Posted by : Patrick | December 11, 2015
***FULL SPOILERS AHEAD***
You know how I’ve been saying that while the second season of Fargo has been nothing short of fantastic from week to week, when I think about certain episodes later I often realize that not much really happened? Well “The Castle” is not one of those. Shit hits the fan in this penultimate hour, and light can be seen at the end of the tunnel. “The Castle” was Fargo poetry in bloody motion, and despite a tiny bit of awkwardness with some narration and the bizarre ending, this was an utterly compelling way to begin the descent into the season finale.
Once again, Hanzee played a major part here, now seemingly completely snapped, hell-bent on revenge against the whole world in general, and his former employers in particular. His transition from someone supposedly under control to devious terminator actually seems natural, a type of character progression many shows couldn’t pull off. His motivations aren’t absolutely clear, but we know that he’s fed up with life, his place in the universe and what it has made him. Unfortunately the subtlety of arriving at this conclusion as a viewer is undercut by narration that feels a bit ham-fisted in its bluntness. We’ve been watching Hanzee for a while now; we don’t need to be told that he’s mysterious. I actually liked the history book device used to tell this week’s story and build to the climax (read by season one’s Martin Freeman), but sometimes it was a little too on the nose.
Still, this is all about the “Massacre at Sioux Falls”, and the scheming and circumstance that leads to the fateful moment is some of the sharpest plotting around. Lou’s interactions with the clueless, stubborn North Dakota local and state cops serves to illustrate that things are undergoing a transformation, and some will be left behind. His need to protect Ed and Peggy was a great character moment that shows just what kind of man Lou is, but it’s that uphill battle we knew would come. He wants to control the uncontrollable, and despite his best efforts, he can’t save everyone. His frustration with understanding the situation but his warnings falling on deaf ears came to a head here. Seeing the look on Lou’s face when a trooper escorted him to the state line despite discovering yet another murder was a the perfect Cassandra moment, hilarious in its insanity. If only he had taken Hank with him.
A phone call to the Gerhardts, and the trap is set. Misunderstandings, tragic coincidence, and fateful decisions that lead to violence are what the world of Fargo is all about. The conflict at the motel and the resulting massacre between the police and Gerhardt gang, both believing the other to be Kansas City mafia, is constructed brilliantly, slowly upping the tension, letting the audience in on the plan, then making us wish there were some way to warn everyone that they’re making a huge mistake. But we can’t, and so we watch as several series mainstays are killed off, culminating in Hanzee’s murder of Floyd and Lou shooting Bear. Whether Hank is ultimately a casualty remains uncertain at this point, but the gunshot wound in his abdomen does not have the look of something he will survive. I’ve loved Hank since the moment he stepped on screen, and have been dreading his demise for nine weeks now. I don’t have a good feeling about this.
I do have one issue with “The Castle”, however, and it’s the way the end is handled. All season long there have been hints at something extra-terrestrial, suggestions of UFOs, and even glimpses of a the lights of what may have been a flying saucer. Up until now things have been kept on the fairly mysterious side, as if what we’re seeing may or may not have been real, possibly a hallucination, maybe simply a thematic device, but nothing that would directly influence the events. And frankly, I wish it stayed that way. Well, lets get right to it then: yep, there’s a flying saucer. Lou blows Bear’s brains out while he’s staring at it. SO aliens are watching what’s going on. Okay… But this simply didn’t fit at all with what was happening in Earthly life, and slightly undermined the power of the scene unfolding by injecting an element that comes straight out of left field. Also, the characters’ reactions ring incredibly hollow, from Ed and Peggy’s blithe (although funny) quipping, to Lou’s complete indifference. I don’t care if this was symbolism of some sort; it’s a freaking flying saucer, people! React! Luckily this was only a minor part of the episode, but it did come as a punctuation, and served a pretty important role in the fight. Not sure how they’re going to wrap up that loose end, but it better be something impactful, or else why have aliens in the first place.
Other than that wariness, I have a good feeling that the season two of Fargo will pay off big time. With Hanzee again in pursuit of Ed and Peggy, Hank’s life hanging in the balance, Lou struggling to keep this fragile world together, and Mike Milligan again foiled in his attempt to get back in Kansas City’s good graces, it should be one hell of a finale. With or without aliens.