Oh, jeez. Well, gosh darn. Uff da.
Insert other various Fargo-isms here, because I am basically speechless after the closing third of Fargo Season 2 Episode 7. It wasn't flawless, but it was pretty damn good (particularly the last third-to-half, in comparison with the earlier bits).
We are continuously chugging along, inevitably thrusting towards the Sioux Falls event that was described by older Lou Solverson of Fargo Season 1. Truthfully, though, I can't imagine how that event will top the dramatic tension and bloodshed that we've already seen time and again this season.
We know now that Hanzee is hanging around Sioux Falls, killing law enforcement and tracking down Ed and Peggy. So far, he is the only character that we know for sure is in Sioux Falls.
Lou and Hank are apparently en route after the events of "Did you do this? No, you did it!" So that puts at least three of the cast at the scene of the event, presumably by the time Fargo Season 2 Episode 8 rolls around.
There were several momentous scenes and developments, so we'll dig right in and start over in Fargo. Be warned: this is another long one.
A lot went down with the Gerhardts. For one, Lou and the completely useless Ben Schmidt stopped over at the compound, shortly after Otto's funeral and Rye's empty-casket memorial, to retrieve Floyd. Despite resistance from Bear, she went with the men willingly. At first, I assumed she had something up her sleeve. In the end, it seemed like she actually did throw in with law enforcement for real.
Different roads, same destination.Floyd
Over the season, Floyd has spoken time and again about being a mother. It's difficult to say whether her decision to snitch on Kansas City, at Hank's urging, was a decision rooted in her identity as a mother or in her identity as the "materfamilias" as Mike Milligan's so eloquently termed it.
Was her decision borne of her affection for her family, her resistance to see any more of them harmed? Or did it arise from some kind of clever long con? I'm inclined to think the former, but time will certainly tell, here. Plus Floyd did seem to have that hint of a smile playing at her lips in her last shot at the police station, didn't she?
Bear, meanwhile, was busy making a strange kind of power-play and taking a shocking form of revenge on his brother Dodd.
It became obvious, following Bear's conversation with his father in Fargo Season 2 Episode 6 and the even earlier confrontation with Hanzee over Dodd's duplicitous behavior, that Bear was far more clued-in than anyone had given him credit for.
Bear knew that Dodd lied about the so-called "Butcher of Luverne" taking out Rye on Kansas City's orders, effectively kick-starting the whole bloody war. He also, apparently, put two and two together and realized that Simone was sleeping with the enemy.
Floyd, right before the Milligan attack on the Gerhardt house that took Otto's life, seemed to hint that she too knew Simone was being shady, telling her that she needed to choose a side. Did Floyd know, exactly? How much did she know? Clearly it was not a kill-worthy offense in her eyes (or at least not since her beloved granddaughter was the perpetrator), hence Bear keeping the truth from Floyd about his execution of Simone.
Bear has been shaping up to be a far more interesting character than I'd originally anticipated. His motivation in killing Simone was twofold: payback for Dodd taking Charlie and wrecking his boy's life, and your run-of-the-mill mafia punishment for betraying the family. In mafia-logic, Simone "deserved" her fate – but Bear clearly struggled with the decision.
The entire sequence of Simone's death, from the incredibly tense small-talk in the car to the downright beautiful "Danny Boy" montage of the Gerhardt family, was exquisite. Rachel Keller, Simone's portrayer, has done an incredible job all season (seriously, she held her own against Bokeem Woodbine's Mike Milligan and proved a worthy scene partner there – so she can basically do anything, in my eyes).
If I'm goin' to the noose, I'm goin'. But I am done lying down for men.Simone
Keller's performance as Simone realized she was being marched to her death, her pleading with Bear to spare her life – all fantastic. It is doubly impressive when you realize that Keller is only 23 and that Simone Gerhardt is one of her first acting roles and her first major role ever. If Simone is indeed gone, I look forward to seeing Keller in future projects.
Also, Simone had some of the best dialogue, so it's a real shame that we'll be deprived of that.
I said "if" Simone is dead, but I sincerely doubt that Bear let her go. It just doesn't seem likely, based on his reaction after the fact (smashing his plaster-cast arm against his car repeatedly, his lie to Floyd about Simone's whereabouts). And Fargo isn't the type of show to play cheap mind games and drama like that. No; Simone is almost certainly dead.
Backing up a bit, Simone's confrontation with Mike Milligan, immediately prior to her death, was an interesting one. It was largely par for the course: Milligan tossing intellectual quotes and factoids her way, Simone reacting in a frustrated and uncomprehending way.
Are we gonna talk? Or are you just gonna quote the thesaurus at me?Simone
I was expecting Milligan to kill Simone, so it was an interesting an unexpected twist to have her narrowly escape Milligan (thanks to intervening by Lou/Ben) only to be intercepted immediately after by her own uncle. The above quote, though, hinted at some kind of prescience.
