Season Two, Episode Two — “Before the Law”
By Jarrod Jones. After Fargo‘s crackerjack premiere last week, FX’s Midwestern melodrama takes care to shift into a lower gear. That’s lower gear, mind; if “Before the Law” was a lesser episode than “Waiting For Dutch“, there would be cause for alarm (recall that the final episodes of Season One dwindled into a softer version of its more vicious self — yeah, I got caught up!). There’s still plenty of atmospheric dread to be found here, and never fear: that nuance I liked so well last week is still front and center. (Bear Gerhardt still intrigues me; here’s a stout fella so hearty he sips on half and half. More Bear, please.)
Yes, the dire predicaments of Fargo are mounting quite well: having accidentally put Rye Gerhardt through a windshield means that Peggy’s shifty-eyed lifestyle is simmering ever closer to a boiling point, while finishing off the wee Gerhardt with a gardening trowel means ol’ Ed is thinking about meat and mortality (at least, more than usual). The show hasn’t lost its gallows humor, either — when you’re a butcher put in charge of disposing a body, only the finest equipment will do. Even though this week was decidedly low-key, it was still able to make me squirm on my couch.
WHAT WORKED: Everything about the Gerhardt clan gives me the goosepimples. Put-upon big brother Dodd sees an opportunity to seize control of his family’s business, what with his old man laid up after a stroke. So he sets his hands on his hips and begins to peacock around the family kitchen during a meet. But it’s Ma Gerhardt who snaps the room to attention, and all it takes is four little words: “Give us a minute.” The look on Dodd’s face — one of arrogance, uncertainty, and a smidge of terror — says it all. Mom holds dominion. (I’ve never known Jean Smart to be so menacing.)
Peggy’s been up to something long before she put Rye through her car, that much is clear. She rebuffs her husband’s carnal desires one moment, only to turn on the sugar when needs must (as seen last week). And here we watch as would-be suitor/boss Constance (“Come on, sexy, hop in…”) busts her with a bathroom cabinet full of purloined TP. Certainly looks like Peggy’s accustomed to stealing and lying, though she’s not particularly good at it. And watching her hastily assembled tapestry unravel is a beguiling thing, to be sure. (Is Constance gonna cop a blackmailer’s jacket? Guess I’m tuning in next week.)
WHAT DIDN’T: It’s still early on in the season, but I’m not buying Brad Garrett’s Joe Bulo. As the tough-talking front to Kansas City’s mob, Garrett’s position seems kinda superfluous, especially when Bokeem Woodbine’s Mike Milligan does more than enough to convey Kansas City’s intentions. And it don’t help matters when the script has Bulo struggling with simple metaphors (“… which son is which claw?“) and choking on strategically-placed Yiddish (“I don’t want anything to do with your facacta metaphor…“). Hopefully Garrett turns it around, because I do love him so.
“Indian Joe sent porn.” — Charlie Gerhardt.
“Is he listenin’ to me?” – Dodd. “Cut off his ears.” – Hanzee.
“Never trust anything that came from the sea.” – Bud. “We came from the sea.” – Noreen.
BEST MOMENT: Hank meets Mike (and the Kitchen Brothers). It’s a tense, quiet moment that sets the forces of good and not-so-good in opposition. Ted Danson’s yokel sheriff has seen enough in his life (mostly in WWII) to know a bad guy when he sees one, and staring down Bokeem Woodbine’s Mike Milligan — to say nothing of the bird-flippin’ mutes that are the Kitchen Brothers — sets his Spidey Sense to “tingle”. The exchange of pleasantries was a particularly nice touch, especially when the niceties are present in the face of this power struggle. “Isn’t that a minor miracle?” Mike asks Hank. “The state of the world today, the level of conflict and misunderstanding… that two men could stand on a lonely road in winter, and talk calmly and rationally… while all around them, people are losing their mind.” Meanwhile, the ground is quaking under their boots. What a scene.
EPISODE’S MVP: Floyd Gerhardt. Jean Smart’s scaring the hell from me, and she hasn’t even had a moment to flex a single muscle. Floyd takes the head of the table in front of her conniving eldest son, Dodd, and then she tells him what’s the time of day while letting him think that the sun will shine only on him. It’s a careful, deft moment, one that I hope to see much more of as this season progresses. Dodd may have the muscle behind him, but it’s gonna take a lot more than that to move the mountain that is Floyd.
OK THEN, YOU BETCHA:
– It’s a fundamental truth: given the chance, your dog will eat your ears.
– Looks like Sheriff Danson always gets his shoe.
– Is it me, or does Mike look like he’s being flanked by Will Patton?
– I dunno what’s happening to Mrs. Solverson — though it’s likely cancer — but I’m crying already.
– Oh, Molly. Sweet Molly. You named the snowman ‘Bob’.
– The patented uselessness of burgeoning criminal Kirsten Dunst: don’t steal TP from your boss, and then leave her alone with your bathroom.
– HE DIDN’T WASH HIS HAAAANDS, LOU.