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FARGO Episode 4: The “What” is Madness, and It’s Coming

In season 1 of Fargo, the case from ‘79 up in Sioux Falls was spoken about in cryptic tones; it was “madness” remembered for its savagery and body count, but never actually explained. With season 2 traveling back to watch a young Lou Solverson deal with that very case, we knew we were going to witness madness, and in episode four—”Fear and Trembling”—we saw the pieces move to a place where that is the only outcome possible.

Both the good and the bad guys have figured out that the Ed and Peggy Blumquist hit Rye with their car as Lou tried to explain to them that they might already be dead. Meanwhile, Kansas City and the Gerhardts are about to engage in an all out war that could see every last Gerhardt wiped off the face of the earth. The show premiered with four deaths, and has seen plenty more since, but those all feel like the first small-plate dish in a massive seven-course meal that is going to serve us lots and lots of death.

This isn’t a surprise; we knew this was coming, since Lou told us in season one.

Just like one of the great pleasures of the first season was to catch the Easter eggs and references to the Coen Brothers’ film (and this year has had a few very subtle references to the movie as well), one of the best parts of watching this year is seeing where the two seasons of the show overlap, and this episode turned out to have the best instance of it yet.

In season 1, after that tense encounter with Malvo, Lou decided to stay up all night in the cold, sitting on his porch with a shotgun, in case anyone came to harm his family. He then talked to his step-granddaughter about another time he did that very thing.

“You were police once, Molly says.”
“State cop, took a bullet in the hip on a traffic stop. Retired, full pension.”
“You ever do this before? Stand guard?”
“One other time, winter of 1979. Minus 4 degrees. Sat on a dark porch from dusk till dawn. Your stepmom was inside sleeping. Four years old. “
“Who did you think was coming?”
“It wasn’t a question of who, more like what.”
“Did it come?”
“Not that night. But soon after.”

I could not have been the only one with a big smile on his face when we got to see this very night take place all those years ago, and with the shotgun too. The madness didn’t come to Lou that night, but we know it will “soon after.”

Now here’s where a show can go from being great to special. Notice what Lou said to Greta in season 1: “It wasn’t a question of who, more like what.” One of the great mysteries of this season—and a motif that came up two more times in this episode—has been the possible invasion/visit of aliens. What is coming? And what is the danger these characters are going to encounter? It’s clearly the defining theme of this season, and it was set-up last season. It’s writing at a level so deep and complex it can’t be praised enough. Combine it with the acting and cinematography and it’s easy to see why it’s so damn good.

“It wasn’t a question of who, more like what.”

The “what” in questions—at this point—seems to be madness. From above. From Kansas City. From your actions. You can’t sit up all night, every night. Besides, you might already be dead and not know it.

A couple of quick thoughts:

  • So much for the family part of “family business” counting for much since Dodd’s own daughter sold them out.
  • I’m not big on predictions, but we don’t know when Lou took a bullet in the hip, and while he says it was during a routine traffic stop, I wonder if that’s a lie and his career-ending injury was a result of something with this case he needed to cover-up.
  • Seeing what Otto made his young son do to help build the empire not only explained why Dodd is so insistent on taking the throne at any and all costs, it allowed the moment in the car with his mother to be sincere and genuine—even for a cold-blooded murderer. Jeffrey Donovan has been phenomenal in a role that could have very easily become cartoonish.
  • Just like Lester in season one, Ed and Peggy should probably run now before it’s too late, but they won’t. And it’s like watching a train wreck happen in slow motion.

So what did you think of episode four? Tell us in the comments below.

Image: FX

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