A Look at Legion- Season 1, Episode 2: “Chapter 2”

So now that David Haller is in the hands of Melanie Bird, it’s time for David to learn more about his powers, look back at his past, and take a deep dive into his own mind.  And this doesn’t involve a trip to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

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The episode begins with David and the others still on the run from wolves, black masks, and Mackenzie Gray’s character, who we can now call The Eye.  As the journey continues, we overhear Melanie Bird say that the human race is evolving.  She and her group believes that David is a powerful telepath- potentially telekinetic- meaning he can control matter with his mind.

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As David rests in the facility known as Summerland, Dr. Bird tells David that The Divisions were created by the government to track and study people like him and Syd. Ones who cannot be controlled are killed.  She asks if David is hearing voices and then tells him to focus on them, despite the pain this power is causing him.

Dr. Bird tells David to concentrate on finding a single voice calling out his name.  It’s like turning down a big volume knob.  As David focuses, Dr. Bird explains that this is called telepathy.  For now, David can rest.  Tomorrow, memory work begins.  Syd joins David, who is curious about what Melanie meant by memory work.

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Let’s find out together. The next day, Melanie poses a question: what if everything people said about David’s supposed illness was a lie?  Instead, the voices and hallucinations could just be his powers.  And Melanie can help him rewrite the story of his life.  Right now, David wonders if there’s even time for that with Division Three still in pursuit.

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There’s time, though.  Dr. Bird tells David that he is important to her, so she needs him clear and focused.  They, along with Ptonomy, sit at a table with rods sticking outward. This, Dr. Bird says, is how her group looks back, finds a person’s abilities, and what triggers them.  More than that, you’re made whole.  They grab the rods and memory work begins.

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The three travel to the past and watch a young David and Amy running through a field.  This is memory work, thanks to Ptonomy’s gift as a memory artist.  Right now, Ptonomy just wants David to take all of this in, as talking to his younger self and sister could change the memory.  It’s best he not do that.

Right now, the idea is for David to accept that this is real, and then the group can focus on taking David back to moments when his ‘illness’ started developing. Melanie will show that this was really just David’s gift and he will soon be whole again.

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In essence, this is David’s museum and he can do whatever he wants.  He glimpses moments from his youth, like his mother doing garden work with him and marking his height on the wall in their home.

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As for David’s father, he was an astronomer, but he passed away.  We then watch as David’s father, who we can’t see, reads his son a bedtime story.  As David watches his younger self, he soon backs away and the room begins to shake.  All of a sudden, voices begin flooding in again.

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He breaks free from the memory work, afraid of the memories, but Syd implores him to calm down.  She felt the same way on her first time, too.  A frantic David, now wanting to leave, is soon put to sleep by Ptonomy.

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We then flash back to David speaking with Dr. Poole, played by Scott Lawrence, who asks David about his home life and girlfriend, who apparently left him.  While David asks for gum, Dr. Poole notes that the end of a relationship could be disruptive for someone with David’s condition.  David’s sleeping just fine, and he states that vapor has helped. Poole asks what David meant by ‘the vapor.’

More than that, he notes that the dynamic of fighting and then making up isn’t good for David, who still has flashes of when he destroyed the kitchen.  He needs a more settled environment.  David promises to work on that.

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We follow David as he leaves his appointment and meets up with Lenny, who asks if he’s good in the head.  Turns out that Lenny got her hands on a kitchen range from a girl she finger-banged.  Kinky.  She and David start walking through an alley.

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David soon awakens and receives a glass of milk from Ptonomy.  The first time in memory work is always the worst.  Syd threw up her first time.  She’s doing talk work with Dr. Bird, who thinks that David is the key to winning the war and other things.  David admits that he’s impressed with Ptonomy’s memory artist abilities.

Ptonomy explains that his father had a shit memory due to artillery shell in the war causing him to go deaf in one ear.  As a result, he was never good with facts.  He’d just snap his fingers whenever he forgot Ptonomy’s name.  Odd, since Ptonomy remembers everything.

And he does mean everything, like his birth and even being in the womb.  Imagine being inside your mother’s body, warm and blind, and then light after some intense pressure. Ptonomy then asks David about that book his father read him- “The World’s Angriest Boy in the World”- because if David’s parents read that book to him before bed, that’s messed up.  David doesn’t remember, but Ptonomy is certain that David’s memories seem clear.

David would rather not talk about it, but hey, it’s not Ptonomy’s deal, either.  He’s just the memory guy.  Okay, fair enough.  Meanwhile, The Eye leads a squadron of soldiers as they continue their pursuit…

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Later, at a swing set, David tells Syd that he doesn’t see how the memory work is helping.  Syd thought the same when she first arrived.  Once she got there, all she wanted was to rescue David.  It wouldn’t have mattered what she saw when she was in David’s body.

She still doesn’t understand it.  After a flash, she remembers switching places with David and everything in the dayroom growing louder.  Between that and the lights, Syd never felt that way before.  And then, in addition to glimpsing the blob with yellow eyes, Syd realizes that she’s responsible for killing Lenny.  David knows that it’s not Syd’s fault.  As Lenny said, you don’t give a newbie a bazooka and act surprised when they blow shit up.

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However, Melanie and the others, as well as Division Three, heard Syd using David’s powers. Melanie’s group thought they had found David, but it was actually Syd.  Sure enough, Syd soon returned to her own body when en route with Melanie’s team.

David confesses that he’d love to hug Syd or at least hold hands, but that’s uncomfortable for Syd.  The closer she gets to someone, there’s this feeling that she equates to being covered with ants or feeling little anxious needles under her skin.  It’s all she can do not to scream.  That sucks, but as David points out, they’re at least having a romance of the mind.  Sweet.

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We then cut to David receiving an MRI scan of his brain.  The doctor overseeing the process is Cary Loudermilk, played by Bill Irwin.  He instructs David not to move or sneeze because it could jumble the scan.  As Dr. Loudermilk rattles off a few words, David admits that he talks to himself, too.  That or the voices.  Cary wasn’t talking to himself, though.  He was talking to Kerry.  The other Kerry, mind you.

After noting that David has a large amygdala, Cary tells David to think of someone or something that he loves.  He begins the scan.

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We then cut back to Amy telling David that she thinks that a man- Bill, I’m guessing?- is going to propose to her.  David is happy, but Amy doesn’t know for sure.  She knows that David and girlfriend, Philly, gets him.  David doesn’t think so, but Amy asks why her brother why he can’t have what everyone else has: a nice home and a family.  David’s reason?  Because he’s sick.

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Still in the past, while David is transfixed on a dog, Lenny tries to give her stolen kitchen range to The Greek, played by, Eddie Jemison in exchange for drugs.  As they speak, their voices become more distorted.  The Greek has no need for a stove, even if it could be used to cook, heat a room or, hell, even kill himself.

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Soon enough, Lenny does manage to score some drugs that she inserts into a blue bong. David wonders why the drug is blue, but they’re always blue. Lenny asks David how Dr. Poole’s place is since they could probably slip in one day when he’s not home.  There’s great score potential, after all.  The two soon start inhaling fumes from the bong and they begin to go on a trip.

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Oh, but this is all part of memory work.  When time freezes, Dr. Bird asks David what he saw when he looked at Lenny, but David doesn’t see the point in that because he was high.  Melanie insists that David brushing his abilities off on schizophrenic delusions is part of an old narrative.  The things he sees are real.  Speaking of, let’s go through time again.

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Ptonomy takes us back to David’s session with Dr. Poole.  At one particular point, he notes a glitch- a time jump.  It’s important that David remember everything.  Even if he was focused on something else, the surrounding memory should be intact.  If David is still confused, Melanie and Ptonomy will help him find the truth.

The session resumes and Ptonomy spots a flash of David’s kitchen incident six years ago when he used his powers.  He tells David to concentrate on where he went.  So long as David makes his mind blank, Ptonomy can take them to that particular moment.

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So we return to David as a child.  David insists that he’s not doing this as the bedroom door suddenly shuts.  The room rumbles and shakes as the copy “The World’s Angriest Boy in the World” falls to the floor.

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Back in the present, Syd checks in on David, as Dr. Bird won’t tell her about David’s memory.  David asks Syd if they’re really safe at Summerland.  Right now, yes, but she knows that people are searching to experiment on them.  Syd promises that she’ll protect David.  Well, she thinks it, as David realizes, but Syd doesn’t think so.

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After a brief cut to the MRI scan as Dr. Loudermilk tries to figure out where David’s memories are stored, we return to David’s session with Dr. Poole, who asks when David started seeing another world out of the corner of his eye.  It began when David was 10 or 11, but the pills Dr. Poole prescribed should help with that.  Poole asks if David is supplementing- since he used the word ‘vapor’- but David denies it.

Then Poole asks what David remembers from the years when the visions started.  David rattles off a series of constellations and ends up talking about his father studying the stars. Some nights, David’s father would wake him up in the middle of the night and the two would drive out in the truck to look up at the sky.  Dad said the stars talk to everyone, including him, but David thought he meant it in a metaphorical sense.

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As for what the stars said, David says he’s not supposed to talk about that.  Besides, he’s soon drawn to the closet door opening by itself.  Dr. Poole, assuring David that he’s in a safe place, closes the door and says that it’s just a closet.  Nothing can hurt him.

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Back to the MRI scan, David apparently hears a woman’s voice, but it wasn’t Kerry. It was Amy’s.

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We see Amy visit the facility, where she learns that there are apparently no records of David Haller or Dr. Kissinger at this hospital.  Amy asks the clerk if she’s being coerced, but the woman instead proposes that Amy herself be admitted for observation.  She then asks if Amy ever saw a psychiatrist for paranoid delusions.

As Amy prepares to leave, she hears David’s voice.  David, in astral form, calls out to her, but he can’t reach her.  At the same time, The Eye enters the hospital.

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Back to the scan, Cary notes a spike in neural activity.  He leaves, but the scan continues anyway.  And then David spots the Devil with Yellow Eyes standing before him.

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Soon enough, David finds himself out of the chamber.  Why?  Because the chamber itself, as Dr. Bird and the others soon see, is right outside Summerland.

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David tells Dr. Bird that Amy is being held by Division Three, but Bird tells David that he can’t help her.  He soon packs up and tells Syd that he’s leaving, but not because of Syd herself.  He tells her about seeing his sister while in the MRI machine.  He can’t just leave his sister.  Syd insists that David stay long enough to learn to learn what they can do together.

That way, after the work, they can rescue her.  Plus, Syd knows that Amy won’t be killed by Division Three because she’s bait.  David relents.  He’ll stick around.

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The episode ends with The Eye bringing a fish tank of leeches with him into the dingy room where Amy is being held.  It’s time to begin.

We’re now at episode two of Legion and it’s not as off-the-wall as the pilot, but that’s just fine.  The effects are just as outstanding as before, but this one slows down a bit in order to take us on a voyage through David’s mind.

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As Dr. Bird says, he has to move past the message that’s been parroted to him for years. He’s not just some schizophrenic, but has special abilities that could prove beneficial both to himself and Dr. Bird’s team group at Summerland.  Things are changing as he learns not just about his powers, but whether he can accept what is real and what’s just in his memory.

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At least he has a great support network.  We don’t know all of Melanie Bird’s motivations, but I like how she’s helping David understand his powers and how he can tap into them, as well as see them more as a gift instead of curse.  It’s no accident that her mentoring is very similar to that of Charles Xavier aiding mutants come to terms with their powers.

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But is that all?  She just helps mutants learn to harness their abilities?  Because as Ptonomy mentioned, Bird believes that David is the key to winning the war and other things.  What other things?  If we’re talking about a war with humans who capture and experiment on them, then that makes sense.  But to what end?  And what other things does Ptonomy mean?

I doubt we’re talking about an all out war against humanity for experimenting on humans, though it would not be unwarranted.  It’s like Dr. Bird has all the teachings of Professor X, but maybe shares Magneto’s desire to battle against humans.  That could be a stretch since there’s no reason yet to think Bird believes in mutant supremacy, but I am curious to see the depths of her plans for David.

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As is, I liked both her and Ptonomy going into David’s mind to see what triggered his mutant abilities.  I like how fractured some of these trips felt.  Between the direction and writing, it feels like whenever the scene glitches or cuts in and out, it’s he’s still battling with his mind or that he can only remember things in fragments and pieces.

David feels like he’s always on the edge.  He can sort of keep things under control, but either when pressed or taken to a certain point in his life, he loses it, as seen when he watches his father read a bedtime story to his younger self.  This is as much a journey for him as it is for us as he still processes his true capabilities as a mutant.

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I like the slow, methodical approach the show is taking to filling out David’s backstory and not spelling it all out at once.  We see his drug escapades with Lenny before they were institutionalized, Dr. Poole discussing David’s condition, and David’s relationship troubles with his girlfriend, but these are just as important in telling us more about him as they are in revealing moments that led to his abilities manifesting.  Memory work is brutal.

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By the way, the combination of Ptonomy’s abilities and the group grabbing the rods while at the table felt very reminiscent of Cerebro.  And Ptonomy, from what I got here, is a very laid back mutant who has been through this many times.

Being able to remember every single thing from your life, even before your birth, though, is a scary thought, coupled with examining moments where a person’s powers manifest. Sounds like a stressful job, but he handles it with care and it’s nice that he, like Syd and Bird, isn’t trying to force David.  After all, as he said, he’s just the memory guy.  He can only help unlock one piece of the larger puzzle.

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For now, even though David is as conflicted as ever, he stays because Syd assures him that the training will help him unlock his true potential.  Not to mention it allows the two to bond more.  Their relationship is an odd one- well, they are an odd couple- but there’s such strong chemistry between Dan Stevens and Rachel Keller that I soak up any screen time they have together.  I loved that “romance of the mind” line.

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In addition, there’s still much more to learn about Syd and her abilities.  We learn that she was in a similar position to David when she arrived, but don’t know the full scope of her powers.  She has an intimate connection with David due to being in his body and accidentally killing Lenny when she lost control, but David accepts her nonetheless.

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And she’s even willing to go as far as holding hands, against her rule, if it meant David would stay.  Sure, some of that is out of concern for him not putting in the work yet, but part of that also has to be from how she cares about him.

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But at the moment, David doesn’t have a choice but to stay if he wants to improve so he can safe Amy without fail.  I do wonder what plans The Eye- and I’m guessing Division Three as a whole- have for her.  The fact that she went looking for David should prove she doesn’t know where he is, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be coerced or tortured.

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And on an unrelated note, we learn more about David’s father and his interest in astronomy.  I hope we see more of him later on, not just to learn about David’s upbringing, but to see if Legion will play with David’s connection to Charles Xavier.

Chapter 2 peels back the layers of David Haller’s mind as he tries to understand his abilities, what triggered them, and how he’ll be useful to Melanie Bird.  We see more of David’s powers and vulnerabilities, but with time, he’ll hopefully gain more control of his powers.

At the same time, we see his continued struggles, glimpses of the Devil with Yellow Eyes that continues to torment his mind, and on top of that, Amy is in the hands of The Eye. David better start training hard.

A Look at Legion- Series Premiere: “Chapter 1”

San Diego Comic-Con 2016 was a great time for fans.  The Walking Dead’s trailer for the seventh season promised something great that would hopefully make up for the Season Six cliffhanger ending.

Marvel Studios introduced The Defenders and officially confirmed the news we all knew- that Brie Larson had been cast as Carol Danvers.  And DC, in addition to showing a trailer for Wonder Woman, gave a surprise look at the upcoming Justice League film.

