Fargo gives some much needed breathing room to its secondary characters in "Did You Do This? No, You Did It!"

“This Family Deserves the Ground”

After two back to back episodes of mounting tension, Fargo collapses inward on “Did You Do This? No, You Did It!” The focus this week was on the Gerhardt family, giving room for some of the seemingly secondary characters to breathe and react to the past week’s events. What makes this episode so successful is that it manages to hold the tension from last week without feeling like things are settling back to normal.

The episode begins with a great cold opening that shows both sides of the mob war taking losses, intercut with Otto’s funeral. Denied negotiations by her hot headed son Dodd when this all started, Floyd decides to cooperate with the police in order to get an edge on Kansas City. Jean Smart is finally given a moment to shine, and she nails each of her scenes, playing opposite Ted Danson who commiserates on the loss of his own spouse (but more on that later).

“Stories used to be simpler back in the day,” she tells them, and it’s true. These people are complicated by their ideals and their past which gets in the way of a neat and tidy investigation. Lou isn’t particularly happy he has to pick a side with the mob, but it appears to be the only way to make the violence stop. What kind of bizarre world is this where cops side with gangs?

The crux of the episode is of course the fate of Simone, Dodd’s daughter. After being caught leaving the hotel that Kansas City was operating out of, Bear knows he has deal with her. If anyone is familiar with The Sopranos’ gut-punching episode “Long Term Parking,” you know driving off a side road into the woods is not good news. After forcing Simone into the woods and onto her knees, Bear tells her “It’s not what you mean, it’s what you do.” Emotional and begging for her life, we leave the two in the woods, under the implication that Bear shot her.

There’s an interesting way to read this scene. It bears striking resemblance to a similar situation in another Coen brothers film, Miller’s Crossing, where one character leads another into the woods with the intention of executing him. After begging for his life, the gunman says “Shut up. You’re dead, you hear me?” before telling him to disappear, sparing his life. Pair this with Bear’s “Hush now, it’s already done,” and not hearing a gunshot or see her body fall, and it’s entirely possible that she’s alive. Either scenario will clearly have ramifications for the Gerhardt family and Bear specifically, who has thus far played a minor role. We’ll shelve the speculation for now, especially since this episode was packed with all sorts of other Coen brother references (including a rendition of “Danny Boy”) that it could very well be a nod and nothing more.

FARGO -- ÒDid You Do This? No, you did it!Ó -- Episode 207 (Airs Monday, November 23, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: Bokeem Woodbine as Mike Milligan. CR: Chris Large/FX

The Gerhardts aren’t the only ones with their backs against the wall. Mike Milligan has failed to complete his objective, and awaits the coming of someone referred to as “The Undertaker.” Before that, we get another excellent scene between him and Lou, who doesn’t buy into his anecdotes and eccentric way of thinking. The interaction between these two characters have made for some of the highlights this season, and this time serves to keep pressure on the tension that has been mounting all season.

We’re strung along to believe that The Undertaker this will be a major player in the coming episodes. However, Mike does the unexpected, and kills him and his two henchmen upon arrival with the help of the remaining Kitchen brother. Mike Milligan is officially a loose canon, and the role he’ll play moving forward is enticing and unpredictable. Is he simply trying to retain his position in the Kansas City mob? Or is he going completely rogue? The follow up of Ed calling him about Dodd puts him in an interesting position. Knowing Hanzee is also on their trail means next episode is shaping up to be very interesting.

Lastly, we come to Betsy, another previously sidelined character who is given some great scenes this week. Her interaction with Karl, confessing that she wants Lou to get remarried if he wants (except for that one girl with the weird eyes) is some of the most heartbreaking drama the show has created. She hasn’t had much to do this season other than play a supporting role to Lou, but Betsy comes into her own here, a powerful force with wills and desires of her own. Karl embraces her, the last action we expected out of this eccentric libertarian who frequently references John McCain’s thumbscrews, and we’re left with a deepened understanding of these two people.

“Did You Do This” No, You Did It!” has one more surprise for us. Betsy, going to feed her father’s cat, is wandering the house looking for the animal. With some careful editing and camera tracking, we’re kept on edge almost immediately. Something isn’t right, but we don’t know what. Then Betsy opens the study doors and looks floored. Her father has been busy, obsessively translating strange hieroglyphics for some unknown purpose. We know he lost his own wife not too long ago, but this appears the work of a madman. The UFO subplot has been the one force that seems it could threaten the integrity of the show, but I have confidence now that Noah Hawley and the rest of the team know what they’re doing. They’ve been entirely confident with season two up to this point, and figuring out how this all plays into the larger story is going to be exciting to watch play out.

The seventh episode of this season was successful thanks to this focus on some of the minor characters, giving the cast some time to breathe before the last three episode plunge. That doesn’t mean the stakes are any less high, in fact they’re higher than they’ve ever been. We have a deeper understanding of these people, even if we may not see some of them again. Characters in Fargo are constantly crossing the point of no return, and “Did You Do This? No, You Did It!” reinforces everything the show has been about since the beginning: absurdity, the increasing complication of the world, and the inner workings of unassuming people.

Odds and Ends:

  • In recent news, Fargo has been renewed for a third season. Yay!
  • Speaking of which, was the police chief’s story this week a backdoor for Season 3?
  • “Different roads, same destination.”
  • “You’re a shit cop, you know that right?”- Lou really isn’t playing games anymore.

Steve just wants more shows like Fargo. Follow him on Twitter

Steve Dixon

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