Simone knew the larger consequence of what she'd done; she knew the sound of her own death knell. Note too that Simone didn't register much shock (only panic) when she spotted Bear and Ricky pulling up alongside her car at the Pearl.
As a minor point, it was great to see Ben Schmidt have his ass handed to him (both physically, by Simone, and verbally, by Lou). That twitchy little rat is so useless; he's a perfect counterpoint to hero-cop Lou Solverson.
You're a shit cop, you know that, right?Lou [to Ben]
Of course, Ben's point that he was recently given a promotion, paired with the knowledge that Ben Schmidt circa Season 1 was a police lieutenant, is kind of a grim forecast if you think about it. True heroes like Lou, who aim to do the right thing even when cognizant of life's futility ("let's see if we can save some lives"), end up quitting the force and owning a diner, while those like Ben Schmidt wind up progressing far up the ranks.
Speaking of Lou, we were treated to another great Lou-Milligan scene. Patrick Wilson and Bokeem Woodbine play off of one another phenomenally well. Even Ben Schmidt's presence in the scene couldn't detract from its power, as Milligan offered up a Malvo-esque parable about a thief stealing wheelbarrows and Lou shared some of his own platitudes, warning Milligan against greed and a desire for conquest beyond what is reasonably necessary with his summer shoes-winter shoes metaphor.
Lou quickly solving Milligan's thief "riddle" underscored how evenly the two men are matched in terms of wits. Milligan begrudgingly respects Lou, aware on some level that Lou is the only other man in this game on his level. Perhaps that's how Lou manages to make it out of this season alive?
Noah Hawley, the showrunner, is truly a master of dialogue. He manages to imbue each scene with meaningful, deep ideas while still forwarding the plot and keeping it all comprehensible. Among the many things to love about this show, this is one of the best parts, something that elevates it above other shows currently on the air.
Another incredible moment took place between Betsy Solverson and Karl Weathers (aka, The King of Breakfast). She explained that Lou was originally set to marry her sister (because Betsy needed to be more of a sad sack?!) and confessed to Karl that she was pretty certain she'd gotten the sugar pills and not the experimental drugs.
Without putting a name on it, Betsy confronted her imminent demise with practicality, asking Karl to look after Lou and Molly and to counsel Lou on a potential second wife. I'll keep it short: Cristin Milioti gutted me with that scene, and Nick Offerman was a perfect scene partner, just letting Milioti play off of his silence. It was incredibly moving, and the scene as a whole was a great encapsulation of the type of character Betsy is – selfless, loving, strong. Karl's hug was more to seek comfort for himself rather than to offer comfort to Betsy.
The closing moments were peppered with shocks and important sets ups for the back three of this season.
Betsy stopped by Hank's house to feed his cat and discovered his room papered with odd symbols. They seemed to knock the wind out of Betsy, and I'm not sure what they were or why they had that effect. My initial assumption was that they were UFO-related.
Simultaneously, Bear and Floyd arrived back at the family compound, where they received a call from a man claiming to know Dodd's whereabouts. Floyd booked it inside to the phone while Bear trailed close behind, looking none too pleased.
Finally, the Kansas City Undertaker finally arrived at the Pearl Hotel. It was fairly obvious that he was there to dispatch of Milligan (otherwise why all that backup?) Milligan taking all the men out with that teeny tiny little sleeve-gun was epic. I was afraid for a minute that he was a goner, but then I remembered that this is Mike Milligan we're talking about.
Moments after dispatching of the Undertaker and his men, Milligan got a call from Ed, reporting that he had Dodd (or Dodd's body?) in his trunk, if Milligan wanted it. It's not clear whether Dodd is dead. I assume he isn't, mostly because we, the viewers, deserve the satisfaction of seeing that cretin die on-screen. Logically, Ed shouldn't be tangling with Milligan but I'm dying to see where this goes.
- The music this season has been tremendous week to week, but I think this installment's song choices were the best yet. We got, among others, "Danny Boy," "O Death," and two instances of "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)."
- Simone's off-screen death was reminiscent of a certain other major off-screen death in The Sopranos (that I won't spoil, even though it's been like 15 years and you should all know by now).
- This episode was very Coen film reference-heavy. I didn't particularly mind it, and I feel strongly that the references don't detract from the series on its own.
- Who is Ricky from Buffalo and why is he here? Is he set to be to Bear what Hanzee is to Dodd? Except astronomically less effective in every single way?
What did you think of this episode? Were you particularly shocked by anything? How will Floyd react when she discovers Simone's fate? What will come of Ed's plan to use Dodd as leverage? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below and watch Fargo online to catch up on anything you've missed!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.