Season Two, Episode Five — “The Gift of the Magi”
Looks like dumb ol’ Ed is coming up in the world: Hanzee’s dug up dirt on the man meant to have done in Rye, and Dodd uses that otherwise useless info to bring the simmering stew between the Gerhardts and Kansas City to a boil. So Ed — far as Floyd is concerned — is butcher boy no more; he’s “The Butcher of Luverne”, a trained gunsel from KC cooling his heels in the quaint Minnesotan hamlet. It’d actually be funny if it weren’t kinda sad.
WHAT WORKED: The Gerhardts move ahead in their war against Kansas City, but it’s going to come at a great price. But that shouldn’t suggest that the decisions made by this monstrous family prior to all this bloodshed didn’t contribute to their current predicament. Blame Simone Gerhardt if you must; as the eldest daughter of Dodd and current hitums of Mike Milligan, Simone is in the uneviable position of being placed in direct opposition of her family, mostly now against her will. Whatever ends she dreamed about reaching in her chronic-infused fantasies are now at an end. Milligan will have his job done, and now he will do it with his very own subservient blonde mole.
So too has the oppressive Gerhardt patriarchy set poor Charlie on a darkened path. While he’s sharp with a learned mind (his education comes in handy during a sweet moment later in the episode), all Charlie ever sees are hardened men talking about the hard-assed things they’ve done to other hardened men. It’s only natural that an underappreciated fellow like Charlie would want to step up to impress his family. Problem is, Dodd’s assuming control of the Gerhardt day-to-day almost in open defiance of his mother (Dodd chastises Charlie’s father, Bear, for listening to their matriarch so dutifully), so it occurs to Charlie that if he’s to mean anything during this time of crisis, it’s time to pull the trigger.
Here’s as good a place as any to say it loud, and say it proud: Bokeem Woodbine cinches an Emmy nod next year. The man’s steely resolve this season, paired with a disarming charm, has earned him a place at the finest tables on Earth, far as I’m concerned.
WHAT DIDN’T: Bruce Campbell does a mean Ronnie Reagan, but the pre-Prez’s inclusion in this episode was a doddering detour that served to only keep Lou removed from the proceedings. Though that urinal-side pep talk between Ronald and Lou, where answers are left somewhere in Reagan’s thundering silence, was a fine payoff to the whole affair. Even when Fargo skews from the point, it’s still darkly good fun.
“My mother could find the cloud in every silver lining.” – Mike.
“If you want me to take you seriously, you have to be a serious person.” – Mike.
“What’s the point? Yer just gonna die anyway.” – Noreen.
“Oh, hey… I read that.” – Charlie.
“We’ll just be sittin’ here, eatin’ sugar cereal and playin’ with my service weapon.” – Hank.
BEST MOMENT: Pleased to meat you. Li’l Charlie Gerhardt’s first whack gets botched due to a pretty girl with a Camus paperback. The gun we all know he can use rests at his backside at the ready, all while Ed putzes around in the back carving a pig or whatever Bud actually allows him to do. Those tension-filled moments are filled with some of the sweetest interactions Fargo has ever had, in this season or the last. It’s serendipity that stays Charlie’s hand. Can’t say’s I blame him.
EPISODE’S MVP: Noreen. She’s had her face stuck in a book for half the season, and when she finally looks up, what does she offer? Doom. And when she looks up again, what does she find? A kindred spirit. Noreen’s interactions with Charlie and Ed this week were the true gifts of “The Gift of the Magi”. After all that’s happened, I’m holding out hope for a lovely Charlie/Noreen Happily-Ever-After. Considering the apocalypse that’s about to fall all over Luverne, there’s no two on this show who are likely to enjoy the aftermath more.
OK THEN, YOU BETCHA:
– “I loved ya in ‘Cattle Queen of Montana’.” – For a conspiracy-spoutin’, gun-totin’ nut, Karl has exceptionally bad taste. (If you thought that was yet another fake Reagan movie conjured up for the show, just go on thinking that way. Barbara Stanwyck deserved so much better.)
– Rye’s belt buckle returns to the Gerhardt estate. And Bear wept.
– It’s the first time we really see Bear and Dodd size each other up. And as fierce a loyalist as Bear obviously is to his family, Dodd’s willingly put his son in the line of fire. Expect fraternal fireworks next week.
– How Charlie and Noreen bounced from Camus, their favorite holidays, and the ending of Rocky in just thirty seconds shows a dork like me that those two were destined to be together.