Fargo Season 2, Episode 7 “Did You Do This? No, You Did It!”
Written by Noah Hawley, Matt Wolpert & Ben Nedivi
Directed by Keith Gordon
Airs Mondays at 10pm ET on FX
With a story spanning four states and over a dozen essential characters, Fargo‘s second season has felt a lot grander than the first, which drew most of its dramatic stature from the source material it drew from. Tethering itself to the attitudes and culture of the 1970s has turned Fargo into a completely different show in its sophomore effort, one with a distinct style, rhythm, and scope. However, all those ambitions are bound to come at a cost somewhere over the course of ten hours: and “Did You Do This? No, You Did It!” is that episode, a muddled, temporally disorientating hour barely held together by its thematic unity. It’s the first time Fargo‘s exhibited any major flaws in its crafting – but like the humans on the show we’re talking about, are we all doomed by a single mistake?
Subterfuge is the name of the game in “Did You Do This? No, You Did It!”, detailing the dissolution of order in the Gerhardt and Kansas City clans, as an increasingly bloody war has begun dividing loyalties in severe ways. The murders of Simone (did we really need to spend this much time with her?) and The Undertaker (sent from KC to handle Mike’s mess) couldn’t appear any different: but they’re two reluctant moves by two desperate, angry men, seeking retribution for the wrongs in their lives. For Bear, it’s watching Dodd run his family into ground with his lies and short-sighted behavior – and for Mike, it’s spending his whole life under the thumb of a racist regime never willing to give him the free rein to do as he pleases. Backing men like Bear and Mike into a corner is going to bring out the ugly in them, and “Did You Do This?” spares no detail in depicting that breakdown, Mike’s conversational way slowly bleeding into Bear’s silent ways, the two of them engaging with the primal rage lying inside both their cold hearts.
Oddly, the death of The Undertaker comes across as the more meaningful one; the arrival and subsequent deaths of The Undertaker and his two men at the hands of Mike (who fashions himself with a Taxi Driver-like device to pull off the trick) offers an unexpected twist in the narrative, even more surprising considering how late in the game it comes to light. Originally viewed as the cool man with it all under control, Mike’s intelligence and poetic language reveal an insecurity and need to prove himself that explains a lot of his behavior around the Gerhardt dispute, and helps define the anxiety he quietly displays as “Did You Do This?” cuts back and forth between Mike’s preparations and Bear’s “Long Term Parking”-esque drive into the woods. Mike’s character has been a consistently shifting and evolving one, and the sudden outburst at the end of “Did You Do This?” turns him into an unexpected wild card in the last three episodes.
Elsewhere, Floyd’s using the cops to help take apart the Kansas City operation (she feigns dismay at becoming a “snitch”, but her smirk later says it all), which is where Fargo‘s timeline turns into a hot mess. Some of this comes from the editing – cutting back and forth between old images of Dodd walking around and Bear driving is more than confusing – and some comes from the time line, which throws some serious logical holes into the overarching plot. Did all these murders between KC and Gerhardt happen in the two days we don’t see with Hank? Why did they say they knew where Ed was going, if they weren’t ever going to bring him in? Wait, Otto got killed in the shootout… but Mike didn’t finish the job?
“Did You Do This?” does a really poor job of trying to maintain its narrative momentum during a slight time shift- and while it only produces minor plot holes, there are certainly a lot of them to plug up in the three remaining hours moving forward. Not depicting anything from the moment Ed and the police part ways until the moment we see him at the end is facetious in a way I don’t expect from Fargo, and further plays into the frustrations with its timeline: we spend plenty of time dragging out Simone’s thin story, yet we can’t offer any kind of insight into what Hanzee, Dodd, or Peggy did during the last 48 hours: while the ending certainly introduces intriguing new tensions to explore in next week’s episode, it comes at the cost of the present, only leading to confusion when trying to deconstruct the various bread crumbs being dropped throughout the episode.
That being said, “Did You Do This?” is still an extremely evocative hour, when it’s not getting tied down in endless Coen brothers references (as much as I love their films, hasn’t Fargo evolved beyond this?) or jumping around its timeline in unnecessary ways. When it slows down to depict its various showdowns – Hank vs. Floyd, Mike vs. Lou, Betsy vs. the inevitability of her cancer – it’s as strong as any episodes this season: when it’s trying to dance around the bloody details of recent events, however, it quickly proves to be the most disconcerting hour the show’s ever produced.
- I counted references from Miller’s Crossing, Burn After Reading, Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and The Big Lebowski. That’s just a few too many.
- Betsy’s conversation with Karl had me on the edge of tears; I don’t know if it was because of her dialogue or Karl’s uncomfortable reaction.
- Biggest WTF moment of the series: so Hank’s obsessed with UFO’s, in the wake of his wife’s death? That’s…. odd.
- “I should’ve checked on that girl.” No shit, Hank!
- The Kitchen Brother talks!
- Floyd smokes a pipe like a true bad ass.
- So many shades of The Sopranos with Bear and Simone’s trip: though I couldn’t care less about Simone, especially after Fargo makes the horribly cheap play to make her motivation the sexual abuse she suffered at her father’s hands.
- Ricky from Buffalo is such a wonderful little touch of color to the faceless goons surrounding the Gerhardts.
- I will never trust a window washer in my life. Never again!