not in our stars, but in ourselves
This may come as a shock to you, dear reader(s), but I actually try to devise an outline for each post on this blog. I scribble down notes about whatever movie or TV episode I intend to write about, and attempt to form those (usually disparate and inane) thoughts into a cohesive whole. I doubt that I succeed very often, but hey, I try. This is all a roundabout way to explain why, at this late-afternoon hour, I’m just posting my recap/review (whatever this is) of the third episode of Fargo. It’s because I spent a long time working on an alignment chart of the second season’s characters, because I think “The Myth of Sisyphus” went a long way toward illustrating where each character falls on the lawful/chaotic and good/evil axes. Sadly for me, I only have Microsoft Paint and PowerPoint, so my little chart ended up being a colossal waste of time – but no matter. I will explain, in good time, and I’ll let one of you clever internet people put together a visual aid.
There’s a big storm barreling towards the Gerhardts, the Kansas City people, the Solversons, and the Blomquists – and, in this episode, it seems that they all begin to understand the magnitude of what’s coming. Among the Gerhardts, Floyd calls a meeting with her two remaining sons and some of her higher-up (non-family) lieutenants. She wants to find out what the latter make of Kansas City’s proposed takeover bid. To her partial relief, they’re as against a war as she is: not unless Kansas City strikes first will they strike back. This suits middle child Bear just fine, but not Dodd. Dodd tells his Native American soldier (in the crime syndicate sense, not yet in the actual war sense), Hanzee, that he has to find Rye. With Rye, Dodd thinks he can turn all of this around and fight for what he assumes is his right: to rule the Gerhardt syndicate without interference from outside. Hanzee tracks down Skip Sprang, Rye’s would-be business partner in typewriter sales, and Skip doesn’t do so well when Dodd finds out that Skip knows nothing of Rye’s whereabouts. Poor Skip. Things are further complicated for the Gerhardts when Lou comes sniffing around the heavily armed family compound. After Betsy found the murder weapon, it was tested for prints – and, well, wouldn’t ya know it, they matched the prints to Rye. During a tense, if civil, discussion with Floyd and Bear, Dodd comes bumbling into the scene. He openly threatens a state trooper – which isn’t a wise move – but Lou isn’t exactly a wimp. He’s smart, though, so he doesn’t try to push his luck too far. He just lets them all know that Mike Milligan, smooth-talking enforcer from Kansas City, has also been looking for Rye. Uh oh. Lou goes looking for Skip himself, and instead finds the very same Mike Milligan and the Kitchen brothers (“You make us sound like a prog rock band!” Mike quips) at Skip’s abandoned store. The brothers and Lou all draw on one another, but neither Lou nor Mike is a hothead – so everyone makes it out okay. While Betsy is getting her hair done at the salon where Peggy works, Hank drops in to put up wanted posters with Rye’s picture on them. Peggy starts to get visibly nervous – especially when Betsy theorizes that the hit-and-run outside the Waffle Hut is probably related to Rye’s disappearance. Peggy races over to the butcher shop, and insists that she and Ed need to get rid of the car now. Her brilliant plan, based on a scheme devised by one of her drunk uncles, is to crash the car intentionally and let insurance pay them for it. Ed gets whiplash in the process – but at least they’ve gotten rid of the car that gave them the body that ended up in the meat grinder.
Now, back to those axes. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept, the lawful/chaotic and good/evil axes are ways to categorize different characters (or real people, if you want to be like that). The combinations are as follows: lawful good, neutral good, chaotic good; lawful neutral, true neutral, chaotic neutral; lawful evil, neutral evil, chaotic evil. Here’s a chart I found on Imgur for characters from season 1:
Feel free to disagree, but based on where we are in season two, this is how I’d categorize our cast of characters:
Lawful good: Lou. He wants to make the world a better, tidier place.
Neutral good: Betsy. Certainly a force for good, but one who doesn’t necessarily abide by the rules all the time.
Chaotic good: Unclear. Maybe the UFO? Maybe Bear? The forces of chaos aren’t usually affiliated with goodness on this show.
Lawful neutral: Floyd. Since she’s the de facto head of a crime family, she can’t quite be good, but she seems honorable and rational.
True neutral: Skip. Poor, poor Skip. He just wanted to sell some typewriters and pay off his debts.
Chaotic neutral: Peggy. Very unclear whether she’s good or evil for now – but she sure is chaotic.
Lawful evil: Mike. He’s not exactly the kind of person you’d want to see knocking at your door, but you do get the sense that he’d knock. For a hitman, he’s fair.
Neutral evil: Hanzee. Controlled, quiet, apparently loyal – but one to watch. He’s unlikely to go off the handle, but he’s very likely to fuck you up if he needs to.
Chaotic evil: Dodd. Fucking Dodd. The quintessential white American idiot male, blustering his way into things that are far, far beyond his comprehension or ability to control.
You’ll note that neither Ed nor Hank is categorized here, even though they’re certainly major characters. Hank would safely fall under lawful good, I think, but Lou is our hero, so he gets the title. Ed is harder to read. He might be chaotic good: I do believe he’s a fundamentally decent guy, but one whose world is going completely berserk. It makes him do things like grind up humans into hamburger meat. It’s hard to know for sure, even now. Jesse Plemons said in an interview that he was instructed to think of Ed as a cow: basically docile, not the brightest, but a force to be reckoned with when they’re angry.
Anyway! Enough (shallow, facile) character analysis for now. One final thought for this post: watching the show on a weekly basis, as I’m doing this season, makes for a very different experience than blitzing through it, as I did with season 1. When I binge-watched season 1, I tended not to consider the more philosophical questions posed by each episode in much depth. I just watched the next episode and let it take me where it wanted to go. This time, however, I feel the questions burning as soon as the end credits roll – and burning all that much more because I know I’ll have to wait a week. I’m sure that the same thing would have happened if I’d been watching “live” during season 1; it’s just interesting to compare the two different styles of watching. As an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy, I prefer the set schedule of watching each week. As an impatient millennial with a short attention span, I want instant gratification. Ultimately, however, I think Fargo is best enjoyed – on first viewing, at least – slowly. Better to let it digest than to throw it all in the meat grinder at once.