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It’s just a flying saucer, Ed. We gotta go. – Peggy Blumquist
Recall my words from last week’s review if you would:
Traditionally, the highest drama in a season, anthology or not, comes in the penultimate installment. The sadness or the uncertainty or the danger rise to a fever pitch, so there’s something to overcome in the finale. Many deaths happen in the one before the one, rather than the one itself. The expectation is a climax – or at least a final ten minutes next week – that will have us all salivating for the conclusion.
So yeah, about that…I’m not the type of guy to say I told you so or take a victory lap. However, I think I’ve just completed 200 revolutions at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
You see, while my opinion is by no means novel, it’s one I developed completely external of anyone or anything else. As I’ve observed television through the years, to the point that I took the bold step to go to a gay Muslim liberal millionaire and said, “I think you should pay me to write about this stuff,” this theory has evolved, but it’s always been patently obvious.
Logically, it all fits. The finale is the exhalation, and in a series that is only concluding a season, we usually get a seed of discontent or change in the last moments. Those morsels become the cliffhanger and the impetus to care about that show in its absence and look forward to it rejoining one’s cultural schedule. For that final breath to work, the show should create a scenario where the audience is in danger of asphyxiation. The exhale is sweeter if it comes at the last second, when the suffering has been high and the level of comfort is at its lowest.
Fargo’s penultimate episode on Monday night was a thing of beauty and an entity of fun, of violence, of jaw dropping snippets of time, and even of a little humor. The short way to describe “The Castle” is simple: It was the epitome of what a one before the one should be, and we should expect nothing less from Noah Hawley, who has become a master of his own world. His story, this one in particular, is as good as it gets. This show is “you betcha” awesome.
We had deaths all over the place, and big ones at that, as Bear ate it, half the Sioux Falls law enforcement community bit it, the poor convenience store manager went for the dirt nap, and numerous Gerhardt goons were knocked out with the five-finger death punch. Also, it’s quite possible we saw the end of Betsy Solverson, whose haunting scene featured a musical selection that matched the absence of goodbye between husband and wife, as Lou ironically worked to make life better for his family.
Ed and Peggy are still alive, as they continue to slip through the eye of the needle. Along the way, they’ve fallen bass-ackwards into murders and torture and any number of other crimes. For the husband, it’s largely been to try to reclaim and protect what’s his. But for his wife, there’s more going on here.
Peggy Blumquist wants to be special, which is why she embraced the Constance Heck-driven actualized mumbo-jumbo and fell into the “be the best me” way of thinking. Many of the self-help movements, particularly those in the late 1970s and early 1980s, were all about monetizing the idea that it’s okay to be selfish, because you should only care about yourself. It’s where much of the bad side of therapy emanated, or the belief in “bad therapy,” where if you aren’t happy, somebody is responsible or this little pill is going to change everything or maybe you were abused in the past. It’s the ultimate safe space, where you’re the only one that matters in your world.
Through all of the events in 1979 in Luverne, in Sioux Falls, in Fargo, and everywhere in between, Peggy Blumquist is special. She’s the secret weapon that drives the Butcher of Luverne. She’s not just a hairdresser who hoards glamour magazines and fashion books; instead she’s a liberated woman who will stab you if you cross her, but is still willing to cook you a bowl of beans. But, it’s all on her terms, when she feels like it. Even her marriage, she recognizes, only exists as long as she permits it, and is only as important as she allows it to be in her own life.
What we knew from the beginning, when Floyd Gerhardt declared war, rather than succumbing and giving away all of her family’s power to the Kansas City mafia, was that a whole potato sack full of names were going to end up bloody and dead. In no way was it a smokescreen to go in a different narrative direction. Perhaps the most impressive feat of Noah Hawley’s work this season is that nothing has been particularly shocking, outside of the UFO, but it’s still managed to wow us repeatedly.
The twists haven’t been enormous, and none have felt forced. It hasn’t been a walking mystery. It’s been a carefully, meticulously revealed narrative; a sprawling story, his story. It’s the story of Ed and Peggy Blumquist, used to illuminate what it means to be a Solverson.
