We’re put on this earth to do a job, and each of us gets the time we get to do it. When this life is over, and you stand in front of the Lord, well you try telling him it was all some Frenchman’s joke. – Betsy Solverson
Your husband said he was going to protect his family, no matter what, and I acted like I didn’t understand, but I do. It’s the rock we all push. Men. We call it our burden, but it’s really our privilege. – Lou Solverson
From the outset, the second season of Fargo felt much more like a fable than its predecessor, although that structure has been available to find since we first met Lester Nygaard. Whereas last week’s penultimate episode was all about death and what humans will do for power, for money, or for personal revenge, the finale spent much of its 52 minutes in tying the bigger themes together and using this winding crime tale to inform how everything fits.
THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS
Referenced again, twice as a matter of fact, with Lou speaking of the rock and his wife and Noreen discussing the theory behind it. The conclusion drawn would be different from one to another, but in the case of the Solverson family, increasingly of Noreen Vanderslice, and of the late Ed Blumquist, it’s not difficult to see what’s important. It’s family. It’s unconditional love.
Ed wanted nothing but to run the butcher shop and provide for his wife and his unborn children. In his final moments, he recognized his wife as someone who desired different things for her life. The reconciliation never came, as he died in the freezer.
Betsy fought cancer for her husband, but both worked to circumvent the trappings and evil of the world, forging what they desperately hoped would be an easier path for their daughter. As Noreen babysat Molly, as she spent time talking to the darkened peach out of the bowl, and honestly as she clearly had feelings for a man who tried to kill her coworker, her outlook became less grim. She, and her life, began to have a point. It always did, but she had no idea what that was and she was caught up in deep philosophy when usually, almost always, the answers aren’t hard to find.
Sisyphus is all about futility and inevitability, but the underlying theme that emerges is of purpose. Hank is working to create a language to cut down on miscommunication between “what we hear” and “what we say.” What if Floyd and the Gerhardt clan knew the whole story, and didn’t believe the Butcher of Luverne was a nickname for a criminal? Ed may still have died, because he was dealing with the scum of the earth, but they were led down the wrong road from the first moment they learned of Rye’s death.
I JUST WANTED TO BE SOMEONE
Even as her husband has died and she’s being driven back to Luverne to face the music, Peggy Blumquist is still selfish, even if not every word she spoke was incorrect. She listened to Constance Heck, but if it hadn’t been her lesbian friend, it would have been someone. If a person wants to hear something, they’ll seek out the proper vessel.
In contemporary society, think about how you absorb information. Twitter allows me to pick and choose what I hear, from whom I hear it, and in what manner I hear it. I can avoid every liberal (or conservative) voice. I can also go find the news that reinforces what I already believe. I can escape what makes me uncomfortable. And, if I need someone to tell me I’m great, I’ve been wronged, I’m better than him, I deserve more than him, I’m sexy, I’m funny, I’m an awesome guy, or I’m a good man in the eyes of God, I can find that person. I know how many people see me, so leading them to the answers I want is a matter of finesse.
If it wasn’t Constance, it would have been somebody else.
Peggy had this burning feeling of dissatisfaction inside her; make no mistake. She was bat bleep crazy and she was conceited as all hell, but mainly, she just didn’t want to be a homemaker. Or, maybe she did, but not until she sowed an entire silo full of wild oats. Ed figured it out, but it was far too late, as he bled out on the floor.
She rants to Lou on the drive, and he just listens to her ramble about the problems of being a woman, which she tells him he couldn’t possibly understand. He wants to get home to his wife and daughter. He wants to make sure his father-in-law survived the motel shootout. He even tries to explain it to Peggy, because she hasn’t experienced the joy and, most important, the CHANGE of becoming a parent. It’s possible she lost that opportunity for good, based on her future behind bars.
Finally, he’s had enough of hearing how everything still comes back to her needs, even if some are viable or understandable.
“People are dead, Peggy.”
DREAMS VS. REALITIES
The episode opens with the voices of Patrick Wilson and Cristin Milioti, but the words of the latter are the ones that stuck with me. She has a dream of a modern society, one with superstores and technology and one where her husband ages gracefully and remains a wonderful father and friend to his daughter and her family. But, interspersed in that serenity, are flashes of death and despair, of Hanzee Dent, of what happened in Sioux Falls, and of general unhappiness.
