A Look at Fargo- Season 2, Episode 9: “The Castle”

Between a hotel massacre, all the fallen we’ve seen up until this point, the bloodshed, escalation of war, we’ve been in for an impressive run for Fargo’s second season and we’re not even done yet.  However, when you’re not impressed with the presence of a UFO, then you must have seen some strange stuff in your life.  The penultimate episode of Season Two, this is “The Castle.”

The Castle- Story of the Massacre

The episode begins with a narrator, a very familiar voice, describing The History of True Crime in the Midwest.  These murders began with a few people being gunned down at the Waffle Hut and are described as a Minnesota event, despite taking place in North and South Dakota.

The Castle- Hanzee enters the store after killing the owner

We rejoin the convenience store owner as he notices Hanzee emerge from the woods.  He frantically makes a call, but doesn’t get to finish before Hanzee puts a bullet in his head with some damn good aim.  He enters, grabs some hydrogen peroxide, and heads for the washroom to patch up his left shoulder.  There’s no birth certificate or history of Hanzee Dent, the narrator says.  He had been the Gerhardt’s men, until that changed.

After stitching himself up, Hanzee grabs a set of keys and hitches himself a ride in a red El Dorado.

The Castle- Police speak with Ed and Peggy

Back in the cabin, Ed and Peggy meet with a handful of officers who don’t think much of the Blomquists and tell them as such.  But Peggy is realized, or realized something.  Ed tells the officers of the plan to trade Dodd for protection.  Lou reminds everyone that Hanzee is still out there, so it’s best to help the Blomquists to safety.  It’s also worth mentioning that Ed’s plan worked, as he made a deal for Dodd with Mike Milligan.  The meeting is still set for eight in the morning in Sioux Falls at the Motor Motel.

The Castle- Officers discuss a possible sting operating, using Ed and Peggy as bait

So Lou wants the Blomquists in custody.  The South Dakota Captain, Jeb Cheney, played by Homer Stokes himself, Wayne Duvall, wants to wire Ed and bust this conspiracy, but Lou disagrees.  Ed and Peggy have done well through blind luck, but they aren’t the smartest folks.  Lou is concerned that Milligan will see right through the ruse.

Right now, though, Lou is outnumbered, so it’s time to get to the program, against his best judgment.  He tries to tell Ed and Peggy what they’re up against and advises them to lawyer up, but he’s silenced and told to leave.  Hank decides to stay, though.  Lou wants to call his boss to see if this can be stopped on a bureaucratic level since this is officially out of control.

So Cheney talks to Ed and Peggy about the amount of shit they’re in.  He has a rope in his hand and offers it, but he’ll be wiring the two of them for this meeting with Mike Milligan.  If the Kansas City folks can implicate themselves on tape, maybe Ed and Peggy will face lesser charges.  At the very least, Ed wants this in writing.

The Castle- Mike Milligan tells his superior about The Undertaker not showing up

Meanwhile, Mike Milligan speaks with a Kansas City superior about his journey to pick up Dodd Gerhardt.  As far as The Undertaker goes, he just never showed up.

The Castle- Molly finds her mother on the floor

At House Solverson, Molly shows off her great artwork to Noreen.

The Castle- Betsy on the floor

As she goes downstairs to show her mom, Molly finds Betsy collapsed on the floor.

The Castle- Lou investigates the convenience store

At the same time, Lou stops at the gas station to make a call home.  The phone rings and rings, but Lou’s attention is distracted by the bullet hole in the store window.  He heads in to investigate and finds blood spattered on the wall, followed by the clerk’s body.  He checks in the back, but only finds a rag and some hydrogen peroxide.

The Castle- Lou's escort arrives to follow him to the state line

After then spotting a photo of a red El Dorado and some missing keys, he pieces a few details together when a ranger approaches.  This man is meant to escort Lou out of state.

The Castle- Officers receive transmission from Lou

The police entourage receives a transmission from Lou, who reports that the Indian will be in a red El Dorado.  Hank responds that they’re headed for the Motor Motel to prep Ed for the sting.  Lou has a bad feeling and advises Hank to be careful.  Cheney retorts that these Kansas City people will find out what Dakota officers are all about.

The Castle- Jeb Cheney, played by Wayne Duvall, tells Hank that Lou is out of line

At the Motor Motel, Cheney tells Hank that Lou is acting out of line.  Hank agrees, but defends Lou by saying that he likes to think things through.  However, Cheney says, it’s the generals that do the thinking during a war.  Hank won’t debate top-down decision thinking.  He had a lieutenant that told Eisenhower to go to hell on account of his orders.  Hank sends him a card every Christmas because he can.  Whether Hank stays or goes is up to him, but for now, Cheney is taking the fight to the enemy.