But never mind that.  My eyes were glued to Legion: an X-Men series coming to FX. And the reason for my focus on this all had to do with one man: Noah Hawley.  Mr. Hawley won me over with his two seasons of Fargo, so to hear that he would be writing an X-Men television show excited me more than anything from the DC Extended Universe, Marvel Cinematic Universe, or other world.

It helped that the X-Men themselves, as far as films go, were in an odd position.  Deadpool surpassed expectations, X-Men: Apocalypse made money, but wasn’t as well-received as Days of Future Past, though I enjoyed the film myself.  Aside from Deadpool sequels leading to X-Force and Josh Boone directing an upcoming New Mutants film, it didn’t seem that there was a lot on the horizon for the X-Men.

Then Legion came along and the trailer looked like something we hadn’t seen before from most comic book based shows or films with the possible exceptions of Preacher and Doctor Strange.  And FX itself has been on a roll lately with its programming, so the idea of Hawley bringing his writing abilities not just to another FX series, but an X-Men one at that, seemed pretty interesting.

Despite the back and forth on whether Legion would or wouldn’t address or be a part of the film universe, and even the odd notion that this show would be part of the MCU, I was still excited regardless of whether this show would acknowledging that David Haller is Charles Xavier’s son, as well as the rest of Haller’s connection to X-Men canon.  Hawley has shown that he is a good writer, so I was in no matter the continuity.

But I’ve gushed enough.  It’s time to sit down, put your brains to work, and jump into the mind of David Haller.  Let’s take a look at Legion.

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The series begins with, of all things, a young boy going through the phases of his life. This is David Haller, and let’s watch as he grows up, wrecks police cruisers with his mind, and is eventually given prescriptions to deal with the voices in his heads.  Oh, and he’s had a brush with suicide as well.  All to the sound of “Happy Jack” by The Who.

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We then end up at the Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital as David, played by Dan Stevens, speaks with his sister, Amy, played by Katie Aselton, who has come to give him a birthday cupcake.  He can’t have it, though, so Amy tastes it herself.  David doesn’t even get a party or better drugs.  Some birthday, indeed.  To him, today is just the 260th Thursday on the Mental Health cruise ship..

Amy is certain that David is getting better at dealing with the voices and seeing things that aren’t there.  David wants to come home, but his doctor maintains that if David believes he’s seeing people that aren’t there, then he is, in fact, crazy.  Amy offers to talk with the doctors on David’s behalf, but that won’t be happening now.  As David is taken away for his meds, he tells his sister that something needs to happen soon.

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As David is wheeled into the hospital, all while having flashes and seeing what may or may not be there, he’s saddled next to Lenny Busker, played by Aubrey Plaza, and the two observe a drooling specimen.  Lenny is torn on whether the drool is spit or possibly yogurt.  Requires further research, I’m sure.

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The two then spot a woman heading into the main room to receive her meds.  This is Sydney Barrett, played by Rachel Keller…and you know what?  Let’s just stick with Syd. Anyway, Lenny admires Syd’s hair and ass, she finds her a tad jittery.  David rushes out of his wheelchair and over to Syd, but his attempt to give her a Twizzler ends with him getting far too close and bumping into her. She leaves in a rush.

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That evening, as David sleeps, he hears the voice of his doctor, who asks him how he feels.  David feels and is having visions of a devil with yellow eyes.  The thoughts become so intense that David’s bed, now in the air, comes crashing down.  This noise gets the attention of doctors who rush in and sedate David.

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The next day, David, Lenny, and other patients have a session with Dr. Kissinger, played by David Ferry, when Syd joins the session.  She’s not here to contribute, though- she’d prefer everyone continue talking so they can keep pretending their problems are just in their heads. However, she does say that David is probably here because someone told him that he wasn’t normal.  But hey, Einstein and Picasso weren’t normal either.

To Syd, maybe David’s so-called problems aren’t problems at all or even in his head.  She talks of magazine cartoons where a man is on an island with a single palm tree.  She thinks often of when people say go to your happy place.  In essence, maybe people are wrong when they call the likes of Syd crazy.  Maybe those things, the voices they hear- that’s what makes them who they are.

Because he must be bold, David asks Syd if she’ll be his girlfriend.  And like that, she agrees.  There’s one caveat: David can’t touch her.  According to Syd’s file, she doesn’t like to be touched, even though animals apparently need physical contact to feel love. Syd welcomes David to find her at dinner.

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At dinner, the two bond as Syd tells David all about her dislikes: for example, she doesn’t like orange or cherry-flavored things.  Oddly specific.  Later that evening, when the two are alone, Syd tells David that after the sun goes down and the light is right, if you un-focus your eyes, and then look back out, you see how the hospital disappears and it’s like watching yourself outside.  David implores Syd to hold still and look out the window.

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He closes his eyes and begins to focus as he hears a voice asking him about a girl who was taken.  David is certain that there was a hospital and that Syd is real woman, but according to The Interrogator, played by Hamish Linklater, tells David the hospital has no records of Syd ever being a patient and Kissinger probably won’t back David’s story anyway.

More than that, The Interrogator just wants to focus on David’s schizophrenia.  The Interrogator hypothesizes that David’s state of mind is due to his illness.

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We cut to Kissinger telling David that his job is to assess whether David is a threat to others or himself, given that he did try to commit suicide.  David then goes into his history: he was expelled from college and wasn’t thinking straight most of the time.  The anger and voices in his head drove him mad.

As for his suicide attempt, David tells Kissinger that the voices didn’t tell him to tie the knot and try to hang himself.  Hell, they tried to stop him.  Though David survived, police still found rope burns on his neck.  David feels better now, but he’s asked if he feels he can control things with his mind.

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The Interrogator asks David if he could control things, and this prompts David to ask if he’s being accused of Syd’s death.  He isn’t.  For now.  The Interrogator just wants the truth.

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The episode flashes back to David in his bed as he dreams of Syd, who soon joins him in his room.  She tells him to remain under the covers while she sleeps on top of the sheets with a divider between them.  Turns out Syd will be getting out soon since Kissinger has said she’s clear.  She wants David to get better so she can leave, too.  David goes in for a kiss, but Syd recoils.  Remember, no touching.

In the present, The Interrogator asks why David didn’t touch Syd.  Well, it was a mental hospital, so it might not have felt right.  When David is granted a break, The Interrogator leaves the room, walks through a drained swimming pool, and ends up in a gym where soldiers are arming themselves.

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The Interrogator speaks with a man who is observing the interrogation.  The Interrogator tells the man that David has had a spike in telepathic activity.  David may know that he’s crazy, but part of him knows that his power is real.  And if the readings are correct, David Haller may be the most powerful mutant ever encountered.  After what happened in Red Hook, that’s a bit of an understatement.

The problem is that David doesn’t fully understand or know how to control his power, so some, including the old man here, believe David should be killed before he realizes what he is.  The Interrogator at least wants to give David until the end of the day.  After all, there hasn’t been a study like him before.  But if things go south, David is to be moved to Level Two.

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David, meanwhile, asks if he can be left alone, but the man in the room with him just leaves him a dog figurine before leaving David in the room by himself.

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We flash back to David arguing with his girlfriend he continues to hear voices.  He manages to silence them, but not for long as the kitchen begins to rumble and, in seconds, everything goes haywire.  Drawers, cabinets, everything opens and kitchenware explodes and flies all around him.  David cowers in fear, but he soon spots a blob with yellow eyes staring at him.

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The Interrogator returns with some doctors in order to read David’s brain while they talk. He implores for calm, saying that he’s afraid for David since he’s off his meds and could be a danger to both himself and others around him.  David believes that the doctors are afraid of him, but he does agree to have the electrodes placed on his head.  He then begins to tell The Interrogator about a certain incident.

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We flash back to Syd about to leave the facility.  Dr. Kissinger tells her that she can leave David a note.  As he escorts her out, they’re interrupted by Lenny, who needs a minute to talk with Syd about lady stuff.  This lady stuff up being about a new candy bar that Lenny would love Syd to but and mail to her.

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Then David rushes in just as Syd tells him that she was looking for him.  Against Syd’s request, he goes in for the kiss.  In a flash, after David sees a field of televisions, the world goes topsy-turvy and the two are knocked backwards.

The facility is put on mandatory lockdown.  Doctors restrain David while Kissinger whisks Syd away.  As the doctors try to restrain David, a red hue overtakes the room as everything goes dark.  David soon sees the blob creature again.

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At the same time, Kissinger leaves Syd alone in a small infirmary.  With new curiosity, Syd observes her hands, heads to the mirror, and…starts cradling her breasts.

chapter-1-david-explains-that-he-switched-bodies-with-syd-when-they-kissed

This is where The Interrogator cuts off David, who insists that he ended up switching bodies with Syd due to her powers, which would explain why she doesn’t like being touched.  Ah, okay.  Objects in the interrogation room begin to rattle as a frustrated David tells The Interrogator to leave, but The Interrogator wants David to continue.

chapter-1-syd-and-dr-kissinger-in-the-hallway-without-doors

So back in the past, Kissinger joins Syd, unaware that it’s actually David.  Syd, meanwhile, in David’s body, is freaking out.  Kissinger and Syd soon head down a hallway that is now bereft of doors, but not room numbers.  The two continue to hear screams from within the walls, but they soon find the dead body of Lenny sticking halfway out of the wall.  Back in the present, The Interrogator asks David if Syd has any extra-sensory powers.

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Kissinger takes Syd outside, though she insists that Syd herself is still in the facility.  As the two leave, they spot several people, The Interrogator apparently among them, exiting a limousine.

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David confronts The Interrogator on whether he was one of the people who exited the limousine.  The Interrogator denies this and and demands that David tell him about the people in the limousine, but David begins to lose control again.  How much?  Well, he sends The Interrogator’s pen into the man’s cheek.

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David rises and turns the interrogation cell upside down as everything and everyone within goes haywire.  David seems satisfied with what he’s done, but then he gets the gas.

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The story continues as we hear the voice of David’s mother.  David, still as Syd, eventually regains control of his own body.  He heads off with Syd’s suitcase.

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He ends up at Amy’s place and tells her that he’s been released, so now he needs a place to stay for awhile.  Amy is surprised, but agrees.  She runs it past her husband, Ben, played by Matt Hamilton, who is also fine with this new arrangement.

chapter-1-ghost-of-lenny-tells-david-that-people-are-coming-after-him

After feasting on some waffles- Eleven would be proud of him- David is taken to a setup downstairs in the basement.  Amy instructs him not to answer the phone.  As David gets himself settled, he gets a visit from Lenny’s ghost.  She insists that she’s not upset about David killing her.

And it’s not Syd’s fault because she was just a passenger in David’s body.  Lenny isn’t too bothered about her death.  She would’ve just kept popping pills.  Besides, David has enough problems on his hands because people who know about the hospital incident are coming for him.  In addition, because of what Syd did while she was in David’s body, David himself is in deep shit.

The shit is so deep that it causes David to destroy the basement lamp.  This gets Amy’s attention and she heads downstairs to discover what David has done.  And in a moment I can’t help but love, she removes all of the gardening tools.

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Then, David, Syd, and the rest of the inmates take part in a dance number.

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Okay.  Syd implores David to wake up and he does as we return to the present and find David in a now filled pool surrounded by The Interrogator and some guards.  If David pulls any funny stuff, he’ll get 100,000 volts.  David laughs, calling this a delusion.  The Interrogator tells David that Syd was taken under the assumption that she was David.

chapter-1-david-hides

David insists that he did go looking for Syd.  To prove that, the episode then flashes back to David using a pay phone and calling the hospital to learn about Syd, as he’s pretending to be her father.  However, the hospital has no records of Syd.  David then notices two people- two of the same that exited the limo- following him.

chapter-1-syd-explains-that-shes-been-projected-into-davids-memory

He manages to give them the slip, but then he spots Syd’s face on someone else’s head- some real Voldemort shit here- and soon Syd herself appears and tells him not to stop. Thing is Syd’s not really here.  This is just the memory of the day David called the hospital and Syd has been projected into his memory, where his pursuers can’t track him.  The agents speaking to him aren’t cops, either.

As for the current pool situation, Syd tells David to slide out of his chair get in the water, and wait until he sees her.  Before David can do anything else, he’s hauled into a van.

chapter-1-david-slips-into-the-pool

Back in the present, The Interrogator asks David about the two people who chased him. David realizes that the third person who exited the limo wasn’t The Interrogator, but a woman.  When asked about where Syd is, David tells The Interrogator that he’s about to find out.  With that, David slides into the water.  This prompts the guards to open fire and there’s soon an explosion.  Charred skeletons land in the pool.

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When David emerges, he finds Syd waiting for him, along with the two people who pursued him: Ptonomy Wallace, played by Jeremie Harris, and Kerry Loudermilk, played by Amber Midthunder.  Syd, wearing gloves, reminds David not to touch her skin.

chapter-1-david-asks-syd-if-any-of-this-is-real

The four exit through a hole in the wall and enter a war zone as they duck and dodge gunfire.  As the group reaches the bottom of the hill, David implores Syd to stop and asks if any of this is real.  What if they’re just back at the hospital and none of this happened? Syd insists that she and everything happening around David is real.  She even came back for David because she loves him.

chapter-1-syd-introduces-david-to-melanie-bird-played-by-jean-smart

And it’s here that Syd introduces David to the other woman who exited the limousine: Melanie Bird, played by Jean Smart.  Melanie beckons David to take her hand, and as David spots the yellow-eyed blog yet again, he takes Melanie’s hand as the episode comes to a close.

Wow.  This is a fantastic start for Legion and while I was left scratching my head many times, knowing this will require a second, maybe even third watch, this was a great pilot.

I’ll come out and admit that aside from knowing that David Haller is Charles Xavier’s son, more on that connection in a bit, I know next to nothing about this creation from the minds of Bill Sienkiewicz and Chris Claremont.  And to be honest, that doesn’t seem to matter.

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As products like Batman BeginsThe Dark Knight, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, just to name a few, have shown, some of the most memorable superhero or comic book based properties can come from those that don’t even feel like they’re based on comic books.

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Hell, even on the Netflix side of things, Daredevil often feels like a crime drama and Jessica Jones is a noir.  The main characters just happened to be based on prior source material.

So despite the word ‘mutant’ being name-dropped once and only once, despite David’s abilities, I get the sense that Legion wasn’t made exclusively for X-Men fans.  It’s made for those who like drama, science fiction, and people who enjoy a look at the psychological.

And I’ll admit my bias towards the man based on his prior work, but Noah Hawley is a great pick for this.  Fargo alone is proof that Hawley is a great writer, can deal with an ensemble cast, give them complex material, and make a compelling piece of television. With him on board, he’s given us a very unique comic book based property that doesn’t feel like any other adaptation right now.

Lovecraft- Arrow

We have certain expectations of superhero and comic based properties nowadays.  The street-level MCU programs we get on Netflix are a departure from what we get on network television like Agents of SHIELDGotham, or any of the many Greg Berlanti-created programs.  While those programs are good in their own ways, they often tend to follow set patterns and conventions.

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Legion, though, isn’t interested in conventions.  Rather, it breaks them.  Hell, the show killed Aubrey Plaza in the pilot.  Now I know she’ll appear again, but it’s still a bold move. The show is non-linear, not everything gets explained right away, if at all, our protagonist doesn’t see himself as a hero and isn’t even sure what’s real, and the approach in storytelling, whether in its script or visuals, set it apart from the other comic properties.

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What’s more, it helps that this show isn’t tied to any continuity.  While SHIELD likes to play up the ‘It’s all connected’ game and act like it’s still relevant within the MCU, Legion, despite the conflicting reports we received, is not interested in the continuity established by the X-Men films.

