Review: Fargo (S2 E9/10), Monday 14th December, Channel 4


960After last week’s incredible, edge-of-your-seat episode it was time to re-enter the crazy world of Fargo knowing full well it was the penultimate episode and the hugely suspenseful episode eight may have just been a precursor to even more suspenseful, hand-over-mouth moments. Especially because this was the episode where the fabled Massacre Of Sioux Falls would finally take place. And make no mistake, it was a massacre.

To begin with Fargo introduced another unexpected narrative device (hold on, Fargo introducing an unexpected narrative device? Really?), in the shape of a voiceover, provided by series one star Martin Freeman, who, in his native English accent, read from a true crime book in the present day that described the massacre at Sioux Falls.

This device was canny, not only because of the Freeman recognition factor but because it helped to summarise the story so far. He spoke of the Gerhardts and the Kansas City mob, and the Butcher of Luverne and his wife, Peggy, and of Hanzee. I presumed that at the end of last week’s episode Hanzee walked out of that log cabin and into a hail of gunfire. I was wrong (not the first time, and not the last time). He had managed to weave his way through the woods, take out the local store attendant with a swift gun shot to the head, dressed his scissor wounds and escape in his prey’s car.

Freeman’s voiceover – that of a scholar of true crime telling a story – wondered why Hanzee had betrayed the Gerhardt family and shot his presumed master, Dodd. I wondered the same. Was it because of a long-gestated but secret hate for the man who sprung him from school, patriarch Otto Gerhardt? Was it because Dodd treated him so badly? Or was it because the racist attack before he made it to the log cabin had triggered something within him?

I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. Hanzee was still at large and, as it turned out, his betrayal wasn’t quite complete.

The seriously incompetent local cops had moved in to take over the case, much to the consternation of Lou. So much so, the arrogant local force banished him and sent him back to Luverne. Hank Larsson decided to stay with the locals, which I didn’t quite get. Lou and Hank had been a close team – bound not only by their family ties but also their military service – and I didn’t quite buy the fact that Hank would just stay with the local cops while his son-in-law was talked down to and sent back home.

The locals’ cunning plan – a plan of Baldrick levels of cunningness – was to take Ed and Peggy to a motel where they would wait until the Kansas City mob, namely Mike Milligan, would show up and they would snare a big fish and win commendations. It didn’t quite work out like that.

Hanzee was on the phone to Floyd Gerhardt, telling them that the KC mob was holding Dodd at the motel and it was time to act. He was lying, of course. Floyd, Bear and what was left of the Gerhardt family piled into their cars and made the journey over the border to Sioux Falls, their mission to rescue the eldest Gerhardt son.

The Sioux Falls cops, holed up in the motel, were playing cards and talking about how liberating it was to urinate in the outdoors in the lead up to their doom. It was comically portentious, a strange and inncocuous calm before an almighty storm. They had foolishly elected to switch off their radio and maintain radio silence, which meant they missed Lou’s warning that the Gerhardts were on their way. They were sitting ducks as Bear and his team, under the impression that Dodd was still alive and being held captive by the Kansas City mob in the motel, went in all guns blazing and took out pretty much everyone, including Hank, who took a shot to the stomach. I hope Hank doesn’t die – earlier on in the episode Betsy collapsed at home, her time surely nigh. What would it mean to Lou to lose both his wife and his father-in-law on one day? Also a word about Ted Danson, whose performance has been beautifully understated throughout.

Not only were most of the police force wiped out, but this massacre also marked the end of the Gerhardt family. Hanzee’s final betrayal was to stab Floyd in the stomach while Bear got it from Lou. But there was another curious interlude in the middle of all the frenzy. The UFO, which hadn’t been seen since the start of the series, made an appearance. As Lou and Bear fought it out and the dead body of Floyd lay sprawled in the parking lot, the UFO hovered above them, a huge eye-like light shining down upon them. In a series of metaphor and counter metaphor, this strange break in proceedings almost felt like the Armistice Christmas truce in World War I, where troops from opposing sides stopped hostitlities for a brief moment. But here there were no carols or casual kick-about here, and instead the UFO seemed to have the effect of making everyone look so small, pathetic even. Suddenly it felt like the Massacre Of Sioux Falls, and subsequently all human-on-human violence, was nothing more than ridiculous and meaningless.

As Hanzee took off after Ed and Peggy, and Lou left an ailing Hank to chase them all down, Mike Milligan and remaining Kitchen brother drove up to the motel. He saw that his job had been done for him.

Paul Hirons

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