Mike Milligan seemingly made every correct step in advancing through the muck created by the Gerhardt’s ill-fated war with Kansas City. He avoids the slaughters, takes out those who stand in his way, and behaves in a very Coen Brothers manner. Notice he used the word “friend-o” in the Gerhardt house, the word Anton Chigurh used repeatedly in No Country for Old Men.
So, Mike believes he will be the new king and that a parade will await his return in Kansas City. What he finds is a low-level office job; one step up from being a “grunt,” but far from what he thought would be there for him. He discovers that, even as criminals still exist in the alleyways, a lot of bad people now run their enterprises from skyscrapers, where cutting the mailroom budget is as important as gunning down Fredo in the street. His new boss describes it perfectly:
“The sooner you realize there’s only one business left in the world, the money business, just ones and zeroes, the better off you’re gonna be.”
No parade for Mike Milligan. Just a small office, a desk, a typewriter, and that’s life. Oh, and he has to ditch the western look, get a respectable haircut, and most integrally, he has to fall in line. It was hard not to see the juxtaposition of the new society from Betsy’s dream within the mundane new life for Milligan. In my head, I saw him raging with the living Kitchen brother, rolling through the halls and gunning down everybody he saw. But, what would it really accomplish.
Hell, now we just went back to SISYPHUS, because the one thing Milligan doesn’t have…is anybody who cares about him, or a family of any kind. What’s his purpose? To be a keyboard junky and wear a charcoal suit?
The Fargo season, and this portion of the story, ends with Lou and Betsy in bed. Lou says his line and the pair falls asleep, happy in each other’s company. These two, unlike Ed and Peggy, were put on this earth to meet, to have a child, and to love one another and those around them.
We know, as the lights go out, that Betsy won’t survive cancer, even though she survived the fall and will continue to fight. But, for she and Lou, for Molly, for Hank, for Noreen, and for everybody else, there’s a reason to battle the disease. Lou will go back to work and try to keep people safe, helping to protect other families, as well as his own. Hank will continue to work on his ridiculous picture language, because he wants something better for his daughter and for his grandchildren.
In the first season, we saw a loveless marriage devolve into murder. That man, in similar fashion to Peggy Blumquist, revealed a selfish side that existed long before the catalyst that set forth the greatest alteration in each of their lives. We saw Lorne Malvo and Mike Milligan, two smart, heartless, cold, well-spoken psychopaths, who had nothing to live for past what was at the end of their gun barrels. We saw the elderly Lou Solverson, the restaurant owner, and the aging law enforcement officer Hank Larsson, who just wanted a good life and a good relationship with their families. Both saw atrocities, foreign and domestic.
What endures from both seasons is the love and the understanding of purpose in Molly’s marriage, and in Lou’s.
And, after a truly special season, ten episodes that will stand the test of time, the best show of 2015, and another signal that this Noah Hawley joker is going to be a beast…after the incredible work of Patrick Wilson, Kirsten Dunst, Bokeem Woodbine, Cristin Milioti Ted Danson, Jean Smart, Jeffrey Donovan, Jesse Plemons, and the arrival of Rachel Keller (who is award level good), and all the rest…after all that, plus the great music, all the Fargo easter eggs, the scenery, the cinematography, the teleplay and so many fantastic moments.
After all of it…
The real art of Fargo is of the simplicity of its message, at least as I interpreted it. Life isn’t futile. We were indeed put here to do a job. We weren’t put here to toil away looking for answers in things or in stacks of money or in power. Sadly, for Hanzee (pardon me, of Moses Tripoli), it’s also not to chase revenge or make every decision from a place of anger.
Real power can be found when you see a happy family, one that truly loves one another. Those people have the greatest treasure of all. If you need further evidence, take a look at the individuals in this life that don’t have it.
Money and excess and the petty titles that accompany those things can’t buy everything. In fact, it might just get you killed. It might just kill someone you love. Never did Lou mention how much money he made, same with Hank, same with Molly last season.
Their pure power existed where it derived, from their hearts. And, just like in Harry Potter, even Voldemort couldn’t mess with that behemoth. It’s undefeated.
What. A. Season. Even if it wasn’t a true story.
I’m @GuyNamedJason. Well, I’m bushed. I think I’ll take a nap.