Fargo Season 2, Episode 2 recap

In the Fargo season premiere we met all the players and set the stage for the “Sioux Falls massacre” from Lou Solverson’s past, we start the chain reaction that will spin out from three dead at the Luverne Waffle House. We meet some new players on the scene, and we also see the ways in which various communities are breaking down in 1970s America. There’s the literal breakdown represented by the triple homicide, but there is also a marriage in crisis and a (dangerous) family falling apart at the seams. Oh, and Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) tells a story about oysters.

Joe Bulo arrives in Minnesota with some new associates in tow, the Kitchen brothers and Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine), a nattily dressed and instantly charismatic bad guy in the Boyd Crowder vein. Milligan has a smooth voice and a big smile, and though he doesn’t ooze menace like Billy Bob Thornton did as Lorne Malvo, Woodbine is plenty creepy behind his smile. When he faces down Hank Larsson, it really feels like that moment can go either way. Bulo and the Kansas City crew are there to talk to Otto Gerhardt, but the stroke has left him completely incapacitated. There is a great shot at the top of the episode of Otto, forgotten in a room at the back of the house. That’s his life now.

The Gerhardts have the option to either sell out to Kansas City but stay on to manage the operation, or else risk war to hang onto their Minnesota crime empire. But first they’re going to have to sort their sh*t internally, because Floyd wants to take over through the transition—apparently she comes from Canadian gangster stock—but Dodd is too much of a chauvinist to take orders from a woman, let alone his mother. So Floyd and Dodd are both interested in finding Rye, to convince him to back their respective plays for power. Jeffrey Donovan makes a good thug as Dodd—and it says a lot about his character that he is unable to finish telling a story, as stories are practically the currency of Fargo—but as Floyd, Jean Smart is a perfect combination of steely and burdened. She’s not really vulnerable, but the weight of what it means to be the matriarch of such a family clearly weighs on her.

Of course, Rye is not to be found, as he is residing in the Blomquists’ deep freeze. Peggy can’t blow up her life fast enough—before committing vehicular manslaughter, she was jacking toilet paper from the beauty parlor where she works. The owner of that beauty parlor is Constance Heck, played by the absolutely fantastic Elizabeth Marvel—she should be in everything. Constance is a staunch second-wave feminist and obviously is attracted to Peggy, but Peggy is not yet ready to add “Sapphic affair” to her life-destroying checklist. Still, Constance encourages Peggy to explore her own wants and desires, and asks Peggy why she should have to put all her dreams aside so that Ed can buy a butcher shop.

But now is not the time to be pulling the support system out from under Ed. He spends the whole episode cleaning up the mess from killing Rye, including grinding up his limbs at the butcher shop in a super gross but neat callback to the infamous wood chipper scene in the Fargo movie. Ed is not really coping, crying as he mops up the garage floor and then later freaking out and almost getting caught with a severed finger when Lou makes a late night stop for some bacon to take home to Betsy. Ed’s going to have to pull it together if he doesn’t want to get caught. (Even odds he ends up confessing.)

As for Lou, he wants back on the case he was eager to get rid of in the previous episode. No matter what his preferences may be, Lou is a good cop, and a couple niggling details won’t be put to rest. Another viewing of the Waffle House leads him to notice the bug spray the judge used to threaten Rye, and then Betsy and little Molly find Rye’s gun in a snow bank while building a snowman. So Lou gets back on the case, working with his father-in-law, Hank Larsson. They’re both veterans of war, Hank of WII and Lou of Vietnam, but Hank says to Lou that he thinks Lou’s generation are bringing the war home with them, and it’s fundamentally altering America.

Vietnam was the first war widely broadcast on television. Lou didn’t need to bring it home with him—it was already there, in every living room. And Watergate is once again referenced as a turning point after which things start to go south. Season one is so much about wounded and fragile masculinity, and so far season two is shaping up to be about moral crisis and the consequences of war. These aren’t weak men brought down by their own shortcomings, as in season one, but heartier men caught in a moral mudslide. They’re the oysters in Hank’s story, their solid houses being stripped away.