about that. Lou spots a police cruiser and flags it down- Hank has arrived. Ed runs off, but Hank advises against Lou chasing him.
As Lou and Hank head off, Hanzee soon emerges from the forest and begins walking in Ed’s direction.
Oh, and stick around. Karl knows a lot of words.
If “The Gift of the Magi” was about escalation, then “Rhinoceros” certainly wasn’t about fallout. In fact, given how close this episode immediately followed the events of the previous one, this almost plays out like one big episode of shootouts, standoffs, and tense situations throughout as the war continues.
Peggy told Hank that she and Ed are just bystanders in this crazy war. If this is all a test, like she thought about Hank questioning her, then they’ve failed. A bystander’s smallest action can lead to something huge or transformative. That’s why we often give so much praise to a random bystander if they happen to, out of complete selflessness, help a person in need. They took a risk on an unknown situation because they felt the need to help- not because they wanted credit.
Here, though, Ed and Peggy may have started as bystanders not intending to cause any harm, but instead of doing the right thing and either confessing to their crimes early or getting help, they’ve inadvertently escalated an already tense Gerhardt family and kicked off the battle with the Kansas City syndicate. And going by Lou’s words from Season One, we’ve yet to see the extent of battle since we haven’t approached Sioux Falls yet
So if Ed and Peggy are in a test right now, they’ve failed. Both have dreams of the future: Ed wanted to buy the shop and settle down with a family, while Peggy aspires to make more of herself. Again, those are dreams, but in reality, the walls are closing in for both because they’re linked to this conflict.
In a continuing struggle for control, neither has any in regards to the war. Peggy figured she could divert suspicion by having the car refurbished, while Ed hoped that getting rid of Rye’s body and fighting off his attackers would clear him of any guilt. But all this has done is draw more attention because they tried to cover their tracks and became even more involved.
While Ed and Peggy aren’t the smartest knives in the drawer, they don’t just roll over and accept fate. We’ve seen Ed fight go against the Gerhardt family already both in the premiere and last week in the butcher shop, but now Peggy gets her time to shine when she gets the drop on Dodd, of all people. Going back again to what Floyd said, it’s dangerous to underestimate a woman’s true strength just by her appearance.
Sure, Peggy may duck and dodge all of Hank’s questions without giving a direct answer, but at least she doesn’t fold and the show doesn’t paint her as a helpless housewife.
But sticking with the Blomquist standoff, I have to wonder whether Hank checked in on Peggy after he woke up. It’d be easy to assume that he did, but she’s still linked to the escalation or, at the very least, hitting Rye. There’s plenty good reason to at least keep a watchful eye on her, but as far as I can tell, she’s left on her own. Maybe he was more focused on the immediate threat of aiding Lou once he learned of the situation at the department, but I wish we’d at least gotten a scene of him following up with or checking in on Peggy.
Minor stuff, but it’s something I couldn’t help but notice. But anyway, most of this episode dealt with the continuing escalation that we got with the shootout last week. The Gerhardt family, feeling that they’ve gotten the jump on Kansas City, decides to take some time for themselves and help their own by finding Charlie.
But with Dodd continuing his perceived dominance over Bear and the others, in addition to Simone’s betrayals, the family is splintering. Joe Bulo previously asked Floyd if her sons would abide by her command. While Dodd isn’t out of control yet, he’s still doing and saying things that muck up Floyd’s plans. And despite Floyd’s warnings to stop the bullshit, now Dodd has gone and gotten himself beaten by Peggy.
It also seems like Floyd is doing her best to protect Simone from harm. Though I’ve no way of proving it, I get the inkling that Floyd might be onto the fact that Simone is double-crossing the family. Maybe it’s because of how she talks to her differently than the boys or when she asks if Simone is with the family. Floyd is a very smart woman, so I would not be surprised if she’s even the tiniest bit suspicious. Of course, Floyd won’t have time to consider that now that Kansas City has brought the fight to her.
And even with Simone confiding in Mike Milligan, she did not see this coming because she still wants to trust Milligan. What makes the use of split-screen is that it gives some characters the impression that things are going along just well, but we as audience know that a situation is about to further escalate. It helps maintain the tension because it lulls some characters into a false sense of security, all while reminding us that things are only going to get worse.
Such is the situation at the police department. Patrick Wilson continues to impress as Lou Solverson and he shows how he can go from calm and collected to stern and serious. He’s given Ed and Peggy an opportunity to come clean, but they turned it down, so he sees no reason to play nice anymore. While Hank may be a bit more passive in his approach, Lou is done with games not just because Ed and Peggy have been jerking him around, but because the shit is going to stop coming their way.
Just as Molly told Lester one season ago, Lou knows that Ed and Peggy’s attackers won’t stop until they’re killed. He’s fed up with them, but he’s not above refusing to give them advice that he knows they’ll need. He’s still sworn to protect and serve, so even if Ed still killed a man with a meat cleaver, Lou won’t turn him over to the Gerhardt or he’d just be part of the problem.
And he refuses to show any sign of weakness, despite being outnumbered and outgunned by men who could kill him at any time. It’s funny: before all this, I’m guessing that Lou never dreamed he’d find himself in a Mexican standoff with a crime family, and despite that, he remains as composed as ever and can figure his way out of a tense situation, same as Peggy did.
The real star had to be Karl Weathers, though. Nick Offerman has appeared here and there this season, but this was his time to shine as a strict advocate of justice. Whether his drunken ramblings, his coded talk with Ed, or the fact that he stared down the Gerhardt family and managed to talk them down with pure reason and logic, Karl played a huge role in helping save the day.
His negotiation with Bear is, for my money, one of the highlights of the season thus far. And it helps that Bear cares that much about his son that he’s willing to forego violence just to see him safe.
“Rhinoceros” built on and continued the tense standoffs in “The Gift of the Magi” and managed to balance them with slower, calming moments. It advanced the war with Kansas City bringing the guns to the Gerhardt family, who were on the cusp of being in a firefight with the police. With the Gerhardt home now riddled with bullets and Hanzee on Ed’s trail, we’re still far from out of the woods.
Oh, and that ending cover of Man of Constant Sorrow? Fantastic.