Rock County. It's like - what's that town on the Flintstones? Is that where we are? (sings) On the Flintstones? -- Mike Milligan
I'm going to go ahead and guess that the boys are an 11 and not a 2, which would make them toddlers. -- Mike Milligan
Fargo is a beautiful show, and I mean that quite literally. It's a visual marvel that has found a way to somehow turn occasional gore and baseline, barbaric violence into a Norman Rockwell painting. Seriously, how often have we seen blood or pain done with such flare as we've experienced the last two years from Noah Hawley and the little show that was supposed to fail, but instead became the huge show that continues to succeed on the highest level?
Hawley's directorial debut was solid. His choices of when and how abruptly to use dissolve techniques between scenes created a seamless feel to the story, even though it bounced through three key settings.
Last week, in the season opener, after the judge was bluntly gunned down at the Waffle Hut, there's a shot of the blood mixing with coffee cream that looked as if it was ripped out of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Fargo doesn't mask its violence. When Lester Nygarrd split his wife's skull open in the first episode of the series last year, the blood poured and Fargo didn't sanitize it all that much. What this show seems to grasp is that very few members in its audience know what any of this murder stuff actually looks like. How does the crimson flow? How fast does a victim die? What's left behind? All of it is completely foreign to us, so rather than make it easy for us, the show makes it tough to watch and then makes us laugh a bit through it's stylistic mastery.
Never has there been a better example than in the butcher shop scene last night where Ed Blomquist was using his occupational advantage to help dispose of Rye Gerhardt's body. Solverson shows up and knocks on the door and after we've seen the ground chuck, or I guess in this case, it's rye, he hacks the fingers and they roll around on the floor like an opened package of franks. It's horrifying, but in the absurdist universe of Fargo, it's positively fine. Okay then? Okay then.
The dialogue continues to be a highlight of the series, largely thanks to Bokeem Woodbine, who has been a major early highlight in his role as Mike Milligan from Kansas City. He's some kind of cross between Jules Winnfield and, in some ways, Lorne Malvo. Whereas Lorne didn't care about being funny, Milligan likes using black humor to terrorize people. He didn't quote scripture, instead relying on more up to date (for the time frame) subtle references. He got two bold faced quotes atop this article, because he earned them. He had me laughing through painfully awkward or terrible moments throughout the episode, from the tie in the typewriter to the Flintstones to the larger threatening statements he used with Hank Larsson on the empty road. Lorne Malvo had so many soliloquies last season that were memorable. Mike Milligan is carrying on that tradition nicely. That character is terrific.
The episode focused early on the uncertain future and internal power struggle within the Gerhardt crime family in the wake of Otto Gerhardt's stroke. Here's something that should go without saying, if you've been paying attention since Designing Women: Jean Smart is freaking amazing, all the time. Who will run the Gerhardt empire? Dodd thinks it should be him, because he's the oldest and as such, it's his to inherit. He's a hothead, so he's probably about to explode. Floyd Gerhardt seems to believe she should help the family and lead through the crisis. Caught in the middle is virtually everybody else, and to add to the strife, Kansas City wants to absorb control and hire Floyd and her sons to run the enterprise.
It would appear that none of this will go particularly well, likely with haste.
Ed and Peggy Blomquist are our tragic figures. They're what Lester was before he became an arrogant, above-the-law style of jerk, even if Pegs is absconding with toilet paper from the beauty shop that employs her. Rye is dead and they killed him, first hitting him with the car by accident and then deciding to murder him in their garage when he survived. The cover up is always worse than the crime, sometimes far worse, as Rye's fate was hilariously the same as so many organized criminals. How many times have we heard or seen, even in jest, of the butcher shop as the last stop for the scum of the earth? Here, a husband, convinced by his wife, in the middle of South Dakota, did the same thing that John Gotti might have done had it been in New York. That's tremendous stuff.
The beauty shop owner is hellaciously creepy and also incredibly annoying. In summation, in Noah Hawley's world, she's a necessary perfection...or is it imperfection? I hated this woman, just like I hated Heather Dunbar in House of Cards and Alicia Corwin (for the most part) in Person of Interest. Elizabeth Marvel really knows how to hit the mark on being an asshole.
The episode ran 90 minutes, including commercials, but felt more like a standard hour, because it again was a show where each second seemed important, despite the slow pace. Commercial breaks were long, as the actual content was only around 53 minutes. The time was used wisely.
We saw Jesse Plemons channel Walter White and stand in his briefs and it was far more uncomfortable than anything from Walt. Watching this increasingly broken man burn his clothes after cleaning up a murder scene in his garage approached a disturbing level. It should have been ugly, because this guy's life is in effect going up in flames. He still has no idea that the man he and his wife murdered is the young son of a powerful criminal empire. Imagine just how much worse this scenario becomes once the excrement strikes the oscillating fan.
We saw Betsy Solverson undergoing cancer treatments that again remind us that somehow, Cristin Milioti has been typecast as someone with the Big C. Kidding, but this is twice on television this decade.
But, again, the highlight of the crazy Coenish/Tarantinoish side of the episode was Bokeem Woodbine, who was impossible to miss, to ignore, or to look away from in any way. He is a walking one-liner who uses wit just before he either kills or threatens someone. Sometimes, within a joke (as with the "correspondence" at the typewriter, he accomplishes both at the same time. Woodbine seems like he could have starred as the exact same character on Chappelle Show, which in many ways reflects the effectiveness of Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael Key last season. Another very Quentinish moment was the barn scene where Dodd kept asking if his victim could hear him or was listening to him, only for his partners to remind him that Gerhardt chopped off his ears. Then...the dog. Good lord.
Fargo is a boatload of fun, maybe even more fun this season, and gushes with atmosphere and a feel of a crime story created by Picasso rather than Lee Child. Neither would be a bad thing, but in this case, Picasso is in a zone. Hawley wrote it, he directed it, and triumphed in both ways. This was just great TV, again. The show is pure joy for fans of smart, clever, believably unbelievable storytelling. I have very little negative to say about it. That's becoming a frightening trend with this Hawley fella.
I'm @GuyNamedJason. Fatback? Lean if you got it.