The Castle- Ricky tells Floyd and Bear that Hanzee has found Dodd

Back at the Gerhardt farm, Ricky tells Bear and Floyd that Hanzee is on the phone with word that he found Dodd.  Hanzee tells the family that Dodd is alive, but captured.  So who has him?  And that’s where Hanzee has to come up with those two fateful words in a spontaneous moment that could have been building up for years: Kansas City.  Dodd was ambushed when leaving the state, but Hanzee tracked him to Sioux Falls.

Hanzee tells Floyd to send Bear and a dozen men,as he can’t vouch for Floyd’s safety.  Floyd doesn’t like being given orders, and the past three times she’s sent men to do a job, the jobs went unfinished.  She’ll handle this herself.

The Castle- Ben rooms with Ed and Peggy

The officers set up and prepare to go undercover for this sting operation.  Ed asks Ben Schmidt if they’re doing the right thing, but Schmidt is far too preoccupied with his food and television.  Peggy tells Ed that she wants to make a break for it when Ben falls asleep, but when Ben notices, he threatens to, and get this, separate the two of them.  Harsh punishment, I’m sure.

Peggy gets sweet with Ben, who explains that he’s from Fargo and works for Chief Gibson.  Doesn’t matter a ton, but he offers Peggy a chip, so it’s a start.

The Castle- Lou learns that Constance Heck was found strangled in her hotel room

On the road, while Gale Kitchen and Mike Milligan head towards their target, Lou arrives at the state line.  His escort drives off, not even making sure that Lou will comply.  He receives a call and word that Constance Heck was found strangled in her hotel room.  When does this madness end?  Lou Solverson has no idea.  Screw the rules.  Lou Solverson hightails it back to South Dakota and makes a brief stop at Constance’s hotel room.

The Castle- Officers prepare for radio silence

That night at the Motor Motel, Hank checks in on Ben, Ed, and Peggy to go over details.  Ben would prefer he stay in the room without Lou being there.  The other officers go over the mission and it’s worth noting that the ice machine is busted.  Good to know.  If this goes well, there will be commendations all around.  Going forward, Cheney decides on radio silence.

As Lou leaves a hotel, he spots a caravan of Gerhardt vehicles pass.  Sensing danger, he speeds back to his car.  He tries to radio ahead, but because of radio silence, the officers are unaware of the danger headed their way.  On the way, Floyd tells Bear that she misses them all.  No worries.  They’ll be together again on high.

The Castle- Officers play card and talk about pissing in strange places

The officers have an odd conversation about pissing in strange spots- the pool is apparently going too far- while Hanzee brings the Gerhardt family to the hotel.  Hanzee is to remain with Floyd while Bear and the others head towards the hotel.

The Castle- Bear readies the Gerhardt clan to prepare for the assault

As the officers somehow keep talking about pissing, the Gerhardts make quick work of a man resting outside before they head for various hotel rooms.  They burst in and kill some of the officers, though Hank and Ben are able to hold off their attackers.  Just as Ben worries that this is Rapid City all over again, Peggy knocks him out with the butt of a gun.

The Castle- Hanzee kills Floyd

And right outside, just as Floyd overhears that the family is going up against cops, Hanzee sticks the blade deep in Floyd and leaves her to die.  Just as Bear rushes to his mother, he’s shot by Lou Solverson.

Despite being shot, Bear charges for the man and somehow manages to take him down.  He smashes Lou against the concrete over and over again while Hanzee goes on the offensive and takes out any Gerhardt man he can find.  Killing friend and foe alike, he then shoots Hank.  However, he still needs to silence Ed and Peggy Blomquist because he’d shown his true self in a moment of vulnerability.

The Castle- Peggy is not impressed by a flying saucer

And then a bright light from, I actually cannot believe it, a goddamn UFO, gives Lou enough time to grab his gun and put a bullet through Bear’s skull.  Ed and Peggy, meanwhile, escape and manage to knock out Hanzee for a bit.  Turns out Peggy isn’t all that impressed with just a flying saucer.  Who knew?

The Castle- Gale Kitchen and Mike Milligan arrive after the massacre

Gale Kitchen and Mike Milligan arrive just as the battle has already ended.  Okay, then.

The Castle- Lou finds a wounded Hank

Hanzee manages to escape, still hot on Ed and Peggy’s trail, while Lou finds Hank.  He tells Lou to go after them, since he can make it on his own just fine.  Lou heads off to finish the job just as the authorities arrive.

Holy hell, another great episode of Fargo as we head into the season finale.  While I don’t think that “The Castle” offered a lot as far as themes and messages that we haven’t already seen covered this season, it did meet our expectations of delivering a body count that adds to the tally of the Sioux Falls massacre.

