Published on October 28th, 2015 | by Michael


Fargo Season Two Episode Two – ‘Before The Law’

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‘Before The Law’ picks up the story in the immediate aftermath of the season opener ‘Waiting For Dutch’, with last week’s events very much still playing on everyone’s minds. Sheriff Hank Larson is still obsessed by the shoe he spotted in the tree and is using it as a paperweight in his office, periodically picking it up and staring at it as if willing it to spill its secrets. Lou Solverson similarly has elements of the Waffle Hut massacre on his mind, he even detours there with family in tow. And it’s a good job he did, because while he is inside finding the Judge’s bug spray (used to mace Rye Gerhardt), mother and daughter are outside finding things. Young Molly kicks it off by finding a deflated ‘Get Well Soon’ balloon (a metaphor for her mother’s worsening condition, perhaps) then Betsy goes one better a finds a revolver, perhaps the missing murder weapon. ‘Mommy’s doing Daddy’s job again’ remarks Lou, approvingly.

Things are heating up for the Gerhardts too (if a stroke and a killing weren’t bad enough last week). The Kansas City boys have made their offer to Mamma Gerhardt (the preposterously named Floyd). Eldest son Dodd bristles at the thought of his mother speaking for the family – shouldn’t it be him? Unfortunately for him, middle son Bear comes down firmly on his mother’s side, citing her connections and experience. Floyd tries to evoke family history to bring Dodd into line, talking of his Grandfather’s escape from pre War Germany, but as soon as the meeting is over Dodd’s machinations begin, asking his goon to find Rye and bring him directly to Dodd, by passing the other Gerhardts. Looking for Rye will be a Sisyphean tasks, however, because…

Before The Law Ed

Ed spends most of ‘Before The Law’ cleaning up Rye’s blood and then going to the butcher shop after hours to turn the lad into mince. Ed doesn’t seem like the sharpest tool in the box, just look at the way his wife dances around him, but he has a tenacity and a commitment to duty that has to be admired. He is largely blameless in the whole affair, acting against Rye only in self-defence, an act that was necessary because Peggy didn’t take Rye to the hospital. But it is Ed who is stuck cleaning out the car and mopping up the blood. He then strips down in front of the fire to burn his bloodied clothes, in a scene that screams ‘I put this weight on for real, please have a shot of me that shows it’s not just a fake belly!’. But the blood mopping isn’t the worst of it, oh no. There’s something darkly comic about watching Ed grind up Rye piece by piece with nothing more than a resigned expression on his face. It’s these incongruities that Jesse Plemons so excels at. Todd was the politest, nicest kid you could meet, right up until the point that he executed you on your own doorstep.

The black comedy cranks up a notch when, distracted by Lou’s knock on the door, Ed misses his aim and sends fingers skidding across the butcher’s shop. Fortunately he covers well and Lou had only popped in for some bacon. Lou seems like a clever enough man but right now he lacks his daughter’s ability to sense when something is off with people. It’s a quality that Peggy lacks as well, as she seems naively unaware of her boss’ intentions towards her. Elizabeth Marvel’s character went unnamed through the episode as far as I could tell but is looming presence in the story already – she is behind Peggy’s plan to go to the seminar (sharing a room, no less). Or perhaps Peggy is just a bad girl like her boss suggests, she has an inkling of what she is getting into, both with her boss and with Rye, but carries on regardless.

Before The Law Boss

Peggy’s predatory boss

It wouldn’t be an episode of Fargo if it didn’t sprawl in all directions and ‘Before The Law’ is no exception. The final faction tonight are the Kansas City boys, chiefly Joe Bulo (Brad Garrett) and Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine). Joe makes the offer to the Gerhardts but leaves soon after, leaving the loquacious Mike to try and see what’s what in and around North Dakota. Given that it’s the 1970s and the Midwest, it’s an interesting choice to have a black member of your organisation pottering around and asking questions, I suspect down the line a few folk won’t take to kindly. Not that Mike is particularly interested in making friends – he interrogates one man by putting his tie into a typewriter and nearly choking him to death, and he goes out of his way to antagonise Hank. Hank had been put on to Mike’s car by Lou, who radioed it in, some Lou does at least have some internal detector for wrong ‘uns. Mike’s driver, incidentally, won’t talk to strangers, which gives the partnership a flavour of Wench and Numbers from the first season.

FARGO -- ÒBefore The LawÓ -- Episode 202 (Airs October 19, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: (l-r) Brad Mann as Gale Kitchen, Bokeem Woodbine as Mike Milligan. CR: Chris Large/FX

‘Before The Law’ is another solid Fargo episode, the best bit of which (the mincing) in a clear throwback to the film. It’s not an electrifying hour of television by any means but as the first season proved it’s important to get all the characters into place before the fireworks. My guess is that the season will build to an explosion around the mid-point (like last year’s ‘Buridan’s Ass) before rebuilding from there. So it’s good to see that Fargo is confident enough its own skin to hang back for an episode.

A final thought, the narration at the end of the episode was from War of The Worlds. This could of course refer to the brewing conflict between Kansas City and the Gerhardts but more obviously it ties in to the UFO Rye saw last week. The alien theme is clearly going to run, how far will Noah Hawley dare take it?

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