Could the show eventually tie into the films?  Yeah, I suppose, but right now, there’s no need.  And not being bound by any pre-established plot allows Legion to stand on its own and tell a unique story.

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And that great storytelling is complimented by equally impressive visuals and cinematography.  Hawley’s direction puts you right into David’s mind as we see his view of the world, what happens when his powers manifest, when he loses control, and how he processes everything around him.  It all gave me a similar experience to when I saw Doctor Strange at the cinema.

It’s a well-done psychological drama and it pays respect to some recent greats that we’ve gotten in the past few years.  Spending so much time on a main character’s mental state gave me huge Mr. Robot vibes, though unlike Elliot, David’s powers are quite real. Whether everything around him is all real is another question.

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And an unstable mental patient unsure how to control their abilities, but they have a huge love of waffles?

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Not sure if this show was filmed or written at the same time as Stranger Things, but I think David and Eleven would make great friends.

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Legion is X-Men meets Mr. Robot meets Stranger Things and it’s a great blend of what makes those three properties great, in addition to having some great humor to boot, such as Amy taking away the sharp tools so David doesn’t cause more harm to himself or the basement.

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I’m a big fan of non-linear storytelling when done well and Legion excels in that. The trips to David’s youth or journeys through his mind aren’t just there to fill in the blanks or give us extra story, but also show his mental state, as he’s unable to maintain control of his powers.  More than that, while these flashbacks and glimpses show us David’s upbringing, his scattered mind makes it hard to determine what’s real.

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David accepts that he has clear problems, but are these really issues just because he’s been told that?  Legion asks who gets to determine what’s normal.  Syd, for example, believes those nuances make us who we are.  Geniuses and prodigies are often called oddities or any number of words that make them seem outside the range of normal, as if being outside what society expects makes you a pariah.

These are the sorts of the things that mutants often deal with in the X-Men series, but Legion isn’t pulling an X-Men: First Class here and making statements like “Mutant and proud.”  Hawley is a much smarter writer than that and this show, from what I can tell, is less concerned with the mutant agenda and more with unpacking David’s mind, challenging as that is.

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It’s almost like we’re experiencing David’s journey along with him, as the trips, flashbacks, and distortions don’t just mess with your mind, but give visual examples to his schizophrenia.  He’s in an endless battle with his mind, and, as Kissinger says, could be a threat to others as well as himself.

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The casting was on the mark for this character.  I love the many facial expressions of Dan Stevens, as if he’s always contemplating if what he sees and hears are real or just in his head.  And if they’re real, is this a sign of his powers manifesting or is he imagining everything?  He’s already uncertain of what he sees, as he mistakenly saw The Interrogator exiting the limo instead of Melanie Bird, so who knows if he’s to be trusted.

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His relationship with Syd is an interesting one.  As evidenced by the kiss and her unwillingness to be touched, Syd has great powers just as David does.  Is she just as much a threat to others as David is, or has she accepted her abilities in the same way that she’s fine being seen as abnormal?  It looks to be fate that she and David are linked, but I’m curious to see how this odd relationship develops.

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And another good casting.  I already loved Rachel Keller based on her work on Fargo’s second season, but she’s excellent here as well.  And while the name Syd Barrett is an obvious nod to Pink Floyd, I don’t believe Keller’s character here is based off of any mutant in X-Men mythology.  But Syd is so serious about not being touched. Someone at Fox needs to have needs to have Keller play Rogue at some point.

Hell, Fox as a whole needs to take a few pointers, and this is where I’ll go on a mini X-Men rant.  Look, I liked Apocalypse, but not as much as Days of Future Past.  And with Fox set to do another run at Dark Phoenix, you need not just a great director, but also a writer who can get into a character’s head and explore their psyche.  If Legion is any indication, it’s that Hawley has what it takes to add complexity to Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey.

Even though there’s nothing concrete about the next main series X-Men film, aside from this rumored title of X-Men: Supernova, if the people at Fox, whether that’s Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner, or whomever is steering the X-Men film ship, aren’t looking at Noah Hawley writing prowess and the fresh take he could bring to the X-Men, then they aren’t doing their job.

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I said this on Twitter, but could you imagine taking this visual flair and storytelling about controlling your powers and applying it to Jean Grey’s struggle to combat the Phoenix? The writing is on the wall and should Legion prove to be a success, Fox should consider having Hawley help writing the X-Men films.  Between LegionFargo, and his other projects, Hawley is a busy man, I’m sure, but Fox should consider it.

With all that said, Legion hits the ground running and doesn’t fall back on traditions when it comes to a comic-based property.  And with so many questions, I can’t wait to see where this all heads.  Will David be able to control his powers?  How, if at all, will Melanie Bird be able to help him?  Will the government still pursue David?

Free to work outside of the X-Men universe, Noah Hawley has set to tell his own story and he’s given us a complex look at the inner workings of David Haller’s mind.

In a time where we hear ‘superhero fatigue’ tossed around, for whatever reason, this show does well to set itself apart from what you’d expect from a comic book adaptation.  It’s stylish, unconventional, thought-provoking, and is a fresh take on the X-Men property. Legion is off to a great start and I’m all in for the journey.

A Look at Fargo- Season 2 Finale: “Palindrome”

And so it’s come to this: the second season finale of Fargo.  “The Castle” gave us that hotel massacre and added to the large body count that Lou spoke of one season prior, so with all that in mind, where do you go from here?  Ed and Peggy are still on the run with Hanzee on their heels, while Lou Solverson, unaware of his wife’s condition, continues his pursuit.  Who will make it out in the end?  Let’s take a look.

This is “Palindrome.”

Palindrome- Noreen advises Betsy to get more rest

The episode begins with a look over the bodies we’ve seen piled up thus far, including that of the Gerhardt family.  After Patrick Wilson narrates our normal disclaimer, Betsy Solverson awakens with Molly at her side and Noreen still a-reading away in her book.  The doctor said that Betsy had a reaction to the pills.  They were supposed to kill the cancer, but they may kill Betsy first.  Isn’t that a bitch?

Neither Lou nor Hank are back yet and there’s no word yet of their return.  Same with Hank.  Molly refused to sleep in her own bed.  She’s stubborn like that.  Noreen advises Betsy to take it easy so she can regain her strength.

That night, Betsy recounts a dream she had a dream that felt so real, even though she knew it wasn’t yet.  She dreamt of a magical future filled with wondrous devices where everything you could ever want would be available in one amazing place.  As Betsy narrates, we see glimpses of Molly Solverson’s future- a future that Betsy will not live to see.

Palindrome- Betsy's dream of future Molly, Greta, Gus, and Lou

As Betsy dreams about Molly growing up, we’re then treated to a very special and surprise sequence where Betsy has a vision of Molly as an adult with her family, with Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks, Joey King, and Keith Carradine reprising their Season One roles as Molly Solverson, Gus Grimly, Greta Grimly, and Lou Solverson.  Joining the four is Molly and Gus’ second child, played by Cameron Hamilton.

However, this happy little moment is interrupted by the sight of chaos- the fracture of peace and enlightenment.  It was here that Betsy worried that the future she’d seen may not come to pass.

Palindrome- Hanzee fires and manges to hit Ed

We return to the motel.  Lou leaves while Ed and Peggy continue to flee.  In a moment ripped right out of No Country for Old Men, Ed and Peggy flag down a driver, but before they can hitch a ride, Hanzee picks of the driver from a distance.  As Ed and Peggy flee, Hanzee fires off a shot that manages to hit Ed.

Palindrome- Peggy and Ed take refuge in a convenience store

Ed and Peggy head to a convenience store and tell a janitor to leave because of the bad man coming.  Because Ed’s been hit, he’s leaving a trail of blood that leads Hanzee right to the store.  Hanzee tracks them, but Lou soon spots him and fires a shot that forces Hanzee to put the pursuit aside and deal with the police.

Palindrome- Ben Schmidt joins up with Lou in hunt for Hanzee

Ben Schmidt soon joins Lou and is still livid that Peggy had the nerve to sucker him.  Well, Hanzee is now the target, so Fubar, yeah?

Palindrome- Peggy and Ed hide in the meat locker

Peggy and Ed take refuge in a meat locker and jam it shut with an ice pick.  Nothing about this is a good idea.  A badly bleeding Ed tells Peggy that the two of them are not going to make it.  They’re just too different.  Peggy disagrees, saying that the adversity they’ve faced is what makes their bond stronger, just like how a bone heals.  She had her doubts, but she’s sure now.  Ed weakly tries to get his point across that sometimes nothing is broken.  Peggy responds that she wants to get back to what she and Ed had.

Palindrome- Mike Milligan and Gale Kitchen run into the Gerhardt maid

Mike Milligan and Gale Kitchen return to the Gerhardt home and Mike calls out to the people of Earth.  No one is home but the quiet housekeeper, Wilma.  Gale is ready to kill her, but Mike advises him to be reasonable. He tastes from one of the pot and orders no more German food.  It must be American going forward.  A car soon pulls up, getting their attention.

Palindrome- Mike and Gale confront Ricky

It’s Ricky, who enters and begins ransacking valuables until Mike and Gale corner him.  Ricky tries to make small talk and asks if Mike is the one that Otto had with the housemaid, but he should see that there’s a goddamn shotgun pointed right at him.  He hopes that bygones can be bygones, but Mike talks about sovereignty, but since Ricky isn’t the professor from Gilligan’s Island, he doesn’t know how to define it.

Mike does: sovereignty is absolute power and authority, like a king.  That’s just who Mike is to Ricky.  Ricky tells Mike that this is America, and this nation doesn’t do kings, but Mike disagrees.  America does kings, but they’re called something different.

Today is Mike’s coronation day and a new king should start his reign in an act of kindness and act of cruelty.  That way, your subjects know you’re capable of both- God and monster.  Ricky would prefer the former. The problem is that Wilma works in the kitchen.  She’s already received Mike’s kindness- a brand new car and the money in the cabinet that Ricky wanted.  So Ricky is, to be frank, shit out of luck.

Before Ricky can fire his weapon, Gale blasts him.  However, just as he’s about to deliver the killing blow, Mike stops him.  After all, an act of cruelty.  The two decide to hit the hay before heading home to bathe in that warm champagne that is corporate praise.  Hell, they may even get a parade.  Well, Mike is certainly optimistic.

Palindrome- Peggy and Ed realize that Hanzee has found the meat locker

Hanzee soon reaches the meat locker.  Peggy hears him wrestling with the freezer locker door.  Soon enough, the noise stops, but then Peggy sees smoke filtering into the freezer.  Peggy is reminded of the movie she was watched.  As she describes the plot and similarities to their current situation, she remembers that the Nazi tried to smoke out the couple.  But they were saved!

Palindrome- Peggy expects to find Hanzee, but finds Lou and Ben instead

Ed Blomquist, though, is not, as he soon passes away.  As Peggy shakes her now gone husband, she pulls the pick out of the lock and prepares to face her attacker.  However, when she rushes out of the locker, she runs into not Hanzee, but Lou and Ben instead.  Given that Peggy is holding a weapon, I’m surprised that neither of them opened fire.

There’s no smoke or fire, either.  Turns out that Hanzee got away.  Lou insists that Hanzee was never in the building, despite Peggy’s protests.  She cries out Ed’s name over and over, but he’s dead, Jim.

Palindrome- Ben and Lou discuss the hunt for Hanzee and how to write up the police report on the case

The next day, we learn through conversation between Lou and Ben that there’s a manhunt for Hanzee.  Hank is in the ICU- cautiously optimistic is the word on his condition.  Ben doesn’t even know how to write up a report like this.  Lou just advises him to start and then work his way to the end, just like any story.  Lou, meanwhile, will take Peggy Blomquist back to Minnesota.  If anyone has a problem that, Lou figures that after his week, those people can keep it to themselves.

Palindrome- Noreen and Betsy talk about life and death

We then return to the Solverson household.  Betsy awakens, but still finds no Lou back yet.  Noreen asks if she feels it.  Noreen’s aunt lost her bosom to cancer, like someone took a hot poker and put it through her heart.  No, nothing like that for Betsy.  It’s like getting a peach where one side is ripe and yellow, but the other is black and moldy.  Gross.

But then Noreen once again talks about Camus, who says that knowing we’re going to die makes life absurd.  Betsy isn’t familiar with Camus, and doesn’t care what he thinks since no one with any sense would say something that foolish.  In Betsy’s mind, we’re put on this Earth to do a job and we get time to do it.  When this life is over and you stand in front of the Lord, maybe Noreen can try telling him what some Frenchman said.

Palindrome- Peggy and Lou talk

On the road back to Minnesota, Peggy asks Lou if she can be tried federal.  That way, maybe she can serve her time in California.  There’s a penitentiary north of San Francisco that has a nice view of the bay.  Maybe she can see a pelican, too.  Lou will see what happens.

He then talks about the end of the Vietnam War when Saigon fell.   There were only 24 hours to get everyone out, allies and all.  People packed onto as many boats and possible.  But then a Chinook into view, and you can’t just land one of those things on a ship this size.  The pilot was waved off, but he had his whole family inside and was running low on fuel, so it was now or never.

The pilot hovered over the deck and people, scared or not, started jumping onto the ship.  Hell, the mother even dropped her baby and one of Lou’s men caught him.  But what about the pilot?  He maneuvered off the port bow and hovered long enough to remove his flight suit.  He then somehow rolled the bird on its side and jumped just before it hit the water.  Helicopter parts flew around him, but he somehow made it.  To this day, Lou wonders how.

Peggy asks what Lou means by this.  It’s about Ed, who told Lou that he’d protect his family, no matter what.  Truth be told, Lou understood that it was the rock that men push.  They call it a burden, but it’s really a privilege.  Peggy admits that she never meant for any of this to happen.  Not to Ed or anybody else.  She just wanted to be someone, and she is now.  But she wanted to choose, not be defined by someone else.

But then that stupid guy walked out into the road.  You know, the victim, Lou reminds her.  Peggy doesn’t see that as fair because she was a victim first.  Of what?  Peggy doesn’t think that Lou, as a man, would understand.  It’s a life that women can be a wife, a career woman, and so many other things, as if there’s 37 hours in the day.  And if she can’t, she’s viewed as inferior.  Lou cuts off this rant by reminding Peggy that people are dead.  That’s also true.

Palindrome- Lou calls home to check on Betsy, ends up speaking with Noreen

Lou soon arrives back at the state line and heads to the phone booth to make a call home.  Noreen soon answers and tells Lou that Betsy is fine, but she just had a fall.  Right now, Betsy and Molly are fast asleep.  Betsy will need to come in for some more tests.  Until then, Noreen will remain with her until Lou returns.  He gives Noreen a message to tell Betsy that he’ll be home soon.

Palindrome- The Hand, played by Philip Williams, gives Hanzee his new identity

We then cut to a park, where Hanzee watches two kids- who communicate via sign language- toss a ball.  He’s joined by a man that goes by The Book, played by Philip Williams, who hands him a wallet with a new identity: Moses Tripoli.  Huh.  Hanzee also needs a face man, and the details for that are inside.  He may want something older, but what would Hanzee do then?  Maybe start his own empire.  Book asks whether Hanzee will seek revenge after Kansas City.  But no, not apprehend those responsible, but leave them for dead.

As the kids start roughhousing, Hanzee approaches them, his blade at the ready.

