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Fargo, Ep. 2.09, “The Castle”

Fargo Season 2, Episode 9 “The Castle”
Written by Noah Hawley and Steve Blackman
Directed by Adam Arkin
Airs Mondays at 10pm (ET) on FX

“It’s just a flying saucer, Ed. We gotta go!”

The funniest line of Fargo’s second season, delivered by Peggy Blomquist as she and Ed flee from the Massacre at Sioux Falls, is also the season’s most poignant. After all, what character on Fargo this season hasn’t taken a second to step back and look at the whole picture? With everyone so intent on seeing their agenda become a reality, it’s no surprise this season’s devolved into the saga of a thousand idiots, each character—save for maybe Lou, and possibly Hanzee—is unable to see anything outside of its immediate context, a bullheaded approach that leads everyone to the fateful events at the Motor Motel, marking the end of the Gerhardt gang and most of the Sioux Falls Police Department. But how can anyone focus on the larger existential (or in this case, extraterrestrial) ideas of the world while living in a war zone?

All season, the strange lights in the sky have offered Fargo a new way to establish its quirky personality, however it turns out they’re quite a useful thematic device as well. As harbingers of the unknown, the alien infatuation of the late 1970s seemed to reflect our fears in a post-Vietnam world, wondering what horrors could lay out in the darkness of space, given the unforgivably nasty things we were capable of doing to each other on Earth. It was a distraction, a way to channel the paranoia of people living in a world beginning to change more rapidly than ever before; regardless of whether the many sightings throughout history are valid, UFO sightings have certainly served their purpose sociologically.

Having an alien ship arrive in the middle of Fargo‘s climatic moment is a perfect touch. It reflects the dichotomy of human behavior, to neglect what’s in front of us when we examine the universe—and conversely, to focus intently on what’s directly in front of us, completely missing the three-dimensional picture forming around it. All season we’ve seen characters on Fargo act in this fashion, even when they’re not looking to the sky: Look no further than last week’s episode to Bear killing his niece Simone, putting the final nail in his family’s coffin before Lou’s bullets and Hanzee’s knife could finish the job, for evidence of this (other great examples: Rye killing a judge, Ed grinding Rye in the meat grinder, Constance telling Peggy to “actualize”).

People are just prone to making rash, tunnel vision decisions; as narrator Martin Freeman notes, historians don’t even really know why or when Hanzee decided to turn on the Gerhardts, the police, and the KC organization: It doesn’t really matter, does it? Maybe he saw an opportunity at power; maybe he saw a chance at finally leaving his violent life behind, going out in a flash and disappearing into the night, all vengeance resolved. Whatever the case may be, the Massacre at Sioux Falls was arranged by Hanzee, taking out the police chasing him and the family he’d let order him around for decades in one fell swoop (or in Floyd’s case, one swift motion with the knife)—and it leaves Fargo‘s finale to pick up the buckets of blood and dozen-plus bodies left in his wake.

By the end of “The Castle”, the list of who’s still alive is quite short: Hanzee is in pursuit of Ed and Lou, while what remains of the Larsson family line (Hank and Betsy) both lie on the verge of death, Lou stuck between them, with a number of decisions to make. And arguably, isn’t the most painful cliffhanger whether he’ll get to say goodbye to his wife before she dies? The gunfire took care of just about everyone else—save for Karl, of course—and now that the larger dramatics are over, Fargo‘s finale will probably contract quite a bit, for a number of small endings. What will happen to Mike’s budding/failing gangster career? Will Hanzee ever find the new, professional life he’s been looking for?

The gunfight of Sioux Falls answered every dramatic question Fargo‘s second season needed to answer, but what makes Fargo such a great show is how it takes these big stories and makes them feel so small, fitting both the towns and people involved in them. Save for Floyd’s underdeveloped journey as the leader of a dying business, Fargo‘s second season has been an astute character study of both its unique, fictional characters and the larger societal and cultural archetypes that define the late ’70s era; unfortunately, it all comes to an end with next week’s “Palindrone” (a title which explicitly refers to the show’s overarching theme of history repeating itself), bringing one of the finest period dramas in recent memory to a (hopefully) successful close.

Additional thoughts

  • Floyd’s red coat is quite striking—and telling, unfortunately.
  • “I miss them all.”
  • That poor store owner, reaching for a phone rather than the shelf of shotguns next to them. Boy, that wouldn’t happen in 2015 America.
  • The war rhetoric that pops up with the police puts a frightening spin on the thought of Vietnam vets coming home to become cops, both the soldiers and the leaders sending them into combat.
  • “You don’t look like much.” “We’re realized!”

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