“Stories used to be simpler, that’s for sure. This, then that. Now, I don’t know where it starts or how it ends. I truly don’t.”
There are few things I enjoy more than a proper filmmaker doing a mob war montage. It’s a mini-artform unto itself, and one that feels quintessentially American, like baseball, G Funk, or electorally-subsidized dick pics. Which is to say that the opening this week was like catnip to me. I don’t care that Bear and his idiot cousin from Buffalo machine-gunning people from a window washing platform was both predictable and from a tactical perspective, combines being very public with an extremely slow getaway. I can be a pretty basic mofo, and shit was awesome. But the entire season has been awesome, so it should come as no surprise that FX has picked up the show for another season. What is surprising is that despite thinking every episode of the entire series has been at least “really, really good”, I’m ambivalent about that.
Of course, as much as she seems to have KC on the ropes at the moment, we know that Mike is right when he says that she is the past, and the conglomerate is the future. And the Gerhardts are doing their level best to take themselves apart at the seams even as they start to smell victory. The war has now taken a toll on all 3 generations of the family, with Otto shot to death in the farmhouse attack, Dodd about to be handed off from one enemy to another, Charlie in the clink and poor Simone killed by one of her own. Or is she? No doubt plenty of viewers will note that we do not hear a gunshot ring out over the tones of “Danny Boy”, and I recall the internets still not being convinced when we did get one in a very, very similar scene from The Sopranos. Plus the scene in Miller’s Crossing this segment is very pointedly evoking did end with such a fake out, not that the film hides the ball on that development for any length of time. And for as imposing as Bear looks, we did see him back down at some crucial moments last week, both with Dodd and Karl Weathers (I’m never going to not type that entire name out).
But on the other hand, such a fake out is kinda bullshit. Audiences have been trained to assume “no body = not dead” by years of cheap, sensationalist storytelling on the boob tube, and on the one hand, there are still plenty of shows that cannot be given the benefit of the doubt with such things (I’m sure I don’t need to name another show that’s been catching flack for it recently). And I hate to assume anything and look foolish in hindsight, but also I don’t like the idea that a show can’t employ a little artistry with their cinematography at crucial story moments without a big section of the audience fixating on the wrong thing and missing the point entirely. If every show has to treat us like children now and rub our noses in every death just to preclude the possible semblance of ambiguity, just because of the internet’s obsession with shouting “CALLED IT!!!”, well then that sucks.
So ultimately, I kind of hope that Simone is dead, partly because she’s been a tragic but one-note character, and mainly because I don’t want a show as adept at delivering surprises through the natural course of its plot to lower itself to such charlatan tactics. I have a lot of fun trying to predict what’s going to happen next, and I’m already wrong so frequently that I don’t want to have to second-guess what I’ve already seen. You’re good enough to beat me playing straight, Fargo, there’s no need to cheat on top of it!
Speaking of, I love how the episode offers teases out what’s going on with the Blomquists, Dodd and Hanzee off-screen, only having it tie in at the very end. While it would not have been difficult to put together the phone calls Bear was ignoring about some guy knowing where Dodd is (and eventually being told to “sell that shit somewhere else”), I was still distracted enough by all the stuff with Floyd and the wacky room of symbols and Simone’s fate and the Breakfast King of Loyola and carnage at the Hotel Pearle that I truly failed to see it coming. I assume we’ll be flashing back to all the good stuff next week, and I can’t wait to see the ruckus in Sioux Falls, and can’t tell you how disappointed I’ll be if ol’ Dutch doesn’t swing through there for at least a few words with Peggy. Splitting a narrative like this is nothing new for sprawling shows like Game Of Thrones, Lost, or Boardwalk Empire, who do it out of necessity. But when a show like Fargo does it, it feels like more a refreshing break from formula, rather than a concession to the confines of a standardized runtime. Because FX certainly isn’t about imposing strict timeslot restrictions on its original series; it’s just that some of them used that leeway cannily and responsibly, and some of them are The Bastard Executioner.
COEN BINGO AND OTHER RANDOM SHIT
– Simone drives around listening to “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Is In)”, which scored the memorable “Logjammin!” sequence in The Big Lebowski.
– Adam Arkin appears to be the default gangster overboss for any FX crime show. I love that when he’s berating Milligan on the phone, the bodies are being cleared by folks that are obviously not Mr. Wolf, but some office drones still decked out in their 80’s pantsuits.
– Across genres, networks, timelines, and facial hair configurations, one thing remains constant: Nick Offerman knows from breakfast foods.
– Hank’s wife died in Brainerd, setting of much of the Fargo film. He also offers to cut off a toe at one point, as the nihilists do in Lebowski.
– Speaking of those nihilists, it’s offscreen until the very end, but Ed spends most of the episode trying to ransom a kidnapped victim whose family doesn’t actually want them back.
– Simone’s trip into the woods apes Bernie Bernbaum’s long walk in Miller’s Crossing, even before “O Danny Boy” starts up.
– Mike dresses to meet the Undertaker to “O Death”, which the Klan leader sings at the rally in O Brother Where Art Thou?
– The most difficult thing about this section is finding slight variations on the phrase “is reminiscent of…”
– Hank’s arcane mishmash of symbols in his study recalls (boom! nailed it) the Mentaculus from A Serious Man.
– Mike has never sounded more like a Coen character than when he’s quoting Louis XVI and pontificating about astronomy at Simone (or waving her an absent-minded goodbye).
– Floyd’s musings about things being even rougher in frontier days is extremely similar to what Ed Tom’s uncle tells him at the end of No Country.