Posted by : Patrick | November 19, 2015
***FULL SPOILERS AHEAD***
Never has so little actually happening kept me so perched on the edge of my seat. The sixth episode of ‘Fargo’, titled “Rhinoceros” (exactly why is unclear to me at the moment), was a masterclass in creating suspense out of very simple scenarios, then wringing every last drop until the credits roll and the audience can finally catch its breath. Story-wise this may not have been the most juicy hour of the season, but what it lacked in plot was more than made up for in pure energy and entertainment, the result of which made “Rhinoceros” zip by without a moment’s pause.
The episode was essentially comprised of two standoffs, both related to prisoners held in the aftermath of the butcher shop fire from last week. In another stylish splitscreen montage opening that had me in as much in cinema heaven as “The Myth of Sisyphus”, we are shown a visibly shaken and scared Charlie being booked, and the arrest of Ed, taken from his home in handcuffs by Lou despite Peggy’s physical protests. Every other event in “Rhinoceros” derives from this situation, narrowing the focus and making this episode one that could very nearly stand on its own without prior knowledge of the story. There is something refreshing about that, and it contributed even more to the movie-like feel of this season.
As for what follows, little time is wasted once the chain reaction is set in motion. First off, Bear and Dodd have a spat over the latter getting Charlie involved in all this that results in a creepy moment of hierarchal dispute. It seems Hanzee has chosen his side, and Dodd’s assumption that he has taken over for his father materializes when he pulls off his belt to discipline his brother. Very weird, and this will surely pay off down the road. Anyway, Floyd quickly breaks things up and orders both the release of her nephew and the swift (and mistake-free) killing of “The Butcher. This last falls to Dodd, who assures her that he’s already dead, “he just doesn’t know it yet”, perhaps a little too on the nose with its callback to Lou’s warning to Ed and Peggy, but nonetheless delivered in a perfectly menacing tone. As for Bear, his main concern is his son, and whatever axe he has to grind with his older brother will have to wait.
With everyone setting out for Minnesota, the time is right for a betrayal, courtesy of Simone. I know she hates her father, but this rebelliousness that could destroy the entire family seems a bit too much, and whatever her fascination with Milligan is, even after he basically expressed no concern whether she lives or dies, hasn’t been fully explained. I just don’t feel like we’ve seen what earned that level of betrayal, and now I’m not sure we’ll ever get a chance to, as because of that anger she makes a call that puts her grandmother and herself at risk in this war.
Meanwhile, Lou questions Ed (again, the reference to Sisyphus felt like overkill, a rare lack of subtlety in the season), while Hank has a cup of old coffee and tries to reason with Peggy. Both are impenetrable, causing exasperation among the two logical officers. Hank’s question of whether Peggy was “touched” was an especially comic moment that perfectly expresses what we all must be frustrated with by now: why can’t these two see things as they are instead of hiding their heads in the sand? Her explanation of the piles and piles of magazines is something I’m sure many women of the period could relate to though, and was a nice glimpse inside what she’s been going through. Regardless, their stupidity has brought the hammer down, and so the intensity is ratcheted up as Dodd and his pack of goons arrive at the Blumquist house while Bear and a gang of thugs show up at the state police headquarters. This is where things went from good to great.
Jeffrey Donovan again shines as someone for whom the world is meant to be controlled by physical means. His exchanges with Hank involve few words on his side, instead letting body language do most of the talking, and I have to admit I thought this would be the end for Ted Danson’s time on the show. He shows his courage in the face of impossible odds, and luckily is only knocked out by the stealthy Hanzee. This leads to a search of the house, where unbelievably an even craftier Peggy actually gets the best of Dodd, zapping him with his own taser stick until he passes out. Who knew she had it in her?! She and Ed sure have a way of taking down Gerhardts, and though it might be pretty, this one was pretty sweet. Forget that seminar; the image of Peggy standing over the subdued Dodd said more about her state of empowerment than any conversation at the hair salon ever could.
So that brings us to the episode’s highlight, Bear and his crew coming for Charlie and Ed. I’ve been waiting all season to see what part Nick Offerman’s conspiracy-minded Karl would play in all of this, and I gotta say, I did not see him being a lawyer. This was a brilliant stroke, as his anti-government stance makes him the perfect public defender. His drunken proselytizing added some great comic relief, but it also served the story well. From the beginning there has been an anti-war bent to the season, with government to blame, and characters like Karl enforce this idea. Violence will not solve the problems at hand here, and the futility of Bear’s plan is reflected in Lou’s statement that this sort of thing didn’t work in westerns (a sly dig at Reagan?) and won’t work now. Karl’s ability to actually reason with a man named “Bear” was an impressive turn, and showed the younger Gerhardt in a very human light as someone with real care for his son. That Lou was busy sneaking Ed out the back was a bit of a clumsy way of moving things along, but Hanzee tracking them continued the suspense, and so it ultimately worked.
Overall “Rhinoceros” was just another amazing episode this season, and a noticeable step up from the last two weeks, which had relaxed the pace a bit. It went by so fast, I already want to watch it again.