Fargo Season 2 Episode 2 Review: Before the Law

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Apparently grown-up Molly Solverson of Fargo Season 1 gets her crazy good detective skills from her homemaker mother, Betsy, rather than her state trooper father.

Fargo Season 2 Episode 2 deals with the aftermath of Rye's murder, and introduces the Kansas City crime syndicate vs. Gerhardt family power struggle. Elsewhere, Lou Solverson and his father-in-law Hank Larsson continue to be drawn deeper into the Waffle Hut massacre mystery, and closer to the violent conflicts circling Rye's massacre.

An Unexpected Offer - Fargo

What's really fantastic about this season (among the many other, smaller reasons for its well-deserved acclaim) is the way that the universe of the season was set up.

Like the first season, we have here a central, catastrophic event giving rise to all manner of conflict, drama, and tension. It is essentially a more complex domino effect: in this metaphor, the dominos would be arranged in a circular fashion rather than a linear one, with multiple resultant effects spanning outward from the central point in all directions rather than just one.

The central domino (Rye's mini murder spree) started the whole thing off. It led to Lou Solverson being drawn into the crime syndicate (and to the eventual, yet unseen Sioux Falls Massacre, which was briefly mentioned by Season 1 Lou and which we are clearly building towards).

It also led to Rye's own murder at the hands of good guy Ed Blomquist.

The Kansas City crime syndicate takeover of the Gerhardt family estate appears to have been in motion before Rye's massacre and subsequent death, and is largely unrelated to it. But we are already seeing the ways in which "missing" Rye is having a clear effect on the unraveling of that part of the tale.

His family is searching for him (for Dodd, Rye is the all-important swing vote for him to wrench power from his mother's gasp), as are Mike Mulligan and the creepily silent Kitchen brothers (who are looking to have a Gerhardt brother defect to the syndicate's side).

In each situation, Rye is a potential pawn to determine the future of the Gerhardt organization.

Unfortunately for them (and unfortunately for the audience), Rye is well and truly dead – any hopes that Kieran Culkin's weirdly transfixing loose cannon gangster had somehow managed to survive being hit by a car, stabbed with a gardening shovel, and stuffed in a freezer are now pretty much dashed.

And by "pretty much dashed," I mean the kid gets ground up like hamburger patty. RIP for sure, Rye.

Mike Milligan is clearly the star of this episode. Bokeem Woodbine had no shortage of screen time and totally killed it as the massively creepy and overly articulate right-hand man of Joe Bulo.

And isn't that a minor miracle? State of the world today and the level of conflict and misunderstanding. That two men could stand on a lonely road in winter and talk. Calmly and rationally. While all around them, people are losing their minds.


Yeesh. Spooky.

No one can live up to the tension and terror evoked by dead-behind-the-eyes sociopath Lorne Malvo, who honestly seemed to be more machine than man, so it is good that the show is going a different route with its villains this season. Milligan is more of a peppy, overly friendly bad guy, than an offbeat and disarmingly strange one.

Dodd and Joe Bulo/Mike (acting as representatives of the syndicate) appear to be the "main" villains thus far (at least the ones seen onscreen). They each have Malvo-esque tendencies – particularly Mike, who is revealing himself to be quite the Chatty Cathy whilst he's terrorizing the Midwestern townsfolk.

It is hard not to draw comparisons to the first season, but the Kitchen brothers, unfortunately, just strike me as pale imitations of season 1's Mr. Wrench (who was phenomenal). They're rather unimpressive so far, though their middle-fingers to Hank moment is great (though it is mostly great thanks to Woodbine's delivery of Milligan's shoe size joke).

Hank: What size shoes you boys wear?
Mike: Now that is a truly odd question. Last time I checked I was a 10. Boys?
[they each give the middle finger to Hank]
Mike: Now I'm gonna guess the boys are an 11, and not a 2, which would make them toddlers.

Milligan seems to be the closest to putting the pieces of the puzzle together about what Rye did at the Waffle Hut and (by extension) his subsequent demise. After roughing up that typewriter salesman with his own typewriter, Milligan gets out of the man the information about Rye being sent to intimidate the Judge.

Since Milligan and his boys then visited the scene of the crime, it seems likely that he's pieced together what went down there. Now it just remains to be seen what he'll do with that information, and if he'll be able to figure out Rye's ultimate fate.

Speaking again of Rye's fate: Jesse Plemons is really an all-star when it comes to understated performances. His whole gentle-giant look also contributes to his portrayal of poor, put-upon Ed Blomquist.

