not in our stars, but in ourselves
“Positive Peggy is what they call me!”
In the sense of positive feedback loops – yes, Peggy, I’m sure they do. “Loplop” show us what was happening during Bear’s mercy killing and Mike’s bloody coup: after Ed escapes the police, he runs home, where Peggy has tied up Dodd in the basement. He’s alive and conscious, as well as furiously confused when Peggy starts talking aloud to a Lifespring life coach that only she can see. The life coach is asking Peggy if she understands the difference between thinking and being, emphasizing that she should always just be, and never just think. While it seems like an okay idea on its surface, and probably pretends to have its roots in some sort of transcendental meditation, it’s the kind of self-help jargon that – in this country, at least – encourages people to act selfishly and refuse to accept blame for the consequences of their actions. Peggy’s imaginary interlocutor asks her if she’s “self-actualized” – a meaningless phrase for a meaningless process. But then again, this season of Fargo has been all about meaninglessness, in one way or another.
Once Ed returns home and snaps Peggy out of her stupor, they pile Dodd into the trunk of his car (they’d be looking for the Blumquists’ car, Ed reasons, so they steal Dodd’s instead) to bring him to a secluded cabin owned by an Uncle Grady. The cabin, like the one by the lake in the movie version of Fargo, or Lorne Malvo’s off the highway in last season’s Fargo, is a wonderful place to hide out – if you’re clever enough to keep a low profile. Neither Ed nor Peggy is, and Dodd certainly doesn’t help either of them to see clearly. He runs his mouth, and says all kinds of misogynistic nonsense, and Peggy stabs him twice. Not fatally, nor with the intention of fatality: just to teach him some manners. Remember when I said Peggy is a psychopath? I am not wrong. Dodd realizes, at a bare minimum, that the woman he’s left alone with (Ed is at a gas station making those phone calls to the Gerhardts that no one was answering last week) is nuts. She asks him if he’d like some beans she’s prepared; he refuses; she stabs him (I think that’s the order in which it happens); he refuses again more politely; she sits down in front of him; and she spoon-feeds him some beans. She does it smoothly, quietly, cooing to him all the while – and then she “remembers” herself, and apologizes for serving him beans when he’d said he didn’t want any. It has just enough of a whiff of sadism, of a certain psychopathic need for control, to be chilling. Dodd thinks so, too. He’s still underestimating her (to his peril), but he can see that she doesn’t abide by any moral code except her own.
Ed is trying to extricate himself and his wife from the criminal underworld they’ve fallen into, but no one at the Gerhardt house seems to want to talk to him. He keeps getting a “flunkie” who asks him to leave a message. In desperation – and in a bit of divine (mis)fortune – he flips through a newspaper in the phone booth, and sees that Mike Milligan is staying at the Pearl Hotel. As we saw last week, Mike is in his room and ready to take Ed’s call, after he and the remaining Kitchen brother dispatched the Undertaker and the Undertaker’s henchmen. Ed has therefore fulfilled the prophecy: he’s aligned himself with Kansas City as “the Butcher of Luverne.” He and Mike agree to meet in Sioux Falls the next morning, where Mike will take Dodd.
The most resonant aspect of “Loplop” is Hanzee – for all the delightful, dark comedy of the Ed & Peggy & Dodd show. Fargo has had some of the best cinematography on television, right up there with Hannibal and The Knick, so it’s no surprise that our first glimpse of Hanzee this episode is a killer (so to speak): as the police cars and ambulances leave the Blumquist home, transporting Dodd’s henchmen to the morgue and Hank to the hospital, their red tail lights expose what was standing patiently in the shadows, just next to the house: Hanzee, steady and watchful, patiently waiting for the time when he would be clear to enter the Blumquists’ house himself to find out where they’re headed. He finds the hotel reservation for Peggy’s Wellspring conference prominently displayed on the fridge, and he gets a move on.
I think a great villain has to be, in some way, inexplicable. Too much explanation of how and why he turned bad is anathema to good horror (and usually to good writing.) But here’s the thing: I don’t think Hanzee is a villain at all. I may be proven wrong: plenty of critics have noted his similarity to Anton Chigurh (of No Country for Old Men, a movie I…uh…haven’t seen yet), who’s noted as one of the greatest movie villains of all time. He may go off the rails and go totally evil, and then I’ll just be sitting here, eating my hat. But I think that “Loplop” shows us, clearly and fully, a tragic figure instead of a monster. I’ve been sympathetic to Hanzee all along, even if I felt nervous about what he was about to do in a given scene. “Loplop” lets us see more of the world that he occupies, one in which he – a Native American – is constantly degraded and treated as Other in his own goddamn country. Despite his intellect, despite his bravery, despite his skill, he can’t go to a bar without the barkeep spitting in his drink or without a group of backwoods hicks following him out to his car, doing a bastardized war whoop and mocking him to his face. Hanzee’s decision to kneecap two of them (via gunfire) and then to kill the bartender isn’t exactly moral, but it’s more than understandable. Similarly, when he finds Ed and Peggy’s hideout, and when Dodd insults him – calling him a “half-breed” and a “mongrel” – it’s the very definition of justice when Hanzee shoots Dodd right in his shitty little head. (Big ups to Jeffrey Donovan for his portrayal of a tremendously dumb and evil character, one who remained thoroughly unlikable to the end but still discernibly human, and not a mere cartoon.)
The real tragedy comes just after. Ed and Peggy are sufficiently chastened by the presence of a real criminal who really knows what he’s doing – unlike the amateurs and the fuck-ups the Gerhardts have sent after them so far – to obey Hanzee’s orders. Ed sits down. Peggy accedes to his request to cut his hair. Self-actualizing Peggy should – and maybe does – understand exactly what Hanzee means when he mutters, “Yeah. Tired of this life.” He’s not a man of many words, but he’s so weary, so exhausted by a world that treats him as subhuman, that he’s very near heartbreaking. Of course, it doesn’t last. No sentimentalists allowed in Fargo. It just so happens that the gas station attendant was spooked by Hanzee’s questions about Ed, and called the cops. Lou and Hank show up, Hanzee shoots through the window, Peggy stabs him in the back with her scissors (painful, but probably not debilitating), and he flees before the police can swarm into the house. Anyway, it’s standard operating procedure for Fargo to avoid lingering too long on a moment that would stop time on some other show: consider how swiftly and economically we’ve dealt with Betsy’s death sentence, with just a few mentions here and there, rather than swelling things up with a lot of string-heavy music and tears and shot-reverse shot between Betsy and whichever Sad Man she’s talking to about how her death is really going to be his problem. In real life, you don’t get extended cinematic dimensions of time and space to express your emotions; things happen, you react, and the explosion of emotional dimensions happens inside. Fargo does the same thing, and it’s devastating – even with Hanzee, even with Mike, the two men who would be treated as Othered executioners on some other show. They’re sympathetic here – to the point that I, at least, am rooting for both of them to get out of this mess alive, and start over on their own terms somewhere else. I’m not optimistic that they will, but I can still hope.
P.S. “Loplop” is, as many other recaps and some googling aver, the name of a character (?) created by Max Ernst. I’m sure that’s the main impetus for this episode’s title – but do you remember the rabbit Hanzee had earlier this season? He was unimpressed by a magic trick as a kind, and then he was carrying a rabbit as an adult. (He killed it, alas.) Rabbits can be lop-eared, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that were an additional facet of the reason for this episode being titled “Loplop.” Maybe a small facet – but some facet, at least.