Palindrome- Hamish Broker gives Mike Milligan his less than desirable reward of a desk job

In Kansas City, Mike receives his praise, despite still having a few rungs to climb.  Hamish tells Mike that a team of asset managers will handle the setup in Fargo since that’s day-to-day work.  The real oversight of the Northern territory, Hamish says, will happen in this building, which is where Mike will work.  Hamish sets him up in an office where he’ll work with the accounting department.  Oh, and Mike’s Western look has to go.  Not only that, but he’s gotta cut his hair.  The 1970s are over.

Hamish gives Milligan a tip: when he realizes that the money business is the only one left, the better off he’ll be.  This isn’t about busting heads for collection, but profits and loss.  Infrastructure.  Last year, for example, Donahue in the mail branch saved $1 million a quarter in postage by rejigging the mail room.  Management was impressed and gave him California.  Anyway, it’s time for Mike to settle in and get to work.  Upper management is expecting big things from Mike.

Also, Mike should learn to play golf since that’s where all the big deals are made.  He takes his seat.

Palindrome- Lou, Hank, and Betsy talk

Back at House Solverson, Lou and Hank return to greet Molly, Betsy, and Noreen.  No Sonny or Karl, though.  The adults settle down to talk.  Hank tells Lou to leave out that the gun fight was interrupted by spacecraft.  That can be left as subtext.  Hanzee made the FBI’s most wanted list, but no sign yet.  He must have fled at this point, but Lou is confident that he’ll be back.  And Betsy feels a cramp.  That’s more than anyone needs to know.

Hank reminds the two that they’re sitting here together.  He’s just happy to see them.  Betsy asks her father about her visit to his office.  So what’s the deal with the symbols and such?  After Betsy’s mother died, Hank and everyone else got pretty low.  Hank started thinking about the things he’s seen in the war, at home, on the job- so much senselessness and violence.  He thought about miscommunication- isn’t that the root of conflict?  It comes down to language.  The words we say don’t always mean the same thing.

So what if there was a universal language of symbols?  Pictures are clearer than words, Hank says.  Imagine a box on a roof on it- that means home.  A heart means love, no question.  That’s where Hank started.  The more he worked, the more it became all he could think about.  Betsy takes her father’s hand and tells him that he’s a great man.  Hank doesn’t know about that, but he likes to think he has good intentions.

Palindrome- Lou and Betsy settle in for the night

Later that night, Lou puts Molly to bed and offers her a chance to go fishing tomorrow.  Lou and Betsy then bid each other good night as the second season of Fargo comes to a close.

If “The Castle” delivered on that high body count through the hotel massacre, then “Palindrome,” while nowhere near as deadly as the previous episode, does deliver a resolution to this murder case as light is pitted against darkness once more.  Did this season finale need to be action packed?  And did it need to spell out everything and wrap up just about every story arc we’ve been introduced to in this season?  Well, no.  It was a simple, warm ending about a small group of good people coming together in the end, despite the trials and tribulations they’ve faced.

Palindrome- Betsy tells Lou that he's a good man

I never got the sense that this season finale attempted to force happy moments with the ending of the Solverson family together in their home, which was a nice callback to how the season premiere ended.  These people have been through a heck of a journey and it’s changed their perspective on things, but at their core, they remain the good men and women we’ve known them as while they try to push through the senseless violence and make good of the time they have on Earth.

And so, rather than contrived reasons for a happy ending, Fargo’s second season earns its optimism because we care about the character’s plights.  Sure, we knew some characters had to make it out because of the first season, but we’re still invested in the trip they take along the way, even those who may not make it as far as others.

Palindrome- Betsy awakens

With that said, let’s talk about Betsy’s dream.  Cristin Milioti has been great this season, but the amount of pain Betsy endures is overshadowed by her constant desire to make sure her family is well fed and taken care of, even in her absence.  She had her moment when she told Karl about the possibility of Lou remarrying after she died.

But here, after her fall, after Noreen talking about life being absurd, and after being away from her husband for so long, she still maintained her positive outlook on life.  Since the future isn’t written in stone, we need to use our time wisely and leave a good life behind for those we love.

Palindrome- Allison Tolman and Keith Carradine reprise their roles as Molly and Lou Solverson

Such as Molly and Lou’s future.  Now, let’s talk about that.  This entire sequence was just incredible and put a smile on my face the entire time.  Not only was it an absolute surprise to see Allison Tolman, Keith Carradine, Colin Hanks, and Joey King return to reprise their roles, but the dream showed that even though Betsy won’t live to see her daughter and husband grow older, she still got a glimpse of that happiness.

Plus, it’s not just a nice nod to the first season, but it allows viewers to see what became of Molly, Gus, Greta, and Lou after the first season ended.  I loved this moment.  It was brief, but effective.  And much like Stavros Milos finding the suitcase of money in the first season, it was a nod to the established Fargo universe, but underplayed enough that viewers unfamiliar with the first season could just appreciate this look at the future of the Solverson family.  Side-note, I barely recognized Joey King at first since I’m so used to Greta having red hair.

And again, much like the first season, this second outing didn’t feel the need to hit you over the head with reminders of what came before it.  Or, chronologically, after it, I should say.  For example, Hanzee’s new identity, Moses Tripoli, is a key figure in the first season and has an encounter with Lorne Malvo, and Ben Schmidt would grow up to be Gus Grimly’s boss.

Palindrome- Possibly young versions of Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench

If there was a nod I could have done without, it was Hanzee spotting the two kids communicating via sign language.  Sure, there’s no indication that these kids would grow up to be Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench, but even if they weren’t, that felt too much like a wink and nudge.  And if they weren’t Numbers and Wrench, I feel there’d be no reason to indicate that they sign to each other.

Palindrome- Peggy tells Ed that they're going to continue going forward

“Palindrome” dealt very much with the consequences of wanting more in life and doing any and everything to achieve a higher status.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting more in life, mind you, but in the case of the Blomquists, Peggy specifically, their actions not only added to the impending violence, but showed just how different Ed and Peggy really were, despite being a married couple.

Palindrome- Ed all but breaks it off with Peggy

Ed from the start, wanted nothing more than a simple life.  He had dreamed of owning the butcher shop and using that as a means of financing his wife and future kids.  Even though that may not be the most exciting future, it’s what he wanted and would have been on his terms.  But he knew that his actions wouldn’t make that future easily attainable, so he gave into those wilder instincts not just to keep himself alive, but try and get back to the way things were.

Hell, he even adopted the moniker of the Butcher of Luverne as a badge of honor, but his arc came full circle when he expired in the meat locker, just as he practically told Peggy that their relationship would not have a future.

Palindrome- Peggy tries to comfort Ed

Both Ed and Peggy lacked proper communication in their marriage.  In addition, both had something that the other lacked.  Ed needed a bit more pathos and excitement in his life in order to actualize, while Peggy needed some rigidity and stability.  But Peggy’s desire to be more than just a simple housewife is what left her without a husband and her headed for prison.

Palindrome- Peggy talks to Lou about how life is unfair to a woman that wants more in life

Kirsten Dunst was great not just in Peggy’s breakdown scene after believing that Hanzee tried to smoke her and Ed out, but also her speech to Lou about why she did what she did.  There are some gender politics at play there when she talks about women seeking more in life and being viewed as inferior if they can’t handle a heavy workload and home life.  Floyd had commanding leadership of her family, and Simone used her body to get ahead and on Mike Milligan’s good side.

Palindrome- Lou tells Peggy that Hanzee did not try to smoke her out

But Peggy descended further into madness with every move because she believed that, deep down, she deserved better.  People can grow tired of the same, repetitive routine because they’re just going through the motions without any shakeup.  Peggy wanted that shakeup and she got it because now she is someone, just not for the reasons she wanted.

And she still remains delusional when she wants the best prison situation possible.  It’s madness, but given her situation, coupled with Dunst’s performance, Peggy doesn’t come off as unsympathetic.  It’s a shame that her actualization will soon lead to incarceration.

Palindrome- Mike Milligan gets rewarded with an office job

And poor Mike Milligan.  The man brought chaos to the Gerhardt family, killed off the Undertaker, and was at an all-time high.  It’s not unrealistic to think that he would be handsomely rewarded for his efforts, but a parade is well beyond what life had in store for him: a run-of-the-mill office job with company benefits and golf games in his future.  There was some sadness, as well as unintentional humor and irony to Milligan’s end-game.

Palindrome- Gale and Mike stand over Ricky's body

Here’s a man who started off putting Skip’s tie through a typewriter and typing a letter, and that was just his introduction.  Despite all obstacles, whether from corporate or the Gerhardt family, he and Gale Kitchen fought out of every situation.  They were warriors and hoped to be crowned as kings for their work, but Mike faced the harsh reality that the money business is the future.  Mike may be a king in his own mind, but the world had a brutal way of bringing him back to Earth and turning him into just another cog in a well-oiled machine.

And really, Bokeem Woodbine has been stellar from start to finish.  Everyone was on point this season, but his performance sticks out first in my mind as far as the most memorable.

Palindrome- Hanzee receives his new identity

Hanzee told Ed and Peggy that he was tired of this life, and he was, so he assumes a new identity, but the circle of violence will continue under his empire.  It’s great that he gets to live by his rules, even though we know what will ultimately become of him.  But for the purposes of this season, he finds a way out to start anew.

Palindrome- Solverson family and Noreen

The Solverson family, against all odds, remained optimistic.  The world has changed around them so many times, whether after World War II, Vietnam, or this very massacre.  They’ve seen some of the worst that humankind had to offer, but they maintained their inherent goodness and refused to roll over and let this bleak life get the better of them.  Rather, they worked within a corrupt world, even siding with the Gerhardt family at one point, to ensure that those who committed evils, whether intentional or by accident, would face justice.

Palindrome- Hank and Lou toast

Sure, knowing we’re going to die may make life seem as absurd as Noreen believes, but does that mean accept life for what it is and believe that the future is set for us?  Or do we fight against that notion and claim responsibility for our futures?  For folks like Lou, Hank, and Betsy, the response is to fight.  Just like the man in Vietnam, better to give it your all in a seemingly hopeless situation instead of becoming a victim of circumstance.  Though Hank’s hope of a universal language may be a bit too idealistic, at least he’s willing to try and make the world a better place.

Palindrome- Lou tells Peggy that it's a privilege for men to help their families

And I appreciate how Lou managed to tie his tale back into what his and Ed’s desire to keep their families safe.  It can be challenging to maintain a steady job, look after your kids, spouse, friends, and still have some semblance of an easy life, but is it a burden or a privilege?

Palindrome- Hank talks about his idea of a universal language

For Ed and Lou, it’s a privilege to work hard for their families.  Life holds many uncertainties, but if there’s one thing these characters will do, even the Gerhardts, it’s giving it everything they have and more to protect the ones they love.  Even though Bear, Floyd, and even Simone were killed during this escalation, they each did what they thought in their hearts was right for the good of the family.

The Gift of the Magi- Charlie talks with Noreen while waiting for Ed

But speaking of the Gerhardt family, the one lingering thread is Charlie, who we haven’t seen for quite some time.  We can assume that he’ll still face jail time, but we don’t know what ultimately happens to him.  In the grand scheme of things, Charlie wasn’t the most vital character, but given how much Bear cared for him, and his role in the attack on Ed and Noreen, it’s just one small thing glossed over in the finale.  But again, we didn’t need to have everything spelled out for us.  What we got was a solid finale on a stellar season.

Morton's Fork- The end with Greta, Molly and Gus

When Fargo’s first season ended, we weren’t completely sure at the time whether it would get renewed, if it even needed to be.  There were rumors of renewal, but nothing concrete.  With this season, before its premiere, I was unsure, given the outstanding job of the previous season, whether this season would match or surpass the previous one.

Palindrome- Betsy gets a cramp

And this second season met and greatly exceeded my expectations for what I deem quality television.  The second season of Fargo succeeds as a great crime drama with plenty of black humor, shows respect to the material that came before it, and delivered quality performances from the entire cast.

Omega Station- Ray and Ani smoke and hold hands

Fargo’s sophomore run succeeds in ways that True Detective’s second season faltered in that the storyline, acting, and direction hooked you from the start and continued to deliver top-notch episodes as the season progressed.  Now don’t get me wrong.  There’s a lot I enjoy about the second season of True Detective, but as a whole, I don’t think it matches the quality of the first one, but that’s another story.  For fall 2015, though, I think I’d say this may have been my favorite show to watch for fall 2015, right alongside The Leftovers.

This was an amazing season of television and I am very pleased to know that Fargo will be returning for a third season.  Noah Hawley once again delivered a great season of television that, I believe, deserves to be recognized for its performances, direction, and writing.  If you’ve yet to watch Fargo, please give it a shot.  I’d say start with the film or first season, then watch this.  It’s dark, but filled with optimism and hope in the face of a pessimistic world.  And this season was a satisfying watch from start to finish.

So, in summation, was good television?  Well, yeah, I’d say it was a good one.

A Look at Fargo- Season 2, Episode 7: “Did You Do This? No, You Did It!”

Let’s talk about the future. Or, the present, rather.  Either way, put the guns aside for now so we can have a conversation.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Management meeting shooting

The episode begins with continuing escalation.  Three people meeting in an office meeting are killed by a pair of window washers, Gale Kitchen kills a man in a bar, and another is drowned in a toilet.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Gerhardt family funeral

On the farm, the Gerhardt family holds a funeral for Otto, who was apparently killed in the shooting last time.  Simone tosses Rye’s belt buckle into his open grave.  As Otto’s body is laid to rest, Simone and Floyd head back to the house.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Bear and Ricky, played by Ryan O'Nan, speak with Floyd and Simone

Bear arrives with an accomplice, Ricky, played by Ryan O’Nan, who has come out from Buffalo to lend a hand.  Simone sticks around, despite the adults wanting her to go inside.  Bear reports: they got five from management, but lost Roost and Seymour.  Two days have passed and no word from Hanzee.  As for Dodd, Bear couldn’t give a shit.  He thinks the family may need another hole.

They’re just men, Simone says.  It’s not like her father is the shark in that movie.  He just shits and sleeps.  For that, Floyd smacks her across the face for always looking for a fight. She thought Dodd was bad, but Simone is no different- they’re porcupines.  Simone responds by saying that this family deserves the ground.  Floyd immediately regrets hitting her, but Bear says that there’s not enough of them left to start telling the truth.  They watch as Simone drives off, which is perfect timing on her part.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Ben Schmidt and Lou Solverson arrive for Floyd

Ben Schmidt and Lou Solverson arrive and need Floyd, not Bear, to come with them.  Floyd complies.  Charlie is in state penitentiary, awaiting trial.  As for his brother, Bear claims that Dodd found Jesus.  Of course.  Ricky informs Bear that a man has called with information regarding Dodd’s location.  Bear tells Ricky to take a message.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Chief Gibson, played by Terry Kinney, speaks with Hank, Lou, and Ben about Floyd

At the police station in Fargo, Ben’s superior, Chief Gibson, played by Terry Kinney, asks Lou, Ben, and Hank why Floyd Gerhardt is in holdup.  To be frank, Schmidt and Solverson are tired of playing clean-up.  Lou, Ben, and Hank want to ratchet up pressure on both sides and let them know that these killings aren’t going unnoticed.  As for the butcher, there’s an APB out on Ed and Peggy Blomquist, but neither has turned up yet.  Ah, so Hank didn’t check on her after all.

Times aren’t as bloodless as Gibson remembers from his dad’s days.  For example, Elliot Ness himself deputized his father ATF during prohibition.  Dad talked of Tommy-Gun bloodbaths and heads rolling in the road.  Though Gibson never thought he’d live to see days like that, here we are.  Can’t live in a world where people leave their front door unlocked anymore.  Seriously, did people do that way back when?

