Poor Sisyphus, forever condemned to pushing a rock up a hill, only to have it tumble down to the bottom. Over and over again. For all eternity. It’s a lesson in futility, absurdness, and the crushing realization that nothing you accomplish ever matters.
The episode tells us a lot about Fargo’s characters. For the third week in a row, we’ve seen them stretch out, bump into one another, only to recede back to the safety of their known world. Nothing is going to get done. By episode three, Fargo has lulled us into a sense of familiarity. We’ve seen the rock get pushed to the top of the hill, only to fall back down again.
Take the excellent scene with Lou, Milligan, and the Kitchen brothers (what a great prog-rock band name). Following a lead on squirrely typewriter store owner Skip Spring, Lou begins investigating his shop without realizing the gang from Kansas City beat him to it. For the second episode in a row, we’re given a standoff where neither party is ready to make a move. They point guns at each other and exchange pleasantries (“But it’s the way you’re unfriendly. You’re so polite about it. Like you’re doing me a favor.”), but at the end of the day they both need to roll back to where they came from.
Lou has a child and a wife with cancer he needs to care for. Mike Milligan and Co. have a takeover to accomplish and can’t risk blowing their operation. Instead, they leave, glaring at each other, receding back into their individual worlds.
This methodic rolling of the boulder up the hill only to have it come crashing down is broken when Lou visits the Gerhardt farm himself, under the wing of the status-quo keeping Ben Schmidt. Here, in direct contradiction to everything around him, he stands up to Floyd and her sons while Ben meekly tries to calm everyone down and return his town to the stasis everyone had been used to.
But Lou wants none of that. “Am I the only one here who’s clear on the concept of law enforcement?” he says, giving voice to what we’re all thinking. It’s an absurd situation, officers of the law handing over their guns to an organized crime family. He shatters, for however briefly, the absurdity that has surrounded Fargo this season.
This break gives us a glimpse of what’s to come. Nobody in this world wants to rub shoulders with anyone, and everyone wants a return to normalcy. Peggy and Ed spend the episode attempting to cover up any last remaining evidence that they were involved in Rye’s disappearance, even going so far as to stage-crashing their car (twice!) to explain the damages, all in an attempt to return to their life pre-Waffle House.
The question is whether or not this absurd isolation can last forever. On the one hand, we’ve seen shreds of what happens when people threaten the status-quo. On the other, there’s is a much larger point to be made about doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. It’s the often cited definition of insanity. Will these characters push their rocks over the hill and conquer what happens next? Or will they eventually be buried underneath a hill of asphalt, without truly knowing anything?
Odds and Ends:
- The only alien reference this week was the guy in the gas line. Nothing new to report.
- Mike Milligan continues to get the best lines: ““Mike Milligan and the Kitchen Brothers? You make us sound like a prog-rock band.”
- Lou confronts a mob family single handedly, gets into a standoff with a rival group of mobsters, and comes home, plops on the couch, and has two slices of cake. This is really the Lou Solverson we see in season 1.
- “At your mother’s house, I think, going in the back door.” Lou proving midwesterners are no strangers to insulting their mothers.
- We’re still playing the slow burn, but I’m confident Noah Hawley knows what he’s doing. It’s too early for the “piles of bodies” just yet, but we know it’s coming.
Steve likes Rolling Rock, on occasion. Follow him on Twitter.