Fargo “Palindrome” Review (Season 2 Episode 10)

fargo-palindrome-photos_8p5v

“And so great empires fall and are forgotten…”

So spoke a character in the season finale of “Fargo,” and so was the case, as the story came to a close with a whimper, not a bang, in “Palindrome.” This is not a criticism at all, mind you, just a statement of fact in what was undeniably a fantastic season of what may well be the best show on television, or certainly one of the best.

Besides, if you watched last week, you know we got plenty of bang for our buck, and then some. I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed in that one, and if the finale was more about the fallout than the action, well, that was to be expected. After all, there weren’t many left still standing to be on the receiving end of action after that last episode!

There were, however, a few notable exceptions, and a few of them did indeed join the ranks of the fallen- sadly, in at least one case. In addition to an innocent bystander that was unfortunate enough to get in the line of fire of Hanzee Dent (Zahn McClarnon, “Ringer”) and his prey, there was the target in question, Ed Blumquist (Jesse Plemons, “Friday Night Lights”), whose luck finally ran out; as well as Gerhardt flunky Ricky G (Ryan O’Nan, “Ray Donovan”), who thought he’d gotten clear of the action, only to have his greed get the best of him and end up being taken down by Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine, Saving Grace”) and his hulking henchman Earl Kitchen (Brad Mann, “Clue”).

fargo 2

Of course, it was Ed that stung the most, as all he ever wanted was to settle down and own his own shop and raise a family, only to have his dream shattered in an instant when his crazy wife Peggy (a superlative- and now Golden Globe-nominated- Kirsten Dunst) accidentally ran down Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin, “Igby Goes Down”), forever altering their lives for the worse when they opted to cover it up rather than do the right thing and report it to the authorities.

Not that it probably would have ended well for them, anyway, given the Gerhardt’s thirst for vengeance, but still, it’s not like it went any better for covering it up, either. If anything, it only made things worse- way worse. Indeed, one could make a case for that single action directly resulting in the downfall of an entire family, save the one Gerhardt left standing, Charlie (Allan Dobrescu)- and he’s in jail, or he’d probably be dead, too.

Not only that, but there was also that wow-inducing shoot-out at the motel, which directly resulted in the deaths of who knows how many cops, with only Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson, “The Conjuring”), his father-in-law, Hank Larsson (Ted Danson, “CSI”) and Ben Schmidt (Keir O’Donnell, “American Sniper”) remaining standing at the end, and Hank only just barely at that.

If ever there were a TV scene that gave Quentin Tarantino a run for his money, it was that one- and, as an extra added bonus, it even had a flying saucer! My hands-down favorite quote of the season had to be when, after Ed stopped to marvel at said UFO, a thoroughly nonplussed Peggy muttered: “It’s just a flying saucer, Ed, honey- we gotta go!” LOL- great stuff.

Yes, I know some of you out there thought that was a shark-jumping moment, but get over it. Not only was it set up beautifully early on in the season, but there was a point to it- that UFO saved Lou’s life, more or less. Also, it was just plain kinda cool. Who doesn’t enjoy a good flying saucer? (Okay, plainly some of the more vocal critics on the internet, but I thought it was neat, so deal with it, haters.)

Fargo-613182

I also loved the way everything came together in that penultimate episode, from the cop-on-thugs showdown to the way the Dent played everyone against one another, even going so far as to take out Mama Gerhardt (Jean Smart, “24”) himself, right before a horrified Bear (Angus Sampson, the “Insidious” trilogy). The choreography of that whole scene was a thing of beauty, and it was the one episode I ended up watching twice.

Not that the rest weren’t worth a re-watch, but that was the only one I found myself doing it for, whatever the case. I’m sure I’ll end up binge-watching the whole shebang eventually as well. This is definitely the kind of show you can appreciate just as much the second time around once you know how all the moving parts fit together, anyway.

The first time is all about getting acquainted with the characters- then you learn to appreciate the well-thought-out plot machinations. In that sense, it kind of reminds me of “Twin Peaks.” It’s all a bit overwhelming at first, keeping up with so many characters, so many plot twists and random weird stuff, but once you get into the groove of things that next watch is golden, and only gets better each time.

Indeed, one can only hope that the much-anticipated “Peaks” revival is pulled off half as well as this show does with the whole Coen Brothers vibe, because lord knows it could have been a train wreck. Going into that first season, I was convinced as much that it would be, but damned if it wasn’t one of the most audacious and satisfying debuts of last year. Oddly, I fully expected this second season to fall flat on its face even after enjoying that one so much- after all, look at what happened with “True Detective.”

But thanks to a great cast and fantastically-drawn characters and an assured sense of where it was headed and how to get there, this season was every bit as satisfying as the first, IMHO. That leads me back to this episode, which was like the cherry on top of the season as a whole. With most of the action behind us, the show needed only to provide a decent idea of where things went from there, and we got it, in a most satisfying fashion.

fargo 3

Peggy, it was clear, was always going to have her head in the clouds- even in jail- and the best she could hope for was a room with a view. Dunst, as proven by her Golden Globe nod, really knocked this one out of the park, just nailing the whole mind-set of that particular character completely. That final scene, where she tried to justify herself as being a victim by essentially blaming women’s lib and the like was wonderfully acted all around, as was her final mournful scene with Ed. The only self-actualization she managed in the end was full-on denial.