DId You Do This, No, You Did It- Gibson and Hank talk with Floyd about the escalating violence

So Hank and Gibson speak with Floyd, who has an elaborate setup for smoking a pipe.  Hank introduces himself to Floyd and speaks about the disagreement he had with both Dodd.  Hank decides to call that confrontation a draw.  After all, he got sucker-punched by the Indian before he could show his potential.  Sure.  Gibson is sorry about Otto, who was shot up in his own home by some Kansas City hosenscheisser.  Hank’s wife passed last summer, but the last thing she asked was did he smell toast.  The hell?

Hank then asks Floyd how far this will go.  Charlie is in jail, Dodd missing, husband missing.  It’s a question of how many ghosts you can live with for the rest of your life, but Floyd isn’t concerned.  Hank shot a man through the teeth in Vichy, France and he can still see his face.  Floyd maintains that the butcher from Luverne killed Rye, but Hank maintains that he’s known Ed all his life and knows that he doesn’t work for the mob.  If he’s working for Kansas City, Hank will cut off his own toe.

Gibson talks of a case where a kid stabbed his parents to death.  When he asked why, the kid couldn’t say.  It just came over him all of a sudden.  Stories used to be simpler, Floyd says.  Now you don’t know where it starts or ends.  The officers agree that this thing ends when Floyd says it’s over.

She says that her boys won’t stop because they’ve lost too much.  So the two ask Floyd to point them in the right direction- something actionable towards Kansas City and make this northern expansion unpalatable.  In essence, be a snitch.  Well, like Floyd says, it’s hard to be simple in times of complication.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Mike Milligan speaks with Hamish Broker

We then cut to Simone arriving at the Pearl Hotel.  Mike Milligan speaks with his superior, Hamish Broker, played by Adam Arkin, about the situation that Milligan apparently does not have under control.  It was one thing when Joe Bulo was killed, but Broker thinks more and more that Milligan isn’t, as Braverman said, smarter and more capable than the other darkies.  Mike asks for two days, but he gets two days instead.  If nothing comes of that, then the Undertaker pay a visit.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Ben and Lou break up confrontation between Mike and Simone

When this call ends, a pissed Simone enters to chew Mike out for killing Otto instead of Dodd.  In response, Mike quotes rattles off a series of quotes.  If the goal is to kill your oppressors, what does it matter who goes first?  Simone is upset that she could have been killed.  This talk is interrupted when Lou and Ben storm in the room, with Lou ordering Ben to take Simone out with him.

Lou remains with Gale Kitchen and Mike Milligan.  On the elevator down, Simone tells Ben that she can handle herself.  Ben has been keeping an eye on Simone and the last place she should be is in a hotel room with those kinds of men.  But Simone puts the moves on Ben, asking him to not tell anyone.  He won’t, but she uses this chance to put him down.  She’s done lying down for men.  We will see about that.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Bear and Ricky find Simone at the hotel

As Simone heads to her car, Bear and Ricky pull up next to her.  Her shitty cover story is that she came to score some weed.  Bear tells her that it’s not safe for any of them around here.  Ah well, she can score weed elsewhere.  Though Simone has her car, Bear says that Ricky will drive it back while Simone rides with him.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Lou tells Mike to leave

Back in the hotel room, Lou tells Mike that he doesn’t have to necessarily leave, but just not be here.  Mike believes in Manifest Destiny, but here’s the thing- Lou has two pairs of shoes: one for summer and one for winter.  You’re not meant to have more than you can handle.  So this need for conquest and owning things that aren’t meant to be owned, like people and places- that’s a problem, not a solution.  Capitalism isn’t the problem, but greed and making this thing all or nothing.

In response, Mike talks about a factory man.  The boss thinks that the man is stealing from him, so every night, guards search his wheelbarrow.  Ben suggests patting down the man, and that’s what happens.  Hell, he’s stripped naked, but still nothing.  Ben thinks this means the man isn’t stealing, but Lou figures it out: he’s still stealing wheelbarrows.  The point is that sometimes the answer is so obvious, you can’t see it because you’re looking too hard.  He can’t leave because he’s the future, not the past.

The past can no more become the future than the future can become the past.  Well, Lou has said his peace, but he asks Mike to not be offended if Lou doesn’t say hello before he shoots.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Betsy finds Karl and Sonny in her home

Betsy Solverson, arriving home and finding some extra shoes, arms herself with a shotgun.  Holy shit, the Solversons do not fuck around.  But it turns out to just be Sonny and Karl, cooking breakfast.  Lou gave them a key and told them to look after Betsy and Molly while he’s away.

While Betsy doesn’t strike you as someone who needs looking after, Lou did ask Karl and Sonny to watch the house, so here they are.  Karl gets the sofa while Sonny will sleep on the floor, as it hurts Karl to sleep on his back if he’s on the floor.  Now Betsy can either argue or find out while Karl is called The Breakfast King of Loyola.  I, for one, would like to know who calls him that.

Side-note, I can’t help but laugh at Sonny’s instant reaction to Betsy or the fact that cancer-stricken Betsy is still good at moving with a gun.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Bear and Simone go for a drive

On the road, Simone asks if there’s been any word from Grandma, despite how tough Floyd is.  She maintains that she went to score weed, but Bear says nothing.  Eventually, he asks why Simone doesn’t ask about Charlie?  When she learns of his location, she wants to visit him.  Bear tells Simone to refer to Dodd as Dad, even though he’s done a lot of bad things to her.  Bear isn’t defending Dodd, but just telling Simone what he is.  So what is he to Bear?

Simone finally asks where the two are headed when Bear drives off the road and stops the truck.  She’s afraid of what may come next, but Bear forces her from the truck.  He finally says what Dodd is to him: a man who used his snake tongue to snatch his son from him.  As for Simone, Bear says that it doesn’t matter what she meant to do, but sleeping with the enemy is still treachery.  After the second war, the French would shave a lady’s head for bedding the Germans and ran her out of town.  That or worse.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Bear orders Simone to kneel

Bear continues to walk Simone through the forest.  She offers to help, saying that the Kansas City folk trust her, but Bear says that such isn’t their way.  The body count is on Simone, Bear says.  That goes for Otto’s death, too, but Simone won’t have that on her.  She counters that Floyd wanted to negotiate, but Dodd wouldn’t let her.  He’s a snake, just as Bear said.  Simone is just a victim.

Bear pulls out his gun and tells Simone to kneel.  As Simone pleads for her life, saying that they’re family, Bear tells her that none of them are family anymore.  Simone begs to be banished and run out of town instead, but Bear says that it’s already done.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Bear returns to the truck alone

He later returns to the truck alone and slams his cast on the hood over and over until it loosens off of his hand.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Bear rushes at Ricky

Back at the house, Ricky says that someone called Bear again with Dodd’s location.  Dodd rages at him, but Ricky told the caller that Bear was out.  He doesn’t say anything unless Bear tells him.  If this caller contacts him again, Bear wants Ricky to essentially tell him to piss off.  Ricky asks if Bear is being a bit cold, but when Bear come back to him, Ricky backs off, saying that this is none of his business.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Betsy receives a call from Lou

At House Solverson, Betsy receives a call from Lou.  Betsy says that she doesn’t need looking after, but it’s all hands on deck and Lou tells her that she doesn’t know how bad it is out there.  Karl is drinking, Molly is short and likes Noreen, so things are well.  As for Betsy, she’s better in some and worse in others.

She can’t rest, though, after hearing how bad things are.  Lou tells Betsy to ask about John McCain’s thumb screws.  Apparently if McCain can survive five years in Viet Cong thumb screws, Betsy can beat cancer.  Hank soon joins as Betsy wishes for Lou to come home soon.

Hank reports that Floyd is ready to flip.  Things will change if she puts them in the game.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Floyd cooperates with the authorities

We cut to Floyd, who wants it on the record that this is a matter of last resort.  Also, she doesn’t want any of her children and grandchildren to be liable for any repercussions.  This is her war, after all.  They agree, so time for her to tell what she knows.

Kansas City runs most of their dope through an outfit called Legit Trucking out of Cincinnati.  Their material is hidden in the tires.  It’s also stored in two locations in town: a nail salon and auto repair shop on 1st- check the air pump inside.  Also, they may have weapons on the roof.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Mike learns that The Undertaker is on his way

As the officers head off, we cut to Gale bringing Mike yet another phone call.  The Undertaker is coming.  Mike Milligan is done.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Floyd is released from the station

Back at the Fargo Police Department, Floyd finds Bear and the Gerhardt clan waiting for her.  She instructs him to bring Hanzee in and find Dodd as well.  Lou believes that the officers just chose a side.

Word is now that an Indian shot up a bar while looking for a couple.  One trooper is dead and one is clinging to life.  Ben feels that it’s South Dakota’s problem.  If Hanzee is in pursuit, then Ed and Peggy can’t be too far.  And wherever Hanzee goes, Dodd is also there.  When Ben wants to hand this to his superiors, and reminding Lou that they just promised to give the Gerhardts a free pass, Lou rightly calls Ben a shit cop…even though he’s getting promoted next month.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Betsy and Karl talk

Back at House Solverson, Betty tries to convince Karl that he’s just fine.  Apparently, Lou was supposed to marry Betsy’s sister, Lenore, but then there was Vietnam and Lou got enlisted.  Lenore wasn’t good at waiting, so Lou got the apparent dud instead.  If Karl built an ark, he’d take Lou and Betsy over him and Lenore any day.  Betsy then asks Karl if he’ll look after the family, but he says that she got the good pills…right?  The Xanadu.

No, Betsy is sure that she got the sugar pills.  If Lou needs to get married again, that’s okay, but not this one girl, Rhonda Knutson, whose eyes are too close together.  And Betsy shuts down Karl before he can talk about John McCain’s survival rate.  John McCain is a fighter pilot, while Betsy lives in a quiet Minnesota home.  There’s a difference.  Oh, and she tells Karl to stop drinking because it’ll kill him.  Karl responds with a warm hug.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Betsy finds the symbols

We then stay with Betsy as she heads to Hank’s home and calls out for Snowball.  She looks over some family photos before calling out for Snowball again.  She soon enters a room filled with papers of symbols and drawings lined all over the walls.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Ricky tells Floyd and Bear that Hanzee found Dodd

Bear and Floyd return to the Gerhardt home.  Floyd needs to apologize to Simone, but Bear says that she left in a hurry.  Rick once again has news for Bear.  There’ll be no secrets anymore, Floyd says, so time to talk.  Hanzee is on the phone with word that he found Dodd.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Mike and Gale kill the Undertaker and his associates

Mike Milligan waits in silent anticipation when he hears that the Undertaker is headed up.  He continues to get dressed as Undertaker and his…well, undertakers, board an elevator and head up.  They soon arrive in the room, where they’re promptly slaughtered by Gale and Mike Milligan.  Time to bag and drop them in the woods.  If the boss calls, then the cover story is that the Gerhardt family killed them.

Oh, but then the phone rings.  Mike eventually answers.  The man on the phone says that it’s Mike’s lucky day, as the caller has Dodd Gerhardt in the trunk of his car.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Ed tells Mike Milligan that he has Dodd in his car

On the other end of the phone, Ed Blomquist, after delivering his message, drives off as the episode comes to a close.

The past two episodes have had a fair amount of action and tense situations in them with little room to breathe.  There were calmer moments, yes, but they dealt a lot with the escalating war.  This episode does as well, but in addition to the ongoing conflict between the Gerhardt family and Kansas City, it focused on characters looking towards the future and mapping out their lives well beyond their years.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Lou calls Ben a shit cop

Given that this season is a prequel to the previous one, we’re certain of at least one thing: Ben Schmidt, Lou and Molly Solverson are all expected to survive.  Everyone else is a big question mark.  And while that’s not the reason for this, the episode devoted time to characters wondering about what happens after the violence ends and the dust settles.  If you’re still standing, where do you go from there?  And what becomes of your family and friends?

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Hank talks about ghosts

It dealt with having to face potential ghosts in addition to the old ones faced on both sides, whether enemy or friend, as there’s inner conflict and turmoil between both Kansas City and the Gerhardt family.  The escalating violence continues to get worse and though there’s less of it here, that’s not a bad thing.  It’s a reminder that the losses on both sides will keep stacking high, and we haven’t even hit Sioux Falls yet.

So it’s not out of place for matriarch figures like Floyd and Betsy, or even someone like Bear, to take extra stock in the family by taking precautions and measures to ensure their family’s protection long after they’re out of the picture.  It shows that, despite the growing violence, they still do what they do for the sake of their families.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Ben and Simone on the elevator

I think I may have enjoyed this episode a bit more than others because it gave attention to characters that we’ve seen, but not focused on for much time.  A lot of this season has dealt with Lou and Hank, Dodd, as well as Ed and Peggy, and while we’ve seen and heard from others outside of them, this is the episode that gave development to people like Floyd, Betsy, Mike Milligan, and even Karl after his major defense play last time.

Whether it’s on the show or film, Fargo has shown how the tiniest action can embroil you in a world of conflict.  But while people such as Jerry, Lester, or either Ed or Peggy manage to dig themselves deeper, someone like Floyd wants the buck to stop with her.  It makes sense: she made the call to go to war, Dodd acted impulsively, and now she’s lost her husband.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Floyd speaks with Hank and Chief Gibson

Sure, she hasn’t had to dirty her hands yet, from what we’ve seen, but she won’t have the burden of this conflict put onto her kids.  By the way, in my opinion, the scenes at the station may very well be some of Jean Smart’s finest acting thus far.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Bear walks Simone into the woods

The Gerhardt family is already fractured, though.  Bear catching Simone and then leading her into the woods was a tense moment as he threw her infidelity and betrayal in her face, and she absolutely deserved it.  With Dodd not around right now, Bear needs an outlet for his anger and for Charlie’s incarceration.  And he’s noticed Simone’s impudence.  That, coupled with finding her at the same hotel as Mike Milligan, sealed her fate.  It was a well done sequence of events.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Simone pleads for her life

However, the question remains whether Bear did the deed.  Television and film have taught me that unless you see and hear it happen, followed by a body, nine times out of 10, the person will live.

No Country for Old Men- Carla

Now there are exceptions.  Let’s draw upon another Coen Brothers’ work: No Country for Old Men.  We didn’t see whether Anton shot and killed Carla Jean, but given his code and how he checks his shoes upon exiting, it’s implied that he did indeed kill her.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Bear prepares to execute Simone

Here, though, it’s a little foggy, given how Bear has more of a heart than Dodd.  If there were any moment for him to show care for the family that’s falling apart in front of him, it would be here by letting Simone fend for herself.  It remains to be seen whether that was the case, but where would Simone go?  She jeopardized her familial ties and Mike won’t have much use of her going forward, so she’s lost on both sides.

Lou said something to Mike Milligan that stuck with me when thinking of Simone: you’re not meant to have more than you can handle.  That holds true for many of the characters, but Simone in particular because she meddled with forces she couldn’t control.  She wanted Dodd dead, but ended up losing Otto in the process.  She defied family, which earned her some slaps from both Dodd and Floyd, and the moment Bear caught her in the act, it was already over in Simone’s eyes.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Bear and Floyd talk outside the police station

Though the Gerhardt family chose war, they may not have expected to take on as much as they did.  They’re a simple family and Kansas City is a giant operation.  No matter how much they could fight back, things would get worse before getting better.  Losing Otto is a major sign of that.

While Otto hasn’t had much to do since his stroke, his presence is still felt and it’s a big loss for the family.  Like Joe Bulo’s death, I didn’t think Otto would die as soon as he did because he’s already in a weakened position and witnessed an attack already.  Killing him would just hasten his death, but this show manages to throw your expectations out the window with good writing.