Ed is clearly devoted to his aloof wife. He takes off work after Rye's murder to set about cleaning up his wife's mess by himself, thereby incriminating only himself in the event of an investigation.

Ed also takes the body (again, by himself) to his butcher shop after hours in order to dispose of the evidence by breaking the body down into a disgusting sludge pile of ground Gerhardt. What an ill-conceived body-disposal plan.

The emotionless/shell-shocked way that Ed performs these horrifying actions is really riveting to watch. The scene in which Ed stands before the fire, burning his bloodied clothes, is uncomfortably intimate to watch.

Peggy, meanwhile, seems mostly concerned with making sure that Ed has properly disposed of the evidence. Did anyone else get the sense that she is (purposefully or inadvertently) portraying Ed as a bad, violent man?

Peggy's boss: The word 'we' is a castle, hun, with a moat and a drawbridge. And you know what gets locked up in castles?
Peggy: Dragons?
Peggy's boss: Princesses. Don't be a prisoner of 'we.'

Let's look at the pieces here: she is sporting quite the bruise on her head, she tells her boss/co-worker that Ed crashed the car after one too many drinks, and she also puts the blame on Ed for her deciding not to go to the seminar.

Obviously her co-worker (who is super, super into Peggy, if you couldn't tell just from that initial butt-check) is egging her on and filling in the blanks, but Peggy isn't exactly doing much to correct her friend.

I have a bad feeling about where this is going, and my sense is that Ed will wind up being implicated as the sole perpetrator of the crime. That scenario seems appropriately tragic for a show like Fargo. Peggy, the natural successor to the Lester Nygaard School of Emotionally-Detached Selfishness, also seems like someone who would totally do that.

Over at the Gerhardt house, there is a power struggle in progress. Floyd, as portrayed by the brilliant Jean Smart, is an incredible matriarch. She displays a soft-spoken but undeniable sense of power and fortitude.

Dodd: She shouldn't be in here.
Floyd: She's old enough. I told her to stay.
Dodd: She's a girl.
Floyd: And girls grow up to be women who change boys' diapers.

Floyd tries to reason with her hot-headed son Dodd, but of course Dodd (being the ambitious, misogynist tool that he is) immediately writes her off. This is pretty predictable, but I am still very interested in seeing where this goes. (Though we're all rooting for Floyd here, are we not?)

Over in Luverne, Minnesota, members of the Solverson family are each dealing with their own private struggles. Betsy is dealing with her chemotherapy, while still doing a stand-up job of being a mother, wife, and caretaker.

Lou is clearly suffering from some mild form of post-traumatic stress disorder after his time served in the Vietnam War.

The relationship between Hank and Lou is wonderfully understated. Hank tries to gently prod Lou into discussing his feelings (this has happened several times now), but it never comes off as nosy or intrusive.

Hank clearly senses that Lou needs to speak about what he's experienced and what he's going through. He also clearly knows that Lou is a rather contained, non-expressive man and resists discussing his painful past.

After WWII, we went six years without a murder here. Six years. These days... well, sometimes I wonder if you boys didn't bring that war home with you.


Stray Observations:

  • Did Little Molly tell Betsy that she was going to name her snowman Billy Bob? Pretty sure that's what I heard, plus Betsy gave her that odd look. If that's right, what a great meta reference.
  • The scoring in this episode is incredible.
  • Note that the song in the closing scene is "The Eve of the War" from Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. This doesn't seem like a coincidence after the apparent UFO sighting that Rye experienced right before getting hit by that car in Fargo Season 2 Episode 1. What's with the alien references?
  • We get our first sighting of Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan in this episode; there is a poster of his likeness behind Peggy when she is on her way into work.
  • It's surprising to see that Bear Gerhardt is actually fairly level-headed. His eating habits are completely disgusting (he drank half-and-half!!), but unlike Dodd he at least appears to have a conception of what is best for the Gerhardt family business and isn't ruled by preconceived notions of gender.

What was your take on "Before the Law"? Which story are you most interested in watching unfold? Watch Fargo online and let us know your thoughts by commenting below!

Before the Law Review

Editor Rating: 4.75 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 (12 Votes)

Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Fargo Season 2 Episode 2 Quotes

Dodd: She shouldn't be in here.
Floyd: She's old enough. I told her to stay.
Dodd: She's a girl.
Floyd: And girls grow up to be women who change boys' diapers.

Dodd: Are you listening to me? [to Hanzee] Is he listening to me?
Hanzee: You cut off his ears.
Dodd: Wake him up.
Hanzee: He's dead, I think.
Dodd: Weak.

  • Permalink: Weak.
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