James Garcia reviews Fargo season 2 episode 2, ‘Before the Law’…
Those familiar with Fargo‘s first season will recall what several characters referred to as the Sioux Falls incident, a series of tragic events that shook the community to its core and left an unshakable impression on Lou Solverson (Keith Carradine). While Fargo‘s second season promises to explore that event, last week’s premiere episode, ‘Waiting for Dutch,’ didn’t really set up that particular storyline in a traditional sense. There was no singular Lorne Malvo-esque villain at the center of the story’s chaos, but a series of events and misdeeds that, we assume, will all inevitably lead to Sioux Falls.
That may have very well changed in episode two, ‘Before the Law,” which introduces us to a comparable force of nature: the charismatic and enigmatic Mike Milligan, played by The Sopranos alum Bokeem Woodbine. Milligan works as an enforcer for the Kansas City crime syndicate planning a “Northern Expansion” into Luverne, following last week’s tragic stroke of the head of the Gerhardt family. It’s in Milligan’s character that series creator/writer Noah Hawley gets to fully embrace his penchant for sharp, foreboding Coen Brothers-inspired dialogue. Milligan gets two standout scenes this week: One in which he interrogates the owner of the typewriter store and another in which he has an incredibly tense confrontation with Ted Danson’s character, Sheriff Hank Larsson. Both are excellently written and acted, showing not just Hawley’s writing chops, but Woodbine’s obvious screen presence. I hope he doesn’t follow Larsson’s warning to leave the state, and sticks around Luverne for a bit longer to instill some more madness and postulating into the snowy community.
As for the Gerhardt’s, they get a bit more screentime this week, and rightly so. Both their family and criminal activities (which go hand in hand) have been shaken by their patriarch’s sudden stroke, and things are only going to get worse when they find out about young Rye and his run in with the judge at the Waffle Hut last week. I’m excited to see how the internal struggles of oldest son Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan) and his mother Floyd (Jean Smart) plays out. I’m guessing they won’t be quietly eating bread at the table for long.
Where the episode truly shines is in the moments it devotes to the Blomquists and Solversons, two families whose paths are going to cross ever more dangerously than the casual late night bacon run.
I strongly believe that Peggy (Kirsten Dunst) is this season’s Lester Nygaard; we saw that she has big dreams and ambitions that reach far beyond both Luverne and her husband, and her eagerness to cover up the murder of Rye is, as we find out, only the latest in a string of rule-breaking tendencies. Sure, stealing toilet paper from the hair salon where she works isn’t quite the same as hitting a man with her car and driving home as if nothing happened, but it’s a sign that there’s more darkness there than we were originally lead to believe.
Poor Ed doesn’t quite see it though, and goes down an even darker path this week. Not only is he forced to clean up the garage and burn his clothes, but he takes it upon himself to dispose of Rye’s body the only way he knows how: by putting it through the meat grinder. A fine solution, yes, but a dangerous one, as Solverson almost catches him in the act while making that late-night bacon run I mentioned earlier. Their brief scene together is full of the kind of impending dread and uncomfortable tension that make Fargo one of the best shows on television, and shows just how close Ed and Peggy are to getting caught.
Things are only going to get more tense as the weeks go on, and before long the truth about Rye will come out. After all, Lou (with the help of wife Betsy) has found the murder weapon at the Waffle Hut, Hank is still pondering the shoe left at the crime scene, and both the Gerhardts and Milligan are searching for Rye for various reasons. This may have looked like a sprawling story last week, but the noose is getting tighter and tighter as time goes on, and it likely won’t be long until the blood starts flowing on Luverne’s icy streets.