From here, there can be no going back because too many people have been killed and that body count will continue to grow.  It’s as inevitable as Mike telling Lou that the northern expansion is inevitable because it’s the future.  Several times this season, characters have reflected on simpler times where people lived as good neighbors and could leave their doors unlocked.  Now we live in a world plagued by war, cancer, violence, and the Mickey Mouse Club.  There are no simpler times anymore.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Lou thinks that the police just chose a side in the war

It all comes down to expectations versus reality.  The authorities want the violence as a whole to stop, but can’t do that unless they get in deep with one side.  It’s less bloody than adding to the violence, but this does still mean that you’ve picked a side in an ongoing war.

Betsy may be more than capable of defending her household, but she doesn’t know everything that’s going on and these are dangerous people we’re talking, so it’s not too out of place for Lou to rally Karl and Sonny to aid in her defense.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Betsy doesn't strike you as someone who needs looking after

I do want to talk about Betsy for a second.  Cristin Milioti might not appear as much as some of the other actors on the show, but damn it if she doesn’t sell her performance each scene she’s in.  This episode was no exception.  Betsy may be fighting a losing battle with cancer, but Milioti never makes her out to be weak and pathetic.  Quite the opposite.  She knows that she’s going to die soon, but she isn’t bothered because she knows that her family will be in safe hands.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Betsy gives Karl instructions for the family after she dies

Here, Betsy isn’t taking on more than she can bear, but if the situation calls for it, she will.  And it’s not because she has something to prove.  She’s not making herself out to be John McCain because she’s just a simple Minnesota woman.  But like Floyd and even Simone to a point, she shatters the stereotype people have of women being completely helpless and clueless.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Karl hugs Betsy

Betsy’s story is one of tragedy, I feel.  She’s a dying woman in a world where there’s no discernable response to stemming the violence.  Despite having the sugar pills, despite her husband risking his life, despite knowing that she may not live long enough to see her daughter grow up, she’s taking advantage of the time she has left.  The scene between Betsy and Karl was a very warm moment made better by the way Milioti and Nick Offerman played off of each other.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Betsy packs heat

By the way, the fact that there’s a gun in the Solverson household makes me think that it will be used at some point.  That and the symbols Betsy found, I figure, may factor into the UFOs or bright lights we’ve seen.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Mike talks about a man

A bit on Mike, a man who I believe can make almost anything sound interesting.  He believes that it’s his destiny to help in conquering the Gerhardt family.  Like the women, Milligan is also out to shatter stereotypes that separate him from the rest of the other darkies.  Unlike Lou, Mike is more than willing to take on more than he can handle.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Killing the Undertaker

Who is The Undertaker?  It doesn’t matter.  The fact that Mike dispatched of him and his cohorts so easily shows that he’s as dangerous as we knew him to be, but also that he’ll respond to a desperate situation with violence.  While he sees Kansas City as the future, he sees himself as the one to make it happen.  He might not have started this war, but he’ll make damn sure that he finishes the job while he’s here.

But his help may come from an unlikely source.  His story about the man stealing wheelbarrows dealt with hiding in plain sight.  An answer is so obvious that you can’t see it because you’re looking too hard.  Everyone has spent their time trying to deal with the war between the Gerhardts and Kansas City.  We’ve talked about the Blomquists, but only heard of what they and Hanzee are up to in this episode.

Did You Do This, No, You Did It- Ed's ride

So while the Gerhardt family is looking for Dodd, the Kansas City coalition has the answer right in front of them from the very unsuspecting people that want no more to do with this whole mess.  Ed and Peggy appear to have Dodd in tow and are looking to get as far away from this as possible.  Obviously, with Hanzee on their trail, that isn’t going to last, but I thought this was a good way to close out the episode.  Though the question remains how Ed even got Mike Milligan’s phone number

“Did You Do This? No, You Did It!” was a very good episode.  We got more escalation, but we also saw attempts to slow the tide, even as the body count rises.  It balanced out tense situations like Simone and Bear’s walk in the woods with calmer moments, such as Betsy’s talk with Karl, and even light scenes with Lou calling Ben a shit cop.  It showed the steps people take to protect their loved ones to prevent them from having to fix someone else’s mess.  Through the betrayal and fractured bonds, protecting the family and legacy is still priority.

A Look at Fargo- Season 2, Episode 6: “Rhinoceros”

No time to relax yet.  We may have had a few firefights last week, but things continue to escalate here.  This is “Rhinoceros.”

Rhinoceros- Betsy and Noreen waiting at the sheriff's department for Lou and Ed

The episode begins at the Blomquist household.  Ed is hauled off in cuffs while Peggy maintains his innocence.  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.

Rhinoceros- Bear talks with Otto

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?

Rhinoceros- Dodd tells Simone all about a whore's life

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.

Rhinoceros- Dodd tells Bear that he's getting the belt

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.

Rhinoceros- Simone calls Mike Milligan

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.

Rhinoceros- Hank speaks with Peggy about the recent murders

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.

Rhinoceros- Lou gives Ed more warnings

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.

Rhinoceros- Percy Bluth, played by Joe Cobden, informs Karl that Ed Blomquist needs his services

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.

Rhinoceros- Hank asks why Peggy didn't go to the authorities or get help after hitting Rye Gerhardt

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.

Rhinoceros- Dodd confronts Hank and demands Ed Blomquist

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.

Rhinoceros- Dodd searches for Peggy

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.

Rhinoceros- Peggy turns the prod on Dodd

But then here comes Peggy, who turns the cattle prod on Dodd.

Rhinoceros- Floyd asks Simone if she's with the family

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.

Rhinoceros- Kansas City brings the fire fight to the Gerhardt family

This confidence booster is interrupted by gunfire.  The Kansas City syndicate has arrived.

Rhinoceros- Karl gives Ed some form of legal counsel

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.

Rhinoceros- Lou confronts Bear Gerhardt

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.

Rhinoceros- Hank awakens and learns of the situation at the department

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.

Rhinoceros- Karl negotiates with Bear

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.

Rhinoceros- Lou and Ed meet up with Hank

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.

Rhinoceros- Hanzee pursues Ed

As Lou and Hank head off, Hanzee soon emerges from the forest and begins walking in Ed’s direction.

Rhinoceros- Karl knows a lot of words

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.

Rhinoceros- Peggy asks if Hank is testing her

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.

Rhinoceros- Ed talks about Noreen's book

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.

Rhinoceros- Peggy attacks Dodd

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.

Rhinoceros- Hank faces off with Dodd while Hanzee sneaks into the Blomquist home

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.

Rhinoceros- Floyd tells Dodd to knock off his bullshit

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.

Rhinoceros- Floyd speaks with Simone

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.

Rhinoceros- Mike asks Simone where the Gerhardt family is headed now

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.

Rhinoceros- Lou is calm in the face of danger

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.

Rhinoceros- Lou tells Ed that the violence won't rest until Ed and Peggy are dead

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.

Rhinoceros- Lou faces off with Bear Gerhardt

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.

Rhinoceros- Karl stands tall against Bear Gerhardt

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.

Rhinoceros- Bear considers his options for Charlie's sake

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.

A Look at Fargo- Season 2, Episode 5: “The Gift of the Magi”

I mean, that really got out of hand fast.  This is “The Gift of the Magi.”

The episode begins with a tour bus.  A political tour bus, to be specific.  We hear a man talk about his salesman father who, like many people, struggled during the Depression.  But our speaker has never been one to focus on life’s downs.  The nation has done a lot to advance the cause of freedom, but if you look around, you don’t see signs of that dignity.  You have to stand in line just to fill up your car.

The Gift of the Magi- Hanzee shows Rye's belt buckle to Floyd

Hanzee, meanwhile, returns Rye’s belt buckle to Floyd and explains what happened, as if he was there himself.  Apparently, just like the law said, a butcher did this after Rye followed the judge and shot up the place.  Dodd interrupts, saying that the killer is known as the Butcher of Luverne- a contract man out of Kansas City.  Sounds like a theory, though Floyd more wants to hear Hanzee’s point of view.  He, though, also figures that Kansas City wanted to use Rye for leverage.

The Gift of the Magi- Joe Bulo and the Kitchen Brothers go hunting with Commissioner Richard Armbruster, played by Jeff Clarke

Joe Bulo and the Kitchen Brothers go hunting with Commissioner Richard Armbruster, played by Jeff Clarke, who is slowly being courted by Bulo.  As Armbuster takes aim, he and the syndicates receive surprise enemy fire from the Gerhardt.  Armbuster is taken out, Bulo retreats, but the Kitchen Brothers ward off the attacks.

The Gift of the Magi- Hanzee takes down the Kitchen Brothers

However, Hanzee soon joins the fight- he kills Wayne Kitchen and knocks out Gale.  As Bulo makes it back to his car, he finds Hanzee waiting for him.  Christ, Hanzee is fast.

The Gift of the Magi- Ronald Reagan, played by Bruce Campbell, speaks of a rendezvous with destiny

Back to our speaker of the hour, Mr. Ronald Reagan, played by none other than Ash Williams himself, Bruce Campbell.  He will be a leader that will lead this great nation toward its rendezvous with destiny.

The Gift of the Magi- Karl wants Lou to ask Ronald Reagan if Joan Crawford really had crabs

Though moved to tears, Karl refuses to shake Reagan’s hand since he made a movie with a monkey.  It wouldn’t be dignified.  But he did still like him in Cattle Queen of Montana.  Lou Solverson will be escorting Reagan’s bus as far as the state line, even though he’d rather be investigating the murders.  Before Lou leaves, Karl wants him to ask Reagan if it’s true that Joan Crawford had crabs.  Yeah, no.

The Gift of the Magi- Dodd has good news

Back at the Gerhardt home, Floyd and Charlie sit in anticipation when Dodd enters with good news: they got ‘em.  No Milligan, though.  In light of this, there’s no question that Kansas City will strike back hard.  When Floyd figured that these people would negotiate, Dodd sees that as her feminine side talking.  It was always going to be war, Dodd says.  Floyd wants this butcher in Luverne dead.  No mercy.

The Gift of the Magi- Peggy wants to leave, but Ed wants to stay

Said butcher awakens as Ed heads to the basement and finds Peggy thinking about what they should take when they leave for California.  You know, when they run.  After all, they heard what Lou said.  If this still isn’t over and it’s just the tail of the snake, they need to go.  And all those dead people in The Waffle Hut- the fella had a car, so why was he in the road?  Peggy also reveals that Constance saw the car after it had been cleaned, but before the other crash.  Peggy was gonna walk her right out, but she heard music coming from the garage.

But it doesn’t seem like Constance will say something.  And yet, law enforcement is asking questions.  Peggy knows that they can’t stay.  Ed counters that Peggy agreed to fix this.  He’s still thinking about kids and the shop, but Peggy wants to be more realistic than that.  Ed still wants the shop and will figure out a way to make this work, even though he doesn’t have the money to acquire it and Bud still gave him a deadline.  Even still, he’ll figure it out.  That’s what people do.

The Gift of the Magi- Dodd tells Virgil, played by Greg Bryk, to look for Ed Blomquist

Charlie tells Dodd that he wants to help, and won’t look to Bear for permission.  After all, if this Blomquist guy killed Rye, then it should be a Gerhardt to kill him.  Dodd tells Virgil, played by Greg Bryk, to look for Ed Blomquist.  In addition, he tells Virgil that not only will Charlie go with him, but he’ll also pull the trigger.  If anything goes wrong, Virgil is to fix it.

The Gift of the Magi- Simone tells Mike that she didn't know about the murders

Simone also heads off, as we follow her to the Pearl Hotel.  She knocks on room 502 and is greeted by Gale Kitchen, who eventually lets her in.  Simone checks in on Mike Milligan, who talks about his ever optimistic mother, who could find the cloud in every silver lining.  Simone’s mom, she says, smiles all the time, like some ghoul, probably because dad would hit her if she looked sad.

Then Milligan tells Simone why there’s only one Kitchen brother standing with him, all because of the Indian, who killed a lot of people.  But Simone claims to know nothing about that.  Mike asks Simone what they are in her mind- Romeo and Juliet?  Simone doesn’t know.  Mike goes back to his mother and how they would eat in the dark.  For shits and giggles, he wrote on her tombstone that she was happy until the very end.  Mike Milligan, you see, is an optimist.  So when he sees the head of Joe Bulo in his box, which he shows to Simone, he doesn’t think that the sky is falling.  It’s the sound of opportunity knocking.

Simone spills that the family had a meeting without her.  If she knew, she would have said something.  Mike lets her off with a warning: if she wants be taken seriously, she has to be serious.  His point is that he wants to know what the Gerhardts will do before they do it- every single time.  Otherwise, she can die with the rest of them.  With that, Simone leaves.

The Gift of the Magi- Ben Schmidt tells Lou Solverson about the recent murders

On the road, Lou receives a transmission from Ben Schmidt, who reports one hell of a shit sandwich, 12 dead: half Kansas City, half Gerhardt, and one zoning commissioner.  Lou shares his theory about the local beautician and her husband being responsible for Rye Gerhardt’s disappearance.  Maybe they panicked and dumped the body somewhere.  Meanwhile, there are visitors from both factions looking for revenge, so this is looking like the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Schmidt offers to come on up, and Lou will join him once he’s done with the Reagan detail.

The Gift of the Magi- Noreen and Ed talk about dying and the future

At Bud’s Meats, Noreen is deep into her book- does she do any actual work?- and asks why Ed is putting in all this effort for the shop.  He’s living the American dream of getting a shop, but Noreen says that he’s gonna die anyway.  Camus says knowing we’re all gonna die makes life a joke.  Knowing that we’re all gonna day makes life easier.  She suggests killing yourself to get it over with fast.  The hell?  No matter the path, Noreen just sees death.  Even though Ed’s father lived to be 96, he still, at the end, died.  I can’t say I completely disagree with Noreen’s logic.

Outside, a nervous Charlie is hesitant about his target, but Virgil tries to calm him by saying to just point and shoot.  And if the target keeps moving, shoot it again.  Oh, and no witnesses.

The Gift of the Magi- Charlie talks with Noreen while waiting for Ed

He eventually enters the shop and makes small talk with Noreen, who rattles off the available meats. When Charlie asks for the butcher, Noreen points out that Ed isn’t, in fact, the butcher.  He’s just the assistant butcher.  Either way, Noreen buzzes for him.  Charlie waits and waits, his hand ready on the gun.  He notices Noreen’s book- he read and found it depressing.  Noreen thinks that it’s beautiful, which is why her schoolmates find her to be morose.  After all, Halloween is her favorite holiday. Okay, I like Noreen a lot more now.

Charlie’s favorite is Easter. The Resurrection, you know.  Kind of like Rocky, but then, as Charlie points out, Rocky did lose in the end.  Ed finally comes out and all Charlie has to show for it when he returns to the car is some meat.

The Gift of the Magi- Peggy picks up the newly repaired car

Peggy, meanwhile, packs as much as she can fit into her suitcases.  She then heads to the auto shop and finds the car fully repaired.  Sonny reports that everything has been fixed, from top to bottom.  Peggy gives him a check and tells him to wait until the end of the month to cash the check.  However, before leaving, Peggy stops and returns to the shop.  She asks if Sonny would like to buy the car.  After all, they need cash to buy the butcher shop.

As for Peggy’s trip, she just now decided to not go.  Sonny can only give around $700, even though the car is probably worth $1400.  And with that, Peggy heads home, feeling proud of herself.