Mike Milligan finally got that promotion he was angling for, only to discover it came with a closed-off office and a lot of paperwork- and little else, besides a steady paycheck and job security, more or less. You could tell he was expecting a lot more- at the very least, a seat at the table with the big boys, and instead he ended up with a desk job. This actually reminded me of another FX show’s finale- “The Shield”- and Vic Mackey’s ultimate fate, for those who know what I’m talking about. Regardless, as Milligan learned: Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.

fargo-fear-and-trembling-review_accv.640

Meanwhile, Dent got cash, a name change- Moses Tripoli, a nice touch, as he was the mob boss who employed Sam Hess, the bully who aggravated Lester Nygaard in Season 1, which set that season’s events in motion- and he was set-up for some plastic surgery to fix what Peggy did to him in the previous episode. Will he go after the Kansas City faction? Entirely possible, if his actions at the end of the scene were any indication. Clearly, Dent is not one to let a slight go, as evidenced by his standing up to the bullies giving some deaf kids a hard time at the ball park where he was meeting his connection.

I gotta say, of all the characters on this show- and it was a tough call, with so many colorful ones to choose from- but I think Dent was ultimately my favorite, even if he did bring poor Ed down in the end. I mean, what a bad-ass that guy was! That scene where those guys were giving him crap about being an Indian at that bar and he took matters into his own hands was a thing of beauty, and easily one of my favorite scenes of the entire season. He was truly the MVP of the season, I think.

fargo 6

That said, I did enjoy some of the quieter performances as well. Cristin Milioti radiated somber intelligence and resolve as Betsy, Lou’s cancer-ridden wife. I feared that she would join the ranks of the deceased, given her close proximity to the montage of the dead that opened the episode, but thankfully, she made it through to the end, to see the return of her husband and father alike.

In a kind of mirror image of Betsy was Floyd Gerhardt (Smart), a woman doing her best to do what was then considered a man’s job, but which she was clearly better-suited to do than any of the men left in her family, despite the way things ended up. I mean, had Dent not pulled what he did, her decisions would have been fairly solid- certainly more so than any of her sons would have been. Unfortunately for her, it just wasn’t the era for a woman like her to get the respect she truly deserved- but I think she knew it, which is why I think she settled for revenge over peace.

Fargo 8

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the sexy-if-a-bit-ditzy Simone (relative newcomer Rachel Keller), who I left the show crushing on a bit. She might have been more than a little naïve and questionable in her actions, but she was nothing if not endearing. It was heartbreaking to see her go, in a scene that couldn’t help but remind one of a similar one in “Miller’s Crossing,” another Coen Brothers masterwork, and one of their more underrated efforts- not to mention the scene with Adriana on “The Sopranos.” I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for her in her future projects, of which I’m sure there will be plenty.

There were plenty of other supporting characters where that came from doing solid work, i.e. Emily Haine as the staid-but-solid Noreen; the always reliable Danson as Hank; Nick Offerman as the wise-but-perpetually-drunken Karl Weathers (that scene where he talked down the angry mob outside the precinct was another season highlight, and a master class in what constitutes an acting tour de force); Jeffrey Donovan showing his range as the hot-headed Dodd, the polar opposite of the too-cool-for-school character he played on “Burn Notice,” the list goes on…

All in all, an excellent sophomore season from a show that I won’t be second-guessing anymore come next season, believe you me. No sophomore slump here, that’s for sure. Quite the opposite. If anything, that third season can’t get here fast enough. As one of my friends said, and I quote: “My only complaint is that there aren’t enough Emmys to go around.” Ain’t that the truth?

Update: The third season will be set in 2010, four years after Season 1, but will not include any of the first season regulars as primary players in the action, though they might crop up at some point. You can read more about it here.

Fargo 4

So, what did you think of the second season of “Fargo”? Just as good as the first? Or even better? Were you onboard with the whole UFO thing, or was it a shark-jumping moment for you, too? What was your favorite character? How about your favorite moment of the season? What time period would you like to see them tackle next? (I’m tempted to say the 80’s, if only because we might get to spend time with more of these characters- also how much fun would it be to see a teenage Molly? But I’m guessing they might go farther back- or farther into the future instead, past the first season’s events- which could be interesting, too.)

How about that soundtrack? (“War Pigs” FTW in the finale!) Or those accents? (For some reason, I just loved Woodbine’s carefully considered one as Milligan- it was like he was demanding to be taken seriously through his accent alone, much less his actions.) What sort of plotline would you like to see them tackle next? (I’d love for them to pull a “The Wire” and go into something completely unexpected next time around.) Sound off with your comments below and thanks for reading!