It’s all been incremental, these murders.  From Rye killing the judge and the employees in the Waffle Hut, to Peggy and Ed disposing of his body, all of these murders, while still connected, are all stacked onto a growing pile.  And it doesn’t feel like Fargo is obligated to kill off so many people as a way to pay off Lou’s line from Season One about a high stack of bodies from the Sioux City case he worked.

The Castle- Lou is told to get with the program

Right now, Lou is in a bind.  He’s concerned about the safety of Ed and Peggy, despite what they’ve done, and wants to make sure things are done not just by the law, but with proper precaution.  But with each time he makes a proper and ideal suggestion, he’s silenced and told to butt out where he has no jurisdiction.

The Castle- Lou checks Constance's hotel room

Lou’s story this season, I feel, is one of frustration.  He wants to hold out hope for his wife, but things look increasingly bleak, even more so because of her fall this week.  He offered Ed and Peggy a chance to come clean, but Peggy turned down his offer.  He and the other officers allied with the Gerhardt family, even though that meant taking sides in a crime war.

And now, after warning that Ed and Peggy aren’t ready to be moles for the police, these officers have been dealt a huge blow that I can’t say they didn’t deserve.  Radio silence is fine when you want to keep quiet, but you’re in the middle of an ongoing war between two sides that have both amassed losses through violent shootouts and confrontations.  Keep the flow of communication open to make sure everyone is abreast of the situation.

The Castle- Officers still talking about pissing in weird places

That being said, Fargo again manages to inject some of that black humor we’re accustomed to in works by the Coen Brothers.  The whole conversation about pissing in certain places during a stakeout while the Gerhardt family stood outside, ready to attack, actually managed to make me laugh, but also shake my head at the idiocy of these officers.  Even Ben Schmidt isn’t the brightest man around, despite getting a promotion.  Granted, he’s still on his guard and given how we know he’ll survive this attack because he appeared in the first season, it was guaranteed he wouldn’t meet his end here.

The Castle- Hank defends Lou

I’ve said next to nothing about Ted Danson’s performance, but he’s been superb all season.  This episode no exception, with the standout being the conversation with between Hank and Lou near the end.  Like Keith Carradine in the first season, Danson brings depth to the performance of a character that has seen some hellish things and what horrible atrocities man can produce.  At the same time, despite what he’s endured, he’s not giving in because he sees the good in people, despite their flaws or willingness to disobey orders, like the man who stood up to Eisenhower.

The Castle- Hanzee sets up the Gerhardt family to be massacred

Hanzee’s betrayal of the Gerhardt family hammers home just how tired he is of this life.  What started with executing Dodd led to him stabbing Floyd and luring the Gerhardt clan into a trap.  I love how there are no words exchanged between Hanzee and Floyd when he stabbed her, and there didn’t need to be.  He was in control of the situation and was willing to lead the family to their doom.

The Castle- Ed and Peggy get the drop on Hanzee

But yet, he still ran into an obstacle with wild cards like Peggy and Ed.  Like Lester managing to somehow pull a fast one on Malvo last season, the Blomquists took advantage of the situation and struck while the iron was hot, giving her and Ed a chance to escape justice yet again, but I’m curious how long they’ll remain on the run.  And to what end?  Constance is dead because Peggy didn’t come to meet her, so that’s another body that’s on the Blomquist’s hands.

The Castle- Hanzee goes on the offensive

The shootout as a whole was great.  It was well-executed, directed, and even had a pretty brutal fight with Lou and Bear.  Of the Gerhardt family, I’m upset that Bear and Floyd are gone because I feel they could have had more to their story arcs and they weren’t as gung-ho as Dodd about escalating a tense situation.  But Bear charging for Lou after being shot was great.

The Castle- Random UFO

Now let’s address the big UFO in the room: the…well, UFO.  Why?  How is it here?  There is literally no explanation for it and even Peggy isn’t fazed by it in the slightest is as odd as it is funny to see.  I doubt we’ll get any sort of explanation for the UFO suddenly appearing, if it indeed did.

Buridan's Ass- Fish rain from the sky

After all, we got fish falling from the sky last season with no reason given, so all bets are off on this random close encounter of the Fargo kind.

Oh, and having Martin Freeman as the narrator?  That was a nice, unexpected surprise.

“The Castle” gave us a massacre that’s been building since the season premiere and delivered.  Hanzee turning on the Gerhardt family sent them to their doom and freed him of working under their boot.  While I’m upset that Floyd and Bear are gone, at least they’re hopefully reunited with their family.  With Ed and Peggy still on the run from Hanzee and Lou, Betsy’s fate up in the air, Kansas City still lurking about, and more bodies piled up, we’re headed for a great finale.  See you then.

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