The Gift of the Magi- Bear thanks Hanzee for his work

At the Gerhardt home, Bear speaks with Hanzee about this morning.  Though there were losses on both sides, Hanzee reports that the message has been delivered.  On behalf of himself and Floyd, Bear thanks Hanzee for his service.  Ever since Otto took him in when he was nine, he never complained.  Bear considers Hanzee a part of this family, not that Dodd would ever say that.  Even still, Hanzee’s actions have escalated this war.

Then Dodd returns, still waiting for Simone, and orders Bear to leave Hanzee alone, since he’s his man.  Dodd is disappointed that Bear likes taking orders from a woman, even if it is Mom.  Bear warns that there will be a reckoning where all souls will be held accountable for their actions.  Dodd doesn’t give much thought to that.

The Gift of the Magi- Ronald Reagan and Lou Solverson talk at the urinals

Back on the campaign trail, Lou and Reagan bond at the urinals- the one place to have small talk.  Governor Reagan asks where Lou served and Lou responds that it the Mekong Delta.  Reagan thinks back to 1942, when America just joined, but then talks about his service…of working on Operation Eagle’s Nest for Paramount.  He got dropped behind enemy lines trying to rescue Jimmy Whitmore and Laraine Day from this SS commando.  Reagan can’t remember if they made it out, but it was a hell of a picture.

Lou mentions that his wife has stage three lymphoma.  He wonders if the sickness of this world could also be inside his wife.  He asks Mr. Reagan if they’ll get out of this mess.  Reagan responds that there’s not a mess that can’t be overcome by an American.  Okay, but how?  And that’s when Reagan leaves.  Great talk.

The Gift of the Magi- Hank visits Betsy and Molly

At House Solverson, Betsy takes one of her pills from her trial drug bottle before paying extra attention to Molly’s artwork of the family and a UFO.  Okay.  Hank soon enters, as he got worried, plus Lou has maybe two hours left on this Reagan detail.  Right now, Betsy can’t decide if she’s hungry or wants to throw up, but that’s just a symptom.  Betsy heads off with some rest and asks if Hank will watch Molly.  He agrees, so they’ll just be eating sugar cereal and playing with his service weapon.  Maybe this is when Molly learned how to shoot.

The Gift of the Magi- Charlie fires at Ed

Charlie calls to speak with his father and admit that he’s ready for school.  In the meantime, he’s gotta finished what he started, so he heads back in the shop just as Ed goes in the back.  Charlie enters and locks the door behind him.  As he heads for the back, he points his gun at Ed, but then Noreen exits the bathroom.  The distraction causes Charlie to fire.  His gun jams and the fired bullet sparks a blaze.  Virgil enters and fires a shot that ends up hitting Charlie.

The Gift of the Magi- Noreen and Ed escape the burning shop

Ed and Noreen fight Virgil, but Virgin manages to overpower them both and begins choking the life out of Ed.  Quick decision made, Ed grabs a cleaver and slams it into Virgil’s head.  He and Noreen escape the burning shop and drag Charlie out with them.  Ed goes over the story with Noreen: he saved the kid, who shot first, and then the big guy came at him, so he acted in self-defense.  That’s the story he wants her to tell the cops.  He then runs off while Bud’s Meats go down in flames.

The Gift of the Magi- Dodd tells Simone that being grown has a price

Simone returns home and finds Dodd waiting for her.  Her cover story about meeting a friend doesn’t suffice.  He asks if she thinks that she’s grown, with her clothes and hair and no bra and all, like she knows about the world.  Being grown has a price, Dodd says.  A kid gets slapped when they’re bad.  When you’re grown, you get the fist or the knife.  Floyd, nearby, orders Dodd to let Simone alone.

The Gift of the Magi- Lou arrives at the burned butcher shop

That evening, Lou arrives at Bud’s Meats and finds Hank speaking with Noreen.

The Gift of the Magi- Ed and Peggy have news for each other

Later, Ed rushes home and tells Peggy that they need to pack.  However, Peggy has been thinking about what Ed said: he was right.  It was selfish of her to spend without asking.  They have to fight.  She presents a check that she got for selling the car.  It’s enough to buy the shop because this was their dream.  Then Ed finally says that not only is the shop burned down, he may have killed a guy.  Lou was right about someone coming after them.

So while Ed is grateful, the two need to pack.  However, the sound and lights of police sirens stop them in their tracks.

“The Gift of the Magi” was all about escalation.  Floyd declared that there would be hell to pay and promised war.  We got just a taste of that this week with the Gerhardt family bringing it to the Kansas City syndicate, which not just threw them off guard, but also put them on the defensive.

The Gift of the Magi- Shootout begins

A lot of things in this episode defied expectations.  Though, if anything, Fargo does that often and Floyd even pointed out last time how she shouldn’t be underestimated.  Joe Bulo, for example, wields great influence and expects to get things done diplomatically.  He promised to exterminate the Gerhardt name, but he had an opportunity to negotiate before that.  In his mind, there’s no way he’d become a target.

But that’s just what happens.  Though Mike Milligan and the Kitchen Brothers have been the ones causing havoc, Bulo has called many of the shots, so he’s fair game.  That entire shootout at the beginning was a well-directed sequence and strong way to kick off the episode.  Like the massacre at The Waffle Hut, the moment started off calm enough, but exploded in no time.

This just stirs the pot, more than anything else.  Even though the Gerhardt family struck early this time, there were losses on both sides, so there’s no clear winner here.  The fallout that started with Rye’s murder has led to an ongoing ripple effect that’s tearing the families apart as everyone strikes to stay one step ahead of their competition.

The Gift of the Magi- Simone threatened by Dodd

The same way that Simone, who has been one-upping her family, now finds herself in danger and on the defensive with Mike Milligan promising to kill her.  Like Floyd, Simone is someone who doesn’t want others to underestimate her because of appearance or gender, but she doesn’t have the wisdom or experience that the adults around her do.  But like Charlie, she’s still too young and isn’t as prepared as she thinks she is.  She tries to maintain an air of confidence and doesn’t realize the seriousness of the situation until Milligan implicates her in the massacre, even if she didn’t play a direct or even indirect role.

When shit gets real, people can get caught up in longing or talking about a simpler time.  A more carefree world, like when Simone longed for the carefree love of the 1960s instead of embracing the reality of her situation.  It’s easy for some to maintain that optimism and find a cloud in the silver lining, similar to Mike Milligan’s mother, because it gives you hope that, despite how bad things may be, they’ll eventually get better.

The Gift of the Magi- Reagan has a vision

But we’re in a pessimistic age where not everyone gets home alive and gets to have that rendezvous with destiny.  Reagan is emblematic of that optimism and hope for a better day.  This is the man who would later champion American exceptionalism with the “Morning in America” political ad.  Reagan may not have concrete answers to solving those problems that can only be handled by an American, but he can damn sure tell a story that gets you motivated into thinking that he has.  It helps to be an effective communicator, even if you don’t have substance.

The Gift of the Magi- Reagan tells Lou that there's not a problem that can't be solved by an American

And can we talk about Bruce Campbell for a second?  The man doesn’t appear in the episode for long and I don’t know how long he’ll be around, if at all, but he sells the performance and is much more convincing than so-called more grounded portrayals, like Alan Rickman in The Butler.  He’s not trying to imitate Reagan so much as embody his presence and he’s great with what little screen-time he has.

The Gift of the Magi- Lou and Reagan talk

The scene between Reagan and Lou Solverson was a particular highlight since, hey, we’re watching two guys try to have a long conversation at the urinals, but also because it showed both the optimism and pessimism in the country right now, condensed down to these two individuals.  While Reagan attempts to regale Lou with his adventures filming a movie and talking about how Americans can solve any problems thrown their way, Lou is more pessimistic than that.

The Gift of the Magi- Lou perplexed by Ronald Reagan

He feels that the sickness that’s running rampant right now has infected his wife and he’s powerless to stop it.  He can’t have pie in the sky visions about the world because everything around him is too much to bear.  Even if he may be right about Ed and Peggy’s involvement, the fact that they haven’t come clean, the body count from this episode alone, how this all feels like the Cuban Missile Crisis- it furthers his belief that the world has lost its moral center.

The Gift of the Magi- Betsy looks at Molly's drawing

And the Solversons look to be holding things together for now, even if Betsy’s condition isn’t getting any better.  At the very least, Betsy isn’t resigned to her fate, the way someone like Noreen is.  She may not be in the best of shape, but she’s still giving life all she has and I enjoyed her moment with Hank and Molly.

The Gift of the Magi- Noreen talks about dying

In fact, for all of the darker moments this episode had, there were some moments to relax and exhale, such as the talk with Lou and Reagan, or Noreen’s conversation with Charlie, which was equally tense with Charlie’s hand always floating to his gun.  A morbid conversation the two had, but it felt important because of the focus on inevitability.  Noreen accepts the fact that she and everyone else around her will die soon, so right now, she doesn’t see the point in a grandiose vision for herself, the way that Ed does.

The Gift of the Magi- Peggy tells Ed that Constance saw the damaged car

And while some can find a silver lining in everything, others just sit back and let life take over, rather than taking initiative.  That’s the pickle that Ed and Peggy find themselves in right now.  Both want to take action and do things for the sake of the other, but their actions cancel each other out.  Hell, that’s the whole lesson of The Gift of the Magi story: two people that sell their closest possessions in order to get a gift for each other.  In the end, neither gift is complete without the treasure that each sold in order to get it, but it’s symbolic of how far the two realize they’ll go to show their love.

The Gift of the Magi- Peggy heads home after selling the car

The same is true here.  Peggy sells the car in order to help Ed buy the shop, while Ed wants to buy the shop to secure a bright future for Peggy and their future family, but he can’t do that now that the shop has gone up in flames.

The Gift of the Magi- Peggy has a surprise for Ed

Both have good intentions and Peggy does show some progression when she changes her mind about running so she can stay and help Ed, though part of me wonders whether she’ll eventually follow through on wanting to better herself.  When she leaves the auto shop, she seems proud of what she’s done, but I’d like to see if she ever follows up on Constance’s advice to become a better woman.

The Gift of the Magi- Ed watches the butcher shop burn

Ed, meanwhile, has another brush with death when Lou’s predictions about someone coming after them ring true.  Like the shootout at the start, the firefight in the shop was very tense with no clear idea who would survive.  It didn’t help that Charlie fudged the shooting, but Ed showed some spine when he not only killed Virgil, but saved Charlie from the fire.  He already killed Rye and now Virgil, so why put even more blood on your hands?  But even after all of that, Ed and Peggy can’t catch a break.

Five episodes in and the second season of Fargo has delivered its finest outing yet with “The Gift of the Magi,” and we’ve still got five more episodes to go.  It raised the stakes through some violent confrontations and painted a portrait of characters trying to maintain a bit of hope and optimism in a bleak world.  Like Noreen said, we’re all going to die anyway.  Bruce Campbell’s Ronald Reagan was a welcome addition and I hope it’s not the last we see of him.  If it is, I’m not upset with what we got.

But with Ed and Peggy cornered by authorities, dead bodies piling up for the Gerhardt family and Kansas City, things aren’t going to get better anytime soon.

A Look at Fargo- Season 2, Episode 4: “Fear and Trembling”

Less firefights, more confrontations and character building moments this week.  This is “Fear and Trembling.”

Fear and Trembling- Flashback, Younger Otto brings young Dodd to see Moonbase Kingdom

The episode begins on an upbeat note with jazz music.  We’re in Fargo, North Dakota, 1951.  A young Dodd Gerhardt accompanies Otto to see Moonbase Kingdom, starring Ronald Reagan.  At the theater, Otto sits next to a man who says that Cheech is talking about going to the moon.  There are too many gooks to take care of first, though.  The way Otto sees it, the man is sitting on his father’s throne, not the other way around.  But maybe Otto is here for revenge and not just to get a seat at the table.

The man figures that only he sits at the table.  Everyone else on the floor.  The man figures it was stupid for Otto to bring Dodd, but that’s when he ends up with a blade in the back of his head.  Dodd overtakes the henchmen and kills them.

Fear and Trembling- Charlie shows Dodd that he knows how to shoot

In the present, Dodd and Charles go for a stroll, even though Hanzee normally goes with him on operations.  Bear apparently wants Charles to be a professional, like a lawyer.  Charles always wanted to do what Dodd said- bust heads.  Charles maintains that he knows how to shoot a gun.  Well, Charles prepares to show what he knows and indeed is good at firing off shots.

Fear and Trembling- Dodd and Charlie face off with Joe Bulo's associates

Later, the two arrive in town at a donut shop.  Joe Bulo sends his greetings from one of his associates.  In respond, Dodd plants a kiss with his cattle prod.  Charles offers one man his own kiss in the form of two punches.  Dodd does the next best thing: order a chocolate glazed donut for himself and an Old Fashioned for Charles.  Not my donut of choice, but whatever.

Fear and Trembling- Lou and Betsy visit the doctor to learn about Betsy's condition

Meanwhile, a doctor speaks with the Solversons about Nixon’s war against cancer, or the war against Betsy’s body, anyway.  Dr. Gerber said that a few weeks of chemotherapy would do the trick for Betsy since doctors caught it early in her.  However, with Betsy’s results, she’s in any condition but good.  The cancer is spreading, but there’s a clinical trial that may be beneficial to her.  The Solversons are open to trying anything.  It’s a new drug- Xanadu- for the trial.  It shows promise…and Betsy will receive either that or a Placebo.

To ascertain the effectiveness of the drug, it has to be judged in a controlled setting against patients that aren’t receiving the drug.  Those patients receive something else, like a Smartee.  No word on what Betsy herself would receive.  So, shall the good doctor sign her up?

Fear and Trembling- Ed sees a different future than Peggy

Hanzee, meanwhile, heads for Luverne.  As he does, we cut Ed and Peggy after a love making session.  Ed still has trouble thinking about a baby, but he still plans to buy a shop.  It’d be like three pigs in a blanket.  In addition, he’d like a bigger house if the family plans to expand.  Siblings would need their own room.  But Ed thinks that Peggy would have to wait on the seminar since they can’t afford it with Ed buying the shop.

Peggy isn’t looking for a cheaper course.  She doesn’t want to be a lesser her.  Ed just figures the house and shop are their future.  That and the knitting class, which it actually isn’t, Peggy says.  Time to get dressed, Ed says.  It’s the first day of the rest of their lives.

Fear and Trembling- Hanzee investigates The Waffle Hut

Meanwhile, Hanzee, heading for Luverne, investigates The Waffle Hut.  He finds blood still on the table where the judge was killed, notes the clock’s time, and when outside, spots the blood trail in the snow.  He then finds a piece of glass in the snow.  How he managed to spot that among the white snow is another thing altogether.  Also, extraterrestrial lights again?

Fear and Trembling- Karl and Sonny, played by Dan Beirne, face off with Hanzee

He then heads to an auto shop, where he matches the glass with a car’s busted light.    As he inspects the car, a mechanic, Sonny, played by Dan Beirne, asks if he needs help.  Hanzee ignores him and looks inside the car, where he finds a bit of blood.  He checks a pack inside and gets Ed’s name.  When asked for a location, Sonny talks about Vietnam, when he was called Mad Dog.  Hanzee can’t get used to this cold winter.

Hanzee has seen much worse than Sonny can imagine.  Just then, Karl Weathers enters.  When asked if he has a problem, Hanzee leaves without another word.  Time to alert the local constable.

