Published on December 16th, 2015 | by Michael0
Fargo – The Castle
‘The Castle’ opens with a familiar voice to Fargo viewers, sort of. At the beginning of this episode, the usual typewriter motif is replaced by a book – ‘The Midwestern Book of Crime’ – and the true story epigraph is taken from the inside pages. Noah Hawley has spoken of the book of crime before, and how he considers each iteration of Fargo so far (the movie and both seasons) to be different chapters, taking place is the same slightly off-kilter universe. ‘The Castle’ introduces a narration to the mix, taking the form of an historian recounting the events within and theorising as to why certain characters make the choices they do. For those who don’t recognise him, the narrator is none other than Martin Freeman, ditching the Lester Nygaard Minnesota-Nice accent in favour of a refined version of his own English accent. The casting adds a nice layer of irony (not to mention confusion) to the proceedings.
And the proceedings certainly don’t lack for confusion or irony. Things are coming to a head nicely, after the parallel events of the previous two episodes (and apologies for not covering ‘Loplop’ last week). Hanzee has killed his boss, Dodd Gerhardt, as well as a shopkeeper, but not before the shopkeeper erm, shopped him to the police. Said Police have tracked down local nitwits and ‘realised’ couple Peggy and Ed Blumquist, along with Dodd’s corpse, which they’d stabbed up a bit even if they didn’t kill him. The jurisdictional elements have become a clusterfuck with Minnesota Police, South Dakota Police, Sheriffs and State Troopers all in the mix. Heading it all up is the boneheaded Captain Cheney (I see what they did there) who wants Ed to wear a wire while he meets with Mike Mulligan. There’s rumours that there’s a lot of graft in his precinct, see, and the Kansas City boys appear to be behind it. By getting Mike on tape and implicating him in a criminal conspiracy, he can clean up his own house and get a bucketload of sweet commendations into the mix to boot. Lou is of course the one who sees the huge, gaping flaw in this plan that constitutes the entire plan. Namely, neither Ed nor the varied law enforcement officers are a match for KC, nor probably the Gerhardts come to that. The despicable Benjamin Schmidt gets in a few joyful jibes about Lou perceived cowardice, apparently he’s still smarting over the ‘you’re a shit cop’ line from a few weeks ago. Cheney goes on and on about the Minnesota boys lacking backbone and goes as far as having Lou escorted out of the state, even when Lou finds the dead shopkeeper.
Meanwhile, Hanzee has hatched his own play and it seems at first glance every bit as strange as Cheney’s. The action keeps pausing, as Freeman’s unseen narrator speculates as to how and why Hanzee came to his decision to betray the family that took him in. ‘Was it here?’ [shot of Dodd calling Hanzee a mongrel]. ‘Here?’ [Hanzee looks at the plaque dedicated to the slaughter of natives in Sioux Falls]. It seems to me that Hawley is basically saying ‘yeah, I can’t quite explain it but by golly it gets the plot rolling!
Hanzee’s scheme is to tell the Gerhardts that KC are the ones that have Dodd holed up in a motel, when in fact it’s the South Dakota police sitting on the Blumquists. Fargo has spent two seasons building up the Sioux Falls massacre, one way or another, and it’s up to ‘The Castle’ to deliver. The pieces are all in place – the police, implacable in their misplaced confidence. The Gerhardts, on the war path. Lou, trying to temper his undoubted heroic streak with his strong instincts telling him it will all go wrong. Hanzee, setting up his employers for a fall. And Peggy and Ed, the kind of but not really innocents caught up in the middle. On top of it all, we have the narrator trying to put things into context for us.
The Gerhardts step up it, shooting up everyone in sight, but Schmidt, of all people, gets the drop on two of them and guns them down, probably having been tipped off by Peggy. The Gerhardts themselves get gunned down in great number, not realising that they were attacking the Police. Cheney had ordered radio silence, meaning Lou’s attempts to warn them fell on deaf ears, so he must tear back to the scene. Hanzee guts Floyd Gerhardt, but the two of them never shared much screen time so it’s not as powerful as when he killed Dodd. Similarly, Lou incites Bear’s ire and the big man charges him down, despite the two or three bullets Lou puts in him. The way Bear rampages, you’d swear he and Lou were mortal enemies but by and large their paths didn’t cross much. Hanzee, ‘killing friend and foe alike’ according to Freeman, makes and dash for those darn Blumquists, once Peggy cold-cocks Schmidt and the pair make a break for it. All this action is broken up only briefly b the sounded and undeniable appearance of an alien space craft, which affords Lou the break he needs to finish Bear off once and for all. ‘It’s just a UFO, hun’ is Peggy’s succinct commentary on the situation as there run off with Hanzee in hot pursuit.
Almost all of the action in ‘The Castle’ takes place in South Dakota (with some at an inter-state crossroads which is your Coen reference of the week, aping as it does the Robert/Tommy Johnson from O Brother Where Art Thou?). However the most devastating action takes place in Minnesota, when poor Molly walks in on her mother, collapsed on the floor. With both Lou and Hank out of town engaged in foolishness, only young Noreen is there to comfort Molly. We don’t see much of what happened after that, and if Betsy is already dead, but it leaves a mark.
Betsy’s Dad might be going the same way, Hank taking a gutshot in the shoot-out. A basically honourable man (we think), despite his shortcomings, Hank tells Lou to go and protect the Blumquists rather than tend to him. The other shoe has yet to drop with Hank and that funny alphabet in his study (and Betsy, who found it, is also in a bad way) so I’d guess Hank might make it to next week’s finale at any rate.
In the grand recent tradition of prestige drama ‘The Castle’, the penultimate episode of this second season, is the most action packed so far, probably leaving the final episode to pick up the pieces rather than ramp the action up further. There’s still a lot to get through but with Martin Freeman as our guide, I’m sure we’ll get through it just fine.