Season Two, Episode Seven — “Did You Do This? No, You Did It!”
By Jarrod Jones. The Emperor Marcus Aurelius (or maybe it was Bing Crosby) probably said it best when he said, “Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together.” A stoic like Bear might have appreciated such a sentiment. With his father and little brother now laid to rest (the former quite literally, and the latter, well…) and his elder sibling still missing, Bear has space enough to think more clearly. But he doesn’t have time to think laterally: the Kansas City mob is scrambling to put the final kibosh on The Gerhardts, his ma’s been hauled to the police house, and now it’s apparent that his niece has been sleeping with the enemy. Maybe if he wasn’t making it all up as he went along, he might have time to consider that last bit to Aurelius’ philosophical wisdom: “… But do so with all your heart.” Then again, The Gerhardts never struck me as a reading family.
As for the rest of the players within Fargo, they get to ponder over things like, say, the futile existence of the universe, in between those long moments where cream and sugar swirls around the inside of a cup of coffee. Everywhere there’s a place to look you’ll find death staring right back: Rye’s belt buckle is spiritually reunited with its owner in the Great Beyond, Mike expects a visit from something called “The Undertaker”, and then there’s Betsy Solverson, someone who’s no stranger to the concept, learning yet another damning truth about life. (Namely, never go digging too deeply into your parent’s lives. Hank’s den, it seems, leaves us with another riddle to solve this week.) Even the infinite reflection of an elevator mirror (an area we visit twice this week) seems to imply oblivion. If Fargo ever had an A+ episode, “Did You Do This? No, You Did It!”, despite its ridiculous title, would be it.
WHAT WORKED: It’s not for nothing that Simone sent crummy cop Ben Schmidt to the floor of a descending elevator with a firm knee to the testacles, proclaiming “I’m through laying down for men.” Yes, Simone’s arc comes to a close this week. (I’m presuming, anyway; The Walking Dead has me clutching to the TV trope “no body = no death” like crazy right now.) But that shouldn’t suggest that her arc was for nothing: the wilting Flower Child thought she found a way to put the real pain of her life — namely, her father’s cruelty — to bed in a permanent way. The Gerhardt clan was never equipped to control a free thinker like Simone, but the tragedy lay in her inability to overcome obstacles set in front of her before she ever took her first breath. In this family, the patriarchy rules even in death; so you either allow The Life to harden you to your core, or you let it do you in. Freedom? Simone was never going to finagle that, not with a pragmatist for a would-be boyfriend like Mike Milligan, anyway. But at least she went down with a semblance of her dignity intact.
Bear’s never been one to shy away from violence. But the tremors of doubt flickering on Angus Sampson’s face as he put the barrel of his luger to his niece’s forehead thundered so loud you could hear it in your quickening pulse. The Gerhardt Empire has fallen to despair. Bear’s strength is insufficient compared to the might of his father, and what’s more, Bear knows this; but dooming his older brother to die at the hands of “The Butcher of Luverne” — whoever that is, right? — only exemplifies the limits of his foresight, and the pain that comes with acknowledging it. If Dodd ever makes it out of the pickle he’s in, look for a reckoning the likes of which you’ve never seen before.
Floyd may be in the dark about a few things, the Blomquists especially, but Fargo P.D. hardly have her over a barrel. That’s a point she’s only too ready to exploit. (Certainly helps matters that she’s under lights placed by Sheriff Hank and his equally quaint Fargo analogue.) So she slowly reveals small cracks in her armor — puffing on a pipe is about as vulnerable we’ve seen her since Episode Two, anyway — but even those are artificial. It’s all an incredibly subtle ploy to garner the sympathies of two men who wouldn’t understand the complexities of a sexagenarian female even if they came with a manual. And wouldn’tcha know it, it works like a charm. (The flickering smirk on her face once her deal’s been done is one for the record books. Stupendous.)
WHAT DIDN’T: Pass. This was the most solid week Fargo‘s had since this season began.
“Different roads, same destination.” – Floyd.
“If Ed’s in with the Kansas City mob, I’ll cut off my toe.” – Sheriff Hank.
Lou: “Walk her out. ” ___: “What about you?” Lou: “Not sayin’ don’t come back.”
“We got all the crazy we can handle.” – Bear.
Lou: “Is Karl drinkin’?” Betsy: “Not if beer counts.”
“Yer a shit cop, ya know that?” – Lou.
BEST MOMENT: Lou vs. Mike. It’s a fascinating twist of dichotomies: remember back to the second episode of this season (“Before the Law“), where Lou loses his upper hand to Mr. Milligan and the Kitchen Brothers. Lou’s had time to process Mike’s intellectual enigmas, and comes back hard with a few of his own. Watching the two men casually discuss the concepts of right, wrong, and inevitability (at gunpoint, naturally) was a fascinating window into the lives of these two men, one of whom faces imminent doom, and the other who would never allow it to darken his family’s doorstep.
EPISODE’S MVP: Bear Gerhardt. As the cards topple in Fargo, everyone is faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. Mike faces Kansas City, Lou faces compromise, Simone faces death, and every single one of them aced their individual plights. But Angus Sampson’s middle child carries the most weight on his broad shoulders. “This family deserves the ground,” Simone tells Bear earlier on in the episode, and she’s absolutely right. And while the world will continue to turn with or without The Gerhardts, you can see on Sampson’s face that Bear is mentally preparing himself for his own personal Waterloo.
OK THEN, YOU BETCHA:
– “The Breakfast King of Layola.” Of course that would be Nick Offerman.
– Two sequences play strong homage to prior Coen Bros works. Simone’s presumed last stand has strong echoes of John Turturro’s Bernie Bernbaum in Miller’s Crossing, with “Danny Boy” echoing off in the woodland; while Ed’s closing mic drop was wrapped around a discotech variation of Mickey Newbury’s “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”, which was covered by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition: said cover used to psychedelic effect in the Coen’s The Big Lebowski.
– Adam Arkin is definitely channeling the stodgy grump of his old man.
– R.I.P, Bear’s forearm cast.