Fear and Trembling- Mike and Simone

We then cut to a hotel room.  The Kitchen Brothers play Solitaire while Mike Milligan finishes up a session with his White lady friend- Simone.  She apparently surprised him in the end. Not that he liked he, she just surprised him.  Mike, meanwhile, supplies the fix that Simone snorts off of him.  Mike has heard that Gerhardt family will go the wrong way on this deal.  Simone figures that her father will be killed, and she’s fine with that.

What depresses her is missing the 1960s- Woodstock, free love, Flower Rain Blossom and so on.  But the 70s were always coming, like a hangover.  Simone would have been free, before she woke up.  Simone confirms that Hanzee is out looking for Rye.  She’s bored by this talk and wants more fun.  It was fun.  Mike can still feel her finger in his ass…which was actually her thumb.  Word from Simone is that Floyd has a compromise.  That and Otto is being taken to a doctor to see if something can be done to stop the drooling.  Oh?  And which doctor would that be?

Fear and Trembling- Otto taken to the Evan Spence Medical Center

Meanwhile, Otto is taken to the Evan Spence Medical Center.

Lou and Betsy return home.  Lou plans to take Molly ice fishing, but he wonders if he should be treating Betsy any different.  She insists that he not do it.  Before Lou can head inside, he receives a call from dispatch.

Fear and Trembling- Karl and Sonny speak with Hank and Lou about the Indian fella

Sonny and Karl talk to Hank and eventually Lou about their surprise run-in with this Indian buck.  Seemed that this Indian took a real interest in Ed Blomquist’s car.  The damage, Lou thinks, is from hitting a suspect who just killed three people, but Hank still believes Ed and Peggy’s tale about their supposed accident.

Fear and Trembling- Gerhardt family meets with Joe Bulo to negotiate

Floyd, Dodd, Bear, and other members and associates of the Gerhardt clan meet with Joe Bulo to discuss the Kansas City offer.  Milligan is not present, though, due to another matter in Kansas City.  After 48 hours consideration, Floyd says no deal, but she has a respectful counter offer.  Instead of a straight sale, the Gerhardt will pay 1 million plus 20 percent of the Minnesota territory.  In exchange The Gerhardt family still runs North Dakota and retains full control of their operation…but with Kansas City.  Partnership, not a sale.

Bulo, a bit stunned, takes this all in.  Floyd figures that Bulo sees her as a 61-year-old woman, and she is.  Two of her children were stillborn.  Her firstborn was killed in Korea when a sniper took off half his head.  The point is don’t assume that just because she’s an old woman that she isn’t strong.  A deal is better than war, she says.  The family will fight to keep what’s theirs until the last man.  Bulo calls Floyd a good woman and wishes that he knew Otto.  But no, Floyd figures that Otto would have killed Bulo on sight during their first encounter.

If it were up to Bulo, he’d take the partnership offer, but he wonders that if this territory deal happened, can Floyd guarantee that her boys will comply?  The boys obey their mother, but here are two henchmen assaulted without provocation by Dodd.  Floyd insists that the boys will abide.  If one of Bulo’s men defies him and jeopardizes a deal, he loses an arm.  But what will Floyd do to her children and grandchildren to show that she is committed?

Dodd flips out and rages at the men, prompting Floyd to have him sent out.  She then apologizes, but Bulo figures that Dodd just wants his piece of the empire.  He doesn’t think that Dodd will fall into line.

Fear and Trembling- Otto and his associates ambushed by Mike Milligan and the Kitchen brothers

Otto’s associates help him to the car when they find a car parked dangerously close to theirs.  One enters on the passenger side and tries to start the car, but it fails.  Then, a car approaches.  Turns out to be just a man being dropped off at the medical center.

Fear and Trembling- Mike Milligan and the Kitchen brothers greet Otto

The car eventually starts, but the three helpers are shot and killed by Mike Milligan and the Kitchen Brothers.  Mike confronts Otto, removes his hat, and sends greetings from Joe Bulo.

Back at the meeting, after receiving an update, Bulo rejects the offer and lowers his price offer by $2 million.  He gives Floyd the night to consider.  Anything less than unconditional surrender, and Bulo promises to wipe off every Gerhardt from the face of the earth.

Fear and Trembling- Bud tells Ed that there's another buyer interested in the shop

Over at Bud’s Meats, Ed talks to Bud about Peggy’s emergency yesterday.  The check he gave Ed for the down payment bounced, unfortunately.  And there’s another buyer from Sleepy Eye that wants to be close to his sick mother, and he offered more money than Ed…but Ed is certain that he has the funds.   He even checked.  If Ed doesn’t have the money soon, Bud will sell to the other buyer.  Oh, and he wants Ed to check out the grinder since it’s making a funny noise.

Fear and Trembling- Peggy learns that Ed needs the money that she spent on the seminar

Ed meets up with Peggy to talk about the shop.  How did the check bounce due to insufficient funds?  The two agreed.  And now there’s another buyer, even if Ed and Bud shook on it.  Well, Ed did talk, and Peggy also talked, but she’s not sure that Ed heard her.  As the two talk, Hanzee drives by and eyes Ed.  Peggy still wants to attend the seminar.  It’s more important than the shop, but Ed tells her to get the money.  If not, the fella from Sleepy Eye gets the shop and then the two of them are screwed.

Fear and Trembling- Constance tells Peggy to stand up for herself

Peggy tells Constance that she needs the money, but Constance isn’t handing it over.  First off, it’s been sent, but she also wants Peggy to buck up.  Who does she see in the mirror?  Not a girl, but a strong, vibrant woman that can do whatever she wants with her body and money.  She puts away her hard earned money for this seminar.  Women surrender their needs to the needs of men, to their detriment, but no more.  Peggy is going to Sioux Falls to be the best her that she can be and no one will tell her how to live her life again.

Fear and Trembling- Hanzee finds Rye's belt buckle

A now debilitated Gerhardt family heads home.  Dodd even allows himself to weep with his mother there to console him.  Meanwhile, Hanzee inspects the Blomquist household and holds a lighter to the ground.  He takes a whiff of the floor and then spots some bleach by the window.  He then heads upstairs and examines the fireplace, soon finding the burned remain of a belt buckle.  However, headlights get his attention.  Lou Solverson has arrived.

Fear and Trembling- Lou gets straight with Ed and Peggy

With the Blomquists not present, he waits for Ed and Peggy to return, which they eventually do.  He tells them that he saw their car and they explain how Ed ran into a tree.  Sounds convincing, but Lou senses something off when Ed focuses on the fireplace.  Lou offers his help, but the two have to be straight with him.  If he checked the interior of the car, will he find blood?  Ed hurt his neck, but no blood.

Lou talks about a boy who gets his legs blown apart by a landmine.  His brain didn’t catch up with the reality that he was already dead.  The rest of Lou’s squadron saw it, but lied and told him to lay still.  If Ed had been to war, he would know the look.  Ed and Peggy have the look like they have no idea what’s coming.  Lou gets right to it and says that the man Peggy hit was named Rye Gerhardt and his family hurts people for money…and they’re coming.

Lou’s point is that if the two made a mistake, now is the time to say it because they can fix it.  But if Lou is right, then the window is closing, Ed and Peggy may already be dead.  Before Ed can explain, Peggy calls Lou out of line and asks him to leave.  As for Ed, he eventually thinks that it’s also for the best that Lou leave, but he also says that it was just an accident.  Lou advises the two to lock their doors.

Fear and Trembling- Floyd declares war

At the Gerhardt household, with Otto now safe, Bear asks his mother about their next move.  Floyd makes her decision: it’s war.

Fear and Trembling- Lou talks about the world losing its morality

As Betsy looks at her trial drug, she joins Lou outside, as he couldn’t sleep.  Lou thinks that Betsy got the real pill.  She asks if he hopes or thinks that.  They’re just out of balance- the whole world, Lou says.  Everyone used to know right from wrong and their moral center.  Not so much anymore.

A constant of Fargo is that you can’t escape your past or the horrible things you’ve done.  No matter how small or inconsequential you feel your sin is, it can and will catch up to you, whether from the authorities, your friends, or a near silent hitman.  Rye’s death in the premiere kicked off a series of events that has had the three factions- the Blomquists, the Gerhardts, and the authorities- scrambling not just to find out and make sense of what happened, but also keep their eyes open for impending threats.

We’re close to the halfway point of the season and the show has done a good job, I feel, of building tension between the various groups.  War is coming and there’s sure to be hell to pay, but so far, we’ve had a few firefights alongside a lot of tense confrontations.  Hardly matches up to the pile of bodies that Lou spoke of in Season One, but you get the feeling that danger is coming.

Fear and Trembling- Lou couldn't sleep, so he sits outside instead

Right now, there’s no peaceful resolution for anyone, even someone as unassuming as Betsy, because there’s no longer a true sense of right and wrong anymore.  Along with the stories detailing the horrors of war and what soldiers witnessed in Vietnam, Lou touched upon the fact that the world can’t distinguish from good and evil anymore.  Everything is out of balance.  That free love and embracing of life in the 1960s that Simone longs for is long gone.  In its place is an ambiguous world where fear and violence reign.

Fear and Trembling- Dodd kills at a young age

But as we’ve seen this season so far and even in this episode, that bloodlust isn’t something that just comes with the decade.  Hank talked earlier about soldiers bringing demons back with them, and yet, in addition to that, some have carried that darkness with them all along.  We see Dodd at a young age trained to kill.  So already he has that thirst for violence that he’s openly displayed.  Now that cycle continues with bringing Charlie along to beat up some of Joe Bulo’s men.

Fear and Trembling- Dodd won't let his family be disrespected

Dodd sees the writing on the wall.  His father’s stroke, Rye’s disappearance, the Kansas City syndicate’s offer- he views this as a chance to rise up within the family and prove his dominance by making a name for himself, even if that means going against his mother’s wishes.  Though he has his family’s best intentions at heart, Dodd would prefer it if he called the shots, which is why he’s willing to go out and assault Bulo’s associates and openly badmouth Bulo himself during negotiations.  He considers himself the alpha, but lacks Floyd’s subtlety and knack for leadership.

Fear and Trembling- Floyd consoles Dodd

And even though Dodd is willing to put a wrench in his family’s plan, he’s still, at the end of the day, that same boy who would obey his parents and follow their guidance.  One of my favorite moments of the episode was Floyd consoling Dodd after their day filled with nothing but bad news.  Floyd realizes that Dodd is acting out and could ruin negotiations, but he’s still family and when they’ve all been wounded, they realize this is the time to band together.

Fear and Trembling- Floyd warns Bulo to not underestimate her

Floyd is right that men like Bulo underestimate her because of her gender and age, but she doesn’t consider those disabilities.  In fact, I’d argue that it makes her even more unassuming because no one would expect her to be such a calculating negotiator.  This business has been in her family for years and no way in hell will she just willingly give it away without putting up a fight.  Like she says, a deal is better than war, and if she can avert violence, she will.

Fear and Trembling- Mike confronts Otto, sends greetings from Joe Bulo

But Kansas City is one step ahead and forced them into a position where they must counterattack.  The assault at the medical center accomplished two objectives: it put the Gerhardt family even more on the defensive and showed that the syndicate will retaliate harshly when threatened.  The shootout was quick, but effective and showed that Mike Milligan and the Kitchen Brothers, calm as they may be, can turn deadly in a second, very similar to Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench from the first season.

Fear and Trembling- Hanzee inspects the car for any traces of blood

While Rye’s death is still a mystery to some, the Gerhardt family remains a step ahead of else through Hanzee managing to piece it all together.  We don’t know much about Hanzee compared to the other characters, and that’s fine because I think he works better as a character shrouded in mystery.  We’ve seen and heard of his ruthlessness, but now we learn how methodical his investigative skills are, and in less time than it took the authorities.  To not just find the glass, but in no time after that match it to the Blomquists’ car, notice bleach used on their floor, and find Rye’s belt buckle in the fireplace- this guy is about as good as Molly will be when she’s an adult.

Fear and Trembling- Hanzee talks about war

And like Malvo before him, Hanzee is able to intimidate through little words.  We don’t need to see him try to one-up Sonny as far as who has seen it worse in times of war and strife because we’ve seen what he’s capable of already.  Nor do we need to see him confront the Blomquists because his stare at Ed and entering their home is enough for at least Ed to know that he and Peggy are targets.

Fear and Trembling- Ed is in need of money

But they’re having too many communication issues now to combat their problems because they’re too stuck on their individual needs.  Ed is too obsessed with the future and putting his stock in the butcher shop to the point where he downplays Peggy’s needs and desires.  Ed may know what he wants, but he’s not assertive enough to take it.  Not to say he folds too quickly, but like Lou indicates, he has the look that shows he knows something is wrong.

Fear and Trembling- Constance's pep talk to Peggy

Meanwhile, Peggy doesn’t have the same assertion as someone like Constance, but she’s on the verge of getting it.  Like Floyd, many would underestimate Peggy because she comes off like your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man-I mean housewife.  She’s a fighter and is willing to do what it takes to protect what’s hers.  After all, she was more worried about what to do with Rye’s body, had the plan to smash the car and cover their tracks, and lies to Lou just when it looked as if Ed was ready to confess.

Fear and Trembling- Peggy in the bathroom, listening to Ed talk about their future

As Constance implored her to do, Peggy is taking control of her life.  Up until now, it seemed like Peggy was very complacent with her lot.  She’s even taking birth control to keep from having a child, against Ed’s desires.  So Peggy feels like the real brains of this operation much more than Ed.  She’s more willing to take risks that will endanger them, while Ed just wants a simple, but promising future for his family.  Without showing any anger or outrage, the show lets us see that the two are already at war with one another and that could get them hurt.

Fear and Trembling- Simone talks about the 1960s with Mike

But they’re not the only family at war with itself.  While the Gerhardt clan appears to be united against the Kansas City syndicate, Simone is working to undermine them.  There’s been nothing to indicate she would betray them before, but it’s a nice surprise.  And I appreciate that she’s being more assertive after we saw her father slap her around previously.  A lot of the women on this show have more fortitude than the men would give them credit for, it seems.

Fear and Trembling- Just Simone

Also, Simone is gorgeous. I just want to point that out.

Fear and Trembling- Betsy and Lou at the doctor's office

After all, Betsy was able to piece together the investigation before either the police or Hanzee.  But unlike Peggy or Floyd, she’s unable to take control of her situation because the cancer has spread too deep.  She’s still keeping up her optimism and strength while she can, but no one is spared from tragedy in this world.  And in typical small talk fashion, I like how Lou can casually bring up the doctor’s appointment in the middle of a police inquiry.

Fear and Trembling- Lou gives a warning to Ed and Peggy to come clean

Patrick Wilson had two great moments this week: his warning to the Blomquists when he confirmed that they were behind Rye’s disappearance, and his words to Betsy about the world losing its moral center.  He’s wise, but careful and not blind to the growing atrocities around him.  And he hasn’t allowed the violence to change who he is as an officer of the law.  He knows Ed and Peggy are guilty, but instead of casting judgment, he’s offering them a chance to save themselves.  Wilson is further selling me that this well-mannered, but careful officer could grow into the wise Lou Solverson we know him as years later.

“Fear and Trembling” wasn’t the calm before the storm because we did get our fair share of violence this week, but it did set the stage for characters preparing to go to war.  It delivered in character building and dramatic scenes balanced out by lighter moments like Dodd ordering donuts after brutalizing Bulo’s henchmen or Mike Milligan surprised by Simone putting a finger in his ass.  It showed the divisions within the Blomquist and Gerhardt families, while also allowing Lou and Betsy to share some quiet moments in light of more bad news.

But despite one bad update after another and society losing its moral center, characters like Lou continue to fight on in a world that’s lost its way.