On this season’s sightseeing tour of the Coens’ back catalog, Fargo has already mounted one hell of a No Country for Old Men tribute episode (“The Gift of the Magi”), and this week, we saw a decent amount of Miller’s Crossing, mixed with a dash of The Big Lebowski, to rather satisfying ends with some Camus and UFOs thrown in for good measure.
Dodd Gerhardt may have helped start the war with the Kansas City mafia, but even without him around to spur it forward, the brutality is growing like a snowball rolling down a hill. When things pick back up in episode 7 — conversationally titled “Did You Do This? No, You Did It?” — putting Joe Bulo’s head in a box seems downright subtle. Mike Milligan’s surprise attack on the Gerhardt farm took out the former patriarch, Otto, once and for all, so the family responds with an elaborate hit on Kansas City management, which involves commandeering a window washing rig on the side of a skyscraper.
But while the family is scoring plenty of points, the war has degraded them to the extent that “family” might not be the best descriptor. Charlie was recently moved to the state penitentiary to await trial. Simone is feeding information to Mike Milligan. Dodd is missing, and Bear isn’t hiding the fact that he has no interest in finding him, going so far as to ignore calls from someone claiming to know where his older brother is. And then Lou Solverson comes a-callin’ with Ben “S— Cop” Schmidt to take Floyd into the station.
With the arrest of the Gerhardt matriarch, the state trooper wants to apply pressure on both sides. The war between the outfit and their would-be acquisitors has gone too far. “I think I want to live in a world where people leave the front door unlocked,” Lou says, so he and Schmidt are off to see the Kansas City fellas, still staked out in the local hotel and not doing so well themselves.
The Kansas City management isn’t happy about the bodies piling up on their end. The boss who entrusted Mike with picking up where Bulo left off had done so on the assurance that he was “not like the other darkies. This one is smart, capable.” The remedy, as Milligan’s superiors see it, is to send The Undertaker, sadly not the famed WWE Superstar. This Undertaker is a different old white guy, but an old white guy nonetheless.
In its second season, Fargo has dealt extensively with the evolving face of business in America over the last century and the death of the small business under the weight of the corporations, and this development is a key chapter in the allegory. Mike, the Kansas City mafia’s only apparent man of color, has proven himself almost superhumanly capable thus far, and yet his employment had to be predicated on the insistence that he was better than his skin would indicate. Even that assurance isn’t enough, however, because once Mike finds himself in a position of power after the death of Joe Bulo, the management slams the glass ceiling shut.
NEXT: Simone drops in (to see what condition her condition was in).