Season Two, Episode Ten — “Palindromes”
By Jarrod Jones. The Prince of Denmark once said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Thinking, yes. Absolutely. But at the advent of Ronald Reagan’s Eighties, “thinking” could easily be replaced by strategizing, consulting, finding cost reduction, finding leverage, or incentivizing — and considering the chaos these concepts have wrought during this season of Fargo, one could consider them to be the tools of Beelzebub himself.
For one whole week in Minnesota (and North and South Dakota) acts of violence — some of it senseless, too much of it sensible — spawned from the smoldering crevasses of a corporate building in Kansas City. A kindly man took a bullet through his jaw just so beancounters could ensure their betters remained in the black. Mike Milligan, a self-professed king fit to rule in the vacuum left behind by the Gerhardts, learns a bitter lesson from all of this. Watching him muse over his future as an accounting consultant for the Kansas City mob, Milligan becomes like Fortinbras, only he walked into Denmark to become a fishmonger. A king in thinking, perhaps, but in practice… not in this world.
“Palindromes” does what “Morton’s Fork” did back in 2014; it ties up all of Fargo‘s loose ends into a viewer-friendly hour-or-so of competently realized television. All the thrilling climax occurred last week anyhow (and it came with a deflated sense of payoff), so nobody should mind that most of the chilling cat-and-mouse that takes place during this finale is the stuff of Peggy’s quickly deteriorating mind. It’s only right that “Palindromes” be the drowsy epilogue to Fargo‘s otherwise fine season of aw-gosh flashback. Like Sheriff Hank, it gives us a chance to sit back and casually ruminate on all the carnage that came before.
WHAT WORKED: There never needed to be a visceral show of bloodletting between Hanzee and the Blomquists; Hanzee was always marksman enough to know when his aim was true. So the bullet that passed through poor ol’ Ed did its job. What follows is a catharsis between Peggy and Ed that’s been building since the season began. “I don’t think we’re gonna make it,” Ed says to Peggy, who quickly dismisses the statement as if her husband wasn’t sitting in a pool of his own blood. It’s here where we finally see Peggy veer completely away from the reality that always seemed to elude her. Here we watch as she creates a daring rescue sequence from the bogeyman that is Hanzee, just like what she saw in the Reagan flick just two episodes back. Once the barricade is broken, all that remains is Peggy squirming in the arms of Officer Lou, completely broken. Our dear Blomquists’ arc has come to its end.
WHAT DIDN’T: Betsy Solverson’s Xanadu-induced dream of the future was the perfect example of how Fargo ceaselessly played to the back of the room this season. We’ve already seen what’s to come for the Solversons — a contented, not necessarily over-the-moon, existence that played out in full last season — and what’s more, all the allusions, Easter Eggs, and clues were not-so subtly peppered throughout the last ten episodes. So what was the purpose of corralling Allison Tolman, Keith Carradine, and Colin Hanks together for a mush-fest moment of melancholy? It just reminded me that Colin Hanks has way too much free time on his hands.
“I’m gonna take Peggy Blomquist back to Minnesota. If anyone has a problem with that, after the week I had, they can keep it to themselves.” – Lou.
Noreen: “Camus says knowin’ we’re gonna die makes life absurd.” Betsy: “Well, I don’t know who that is. But I’m guessin’ he don’t have a six year-old girl.” Noreen: “He’s French.” Betsy: “I don’t care if he’s from Mars, no one with any sense would say somethin’ that foolish. We’re put on this earth to do a job, and each of us gets the time we get to do it. And when this life is over, and you stand in front of the Lord… well, you try tellin’ him it was some Frenchman’s joke.”
Betsy: “Good night, Mr. Solverson.” Lou: “Good night, Mrs. Solverson. And all the ships at sea.”
BEST MOMENT: Lou remembers Saigon. Peggy’s locked up good and tight in Officer Lou’s squad car, a week’s worth of violence now behind them. But Peggy is reliably in a talkative mood. Even in the face of her husband’s death, Peggy is still trying to fix things that, as Ed put it, “were never broken to begin with”. Mrs. Blomquist knows she’s going up the creek, but maybe she’ll be tried for a federal crime — then maybe she can get shipped to a “prison overlooking the bay” out in California? (Pretty sure she meant Alcatraz.) So — to give Peggy a bit of context as to the severity of her actions — Lou regales her with an anecdote about his final days in Saigon. The look of wonder in her eyes isn’t for the insane story she just heard (told magnificently by Patrick Wilson), it’s as to whether or not there’s a point to be found. “So… what are you trying to say?” she asks.
SEASON’S MVP: Lou Solverson. Mike Milligan’s plight was a slight afterthought in Fargo‘s rearview. Dodd Gerhardt’s arc sunk like a stone. Floyd Gerhardt disappeared into the skirmish faster than you can say “schnitzel”. Each character this season had their own personal moment to shine, but few mattered in a way that Officer Lou Solverson mattered. Lou was never anybody’s fool, and through the prism of Patrick Wilson’s eyes, we got to see how one week could change a person’s worldview forever. As all the good in the world around him shrank, Lou’s heart only grew.
OK THEN, YOU BETCHA:
– As we surveyed the bodies of the Gerhardt clan one last time, we got a visual confirmation I’m pretty sure no one wanted to see: that of Simone’s untimely passing.
– Everything about Hanzee & Lou’s nighttime chase sequence recalled The Coen’s No Country For Old Men. (And Mike Milligan got to say “friendo”!)
– So “The Butcher of Luverne” meets his end in a meat locker. That’d seem pretty fitting were it not so on-the-nose.
– Whatever Hanzee ended up doing to those baseball diamond bullies, we know precisely what effect it had on the two children he stood up for.