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Fargo recap: Before the Law

No one is doing well — especially not Kieran Culkin, whose body was sent through a meat grinder.

Posted on

Chris Large/FX


TV Show
Drama, Crime
run date:
Current Status:
In Season

Two weeks into the “Massacre at Sioux Falls,” I think I’ve figured out what feel so different about this season of Fargo.

This show is strutting.

As well it should. All of the praise that the first season earned and the confidence that comes with dominating both the Golden Globes and Emmys are showing in just the right ways. Season 2 doesn’t feel like a different TV show, so much as an emboldened version of an already good one. It’s as if the creative team saw the audience and critical response to season 1 and said, “Well, if you like that, wait until you see this!” The soul of the show now matches the energetic looseness of the drum beat that runs throughout the series, and I’m crossing all of my fingers (the ones that haven’t been cleaved off, at least) that Fargo can keep it up.

The second episode begins in a lively step as the split frame briefly reminds us where everyone stands after Rye Gerhardt killed three people, saw a UFO, got hit by Peggy Blumquist’s car, and died at the hands and gardening implement of her husband, Ed. In short: No one is doing too well.

And things are almost guaranteed to get worse as Joe Bulo and Mike Milligan from Kansas City roll into town, looking to make a deal. The outfit sees an opportunity in the Gerhardts’ current state of upheaval and are offering to buy the operation outright, while still keeping on the family as employees. It’s a surprisingly civil offer — “the world is becoming more corporate,” we’re told — but it doesn’t sit well with Dodd, who was left out of the talk between Joe and his mother, Floyd. There’s no way that he will give up his criminal autonomy, especially when it’s Floyd making the call.

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The mother-son disagreement leads to a serious chat over challah bread that recounts the struggles of Dodd’s grandfather, who fled Germany during the Weimar Republic and “built an empire out of a shoeshine box.” There’s a thread running through this episode — from Floyd’s fond remembrances of an immigrant past to Mike’s appreciation for “calm and rational” discussions amid the country “going down the crapper” — of a nation that has lost its way. We used to be a country of hard-working, hard-thinking men (definitely not women, but more on that in a second) that earned what they got.

Dodd’s problems stem from what he believes is owed to him for no reasons other than his sex and birth order. That sense of entitlement is underlined in an irony-colored Sharpie by the presence of Dodd’s right-hand man, Hanzee Dent, who as a Native American is the one truly owed everything under Dodd’s “I was here first” logic, but as it’s been throughout our history, he’s left in the background to silently watch the white people fight over territory.

Even though the conversation between Floyd and Dodd ends on a mostly agreeable and doughy note, he’s not done with this fight just yet, but he’ll need Rye on his side to even out the numbers after Bear shows signs of siding with their mom. I hope you’re keeping that ironic Sharpie around because Rye isn’t taking anyone’s side any time soon. He (or his body) has become somewhat of an unlikely MacGuffin, with both Mike Milligan and Dodd searching for him. Both parties see him as a potential swing figure in deciding the future of the Gerhardt operation, but that’s too bad because Ed is mopping up his blood in the garage.

And Ed is becoming an interesting character unto his own, despite being someone whose personality isn’t quirky enough to distinguish him as a full-on Fargo type, unlike Peggy. Ed does fit within the tradition of the series, however, because he is so unassuming and has been dragged into an extraordinary circumstance. While Peggy is off stealing T.P. and dodging accusations about stealing T.P., Ed is the one who has to clean up the body she’s mostly responsible for and then has to put said body through the meat grinder, making for the single most deliciously disgusting homage to the original movie. It might be a few weeks before I walk past the supermarket meat cabinet again.

NEXT: The rich musical stylings of Burl Ives!