In one of the first reviews of this season, I talked of how the Blumquist family was the purpose of everything, even though Lou Solverson’s past was the source for it all. We’ve seen many great qualities in Lou, ones that inform why his daughter was so relentless, unwilling to walk away, and common sense intelligent. She got it from her mother. She got it from her father, who was exceedingly good at his job.
Also, as Molly dealt with wimps and lack of wisdom in her dealings with other officers, Lou deals with blowhards and bureaucratic jerks, people who have no interest in actually thinking through their decisions. Peggy giving Ben the butt of the gun to the face was immensely satisfying.
The only questions left for the Fargo viewers to ask are the following:
1. Who ends up in control of the criminal scene in the Midwest?
2. Do Ed and Peggy Blumquist survive Hanzee Dent?
3. Is Hank Larsson still alive, or if he is, did he flee, buy hair dye, and become first a Red Sox pitcher and then a bar owner in Boston?
The answer to question one may well be the one forward thinking, “If it’s between you and me, it’s me” criminal, Mike Milligan. He avoided the Massacre in Sioux Falls, he took out the Undertaker, Bulo is dead, along with many other Kansas City peeps, and he’s out of the Simone Gerhardt situation.
His only real problem is Lou Solverson, who knows what a piece of cheese he really is, and wants to stop him. Milligan has the Boyd Crowder thing going, where not only does he make terrible things enjoyable to watch, but his own way of speaking and the words he uses kind of makes us root for him. He’s certainly one of two villains for whom we possess a soft spot.
Hanzee Dent is the other, and he’s a character who also gets sympathy from time to time (increasingly so), and he’s now hunting Ed and Peggy. Lou will likely interrupt that chase as well, because Solverson needs to become an obstacle in both storylines so his impact is the lasting feeling when the credits roll next Monday night. Season 3 takes place a year after the first season, so the Blumquist side of things, provided they survive, may have little to no effect on the future of the series. Zahn McClarnon has been just tremendous in the role, just as Bokeem Woodbine flat out rules as Milligan.
Speaking of other seasons, nice touch using Martin Freeman to read the book and narrate the episode. Even better, he was Martin Freeman, not Lester Nygaard, but it was clever and was a cute way to approach such a dark, violent hour of the show. Similarly, the music continues to be flawless, every single time, tonally and otherwise. If the show released a full soundtrack with all of the songs, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.
But, you’re asking, why has he not mentioned the flying saucer? It’s simple actually, because it didn’t really leave any lasting feeling with me either way. I thought perhaps, because the story was “disputed,” it was just the natural exaggeration that comes across through time. I also thought, because of the time period, the idea that a UFO might have been hanging out in South Dakota made sense.
The only thing that could save Lou’s life, cause a sea change of the proper magnitude, or stop the battle, was something so ridiculous, so out of place, so very Coen. In that way, of COURSE there was a UFO. That decision would not work in many shows, but in Fargo, it didn’t bother me a bit. Plus, that Peggy line is an all-timer.
One episode remains, and much of the death has come and gone. We don’t know for sure, because we haven’t seen them buried, that either Floyd or Betsy are dead, but it’s fair to think we’ve seen the last of them. We’ll see Hank again, in present time, not just in flashbacks. Ed and Peggy vs. Hanzee Dent will be terrific, and Mike Milligan is still lurking around, so we have two confrontations still to be decided. Then, the two winners may have to tangle to determine the ultimate fate of those who survive.
Oh, and then there’s the whole Karl Weathers thing. Where is he? When does he pop up? It has to happen, right? Perhaps Reagan as well, in some form.
The conclusion could go in any number of ways, and honestly, I know Noah will do it his way, and I know we’ll like it. Why would I believe anything else? He’s rewarded my trust since the beginning.
I’m looking forward to that long exhale next week, finally taking that breath back for another year.
I’m @GuyNamedJason. I’m actualized.
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