Season Two, Episode Nine — “The Castle”

© Copyright 2015, FX Networks. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright 2015, FX Networks. All Rights Reserved.

By Jarrod Jones. The tenets of comedy — which can be applied to most any creative endeavor — hold that execution is key. Don’t try to be too clever. But don’t be too obvious either; that only panders to your audience, and you certainly don’t want to insult the people you’re trying to entertain. The punchline must only be made plain after your audience has had a moment to consider your execution of the joke, or there’s no point in laughing. Because if you’re trying to understand the joke, to quote Paul Dini’s Joker, “there is no joke.” Bottom line: when you have the audience eating out of the palm of your hand, don’t get cocky. This week, Fargo got cocky.

So where does that leave us? Are we meant to believe that the otherworldly presence of Fargo‘s curious little U.F.O. was always destined to save Lou’s ass? Kinda deflates the mysticism, wouldn’tcha say? And unless Fargo‘s been sitting on its lofty Next Generation ambitions in anticipation for its finale, I somehow doubt we’re going to be watching Lou have a good porch sit with a pair of little green men. (Though there’s an idea.) Noah Hawley’s violently quaint (or is it quaintly violent?) show is feeling the pinch of delivering a satisfying finish to its second season. Turns out, that angst is reflected by nearly all of its characters. Everyone’s up against a wall. But paradoxically, the episode sucks all the tension out of itself.

WHAT WORKED: Shockingly, nada. The show’s use of foreshadowing is wonderful, and it rewards patient viewer’s vigilance, but “The Castle” spent far too much time patting itself on the back to be effective. (When we watched Mike Milligan reflect on touching Joe Bulo’s hairplugs, only to be shown that one time when he touched them again was Fargo‘s ill-advised way of saying, “aren’t we swell?”) Which is a damn shame, considering this is the season’s gosh-darn climax. I don’t know what we’re walking into next week, but now that 75% of the show’s cast is dead, I can hardly scrounge up reasons to care.

WHAT DIDN’T: So the massacre at Sioux Falls has come to pass. And if it weren’t for the episode’s self-aware display of retrospective foreshadowing (is there even such a thing?), we might have felt that this season had come full circle. Instead, we’re treated to a Tarantino-esque narration from THE Fargo alumni (yes, that was Martin Freeman you heard), pondering aloud the things that we, the viewer, should have been considering as the show progressed. Once anything — be it a television show, a novel, or a damn comic book — begins to do the thinking for everybody, we’ve entered aesthetic entropy. All that remains for next week’s finale is to stare blankly at the wake of what the hell just happened, and take care to lock our doors at night.

It’s becoming more apparent to me that yes, Lou is probably one of the last honest cops in the Midwest, but he sure as heck is also the luckiest: pair of keys conspicuously missing? Direct thine eyes upward, and there you shall find a photograph of the auto to which they belong. (Stuck under a frame to boot.) The climactic showdown about to escalate in true Wild West fashion? Well the only way you’d know that, sir, is if you decided to breach trust and come back to North Dakota, find yourself to be at a very specific hotel parking lot at a crucially specific time to witness none other than Floyd and Bear Gerhardt driving right past you. Zoinks.


Well that went wrong in a hurry.” – Hank.

Hank: “Shoulda gone home with ya.” Lou: “Turns out I didn’t go.

It’s just a flying saucer, Ed. We gotta go.” – Peggy.

BEST MOMENT: The hotel shootout got my pulse a-quickenin’, but I can’t tip my hat towards any one sequence this week. Primarily because I can’t shake the feeling that “The Castle” served to tie up loose ends in the most predictable and lifeless way yet. Shocking stuff, considering how reliably strong this show has always been. But when you throw a damned U.F.O. at what should have been a major catharsis between Lou and the Gerhardts — especially when it’s been implied that the show’s alien presence was never meant to be intrusive — then maybe it’s time to recalibrate our feelings as to how clever this show actually is.

EPISODE’S MVP: Lou Solverson. Patrick Wilson’s been the backbone of this entire season. So it makes perfect sense that “The Castle” would go out of its way to remove him from the imminent onslaught. “Because corruption” is the best this episode can do to run Officer Lou out of North Dakota, and the excuse is so damned flimsy (and because Lou is so damned good) he turns around and goes right back into the fray. Don’t blame Lou for the deus ex machina this show used to wrongly save his ass this week. The man’s only here to do his job, and that’s why we love him.

© Copyright 2015, FX Networks. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright 2015, FX Networks. All Rights Reserved.


– Ben Schmidt takes an opportunity to put the screws to Lou: “I thought you were Gary Cooper; turns out yer Bettie La Plage“. He’s more clever than he knows: Bettie’s the fake star of the Ronald Reagan fake movie, “Massacre at Sioux Falls” (featured in the first scene of the season).

– Lou’s stuck with cops who can’t manage their metaphors, let alone their own precinct: “I say we squeeze the lemons we got and use the juice to catch these big fish.” So Lou is up against a wall against North Dakota’s finest shitheels and flatfoots. Why not.

– Those Gerhardt men sure look awful extra-y, don’t they?

– Somehow Peggy and Ed lived to cluck at each other for another week, saved by “shit cop” Ben Schmidt. There’s enough irony in that unlikely scenario to explore (if I were actually up for it, maybe), but the fact that we’re three weeks into a Hanzee-led Blomquist hunt has me clutching for the aspirin.

– RIP Betsy Solverson. Lou’s last ray of sunshine has just left this mortal coil. now, for the remainder of this season anyway, darkness reigns.

– Not very many people to root for this week, save for poor ol’ Hank: Don’t go feeling too bad for the plight of Hanzee, a man who squeezed the life out of Constance even after she did precisely what he asked of her. And don’t feel to bad for Lou, neither; in his dauntless quest to do “the right thing”, he leaves the last moments of his beloved wife’s life to be had in quiet isolation, the soft mewlings of darling little Molly a long hallway away.

– Sure it was cute to hear Martin Freeman’s voice for a moment or so, but having Lester Nygaard — hardly the compass you’d want, moral or otherwise — guiding us through a line of reasoning that should have been our own (especially concerning ol’ Hanzee’s predicament) was Fargo at its pushiest. I do the thinking around here, Show.