In this excellent chapter of Fargo, we jump backward to see the other side of the phone call between Ed Blumquist (Jesse Plemons) and Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) that ended last week’s episode. Although it has a slightly slower pace than we’ve seen, “Loplop” was ultimately just as rewarding as the rest of this season has been.
The episode opens in the Blumquist basement, not long after the events of episode six. Peggy (Dunst) fought off Dodd Gerhart (Donovan) with a cattle prod, and has tied him up in her basement. As Hank (Ted Danson) would say, Peggy is getting “a little touched” again, having a vision of a life coach instead of the cold-blooded killer in front of her. Her vision asks her if she’s actualized fully, then presents a key question: “Do you understand the difference between thinking and being?” Once again, the characters of Fargo try to seek meaning in an often meaningless world. Noreen (and by extension, Charlie and Ed) find meaning in Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus. Hank appears to be looking for purpose in symbols. Heck, even Reagan’s political rhetoric brought a new sense of cause to Karl (Nick Offerman). Does it really matter if Peggy sees imaginary men in her basement to find hers?
When Ed comes home, Dodd tries to lie his way out of the situation before getting decked by the equally actualized butcher. They steal Dodd’s car and hit the road, heading to a cabin owned by Uncle Grady, a man who got us thinking about what athlete’s foot smells like. They leave just before Hank and Lou (Patrick Wilson) arrive on the scene, finding the house empty aside from the bodies in the basement. Hank needs to head to the hospital while Hanzee (McClarnon) arrives at the house himself. He searches it and finds a note on the fridge from Constance (Elizabeth Marvel), as well as the details about the reservation for the Life Spring conference at the Southnik Hotel in Sioux Falls. Ed and Peggy aren’t very good at covering their tracks before they leave. Didn’t they think someone would check on Dodd?
As if to answer that question, Dunst rips out one of her best lines of the season: “You don’t ask, you just GO!” As they drive off, while Peggy and Ed essentially talk over each other, a split-screen shot amplifies the distance between them. They’re too excited. Having a murderer in her trunk might be the best thing that ever happened to Peggy. The kidnapping has fully actualized her.
The trio arrives at Uncle Grady’s. After another shock to the system that causes him to bite his tongue nearly in half, Dodd gets tied up in the cottage. The Butcher of Luverne plans to call the Gerhart headquarters with a proposition: We’ll give you back your guy and you’ll let us leave unmolested, or else we’ll show you which parts are the flank steak. As you may remember from last week, the Gerharts are a little busy, so Ed can’t get through.
Meanwhile, Dodd gets testy again as he chats with Peggy. He briefly tries a new tactic — “I got four daughters, ya know. I’m not a bad guy,” — but he can’t keep that behavior going for long. He follows it up with another threat of violence. Peggy, going with her instinct, decides to stab the misogynist in the shoulder. He calls her a bitch, and so she stabs his other one. It’s another awesome scene for Dunst in an episode full of them. (“Positive Peggy is what they call me.”) If she hadn’t won an Emmy before this episode, she likely did here. She perfectly captures the Midwestern attitude that everything can be smoothed over and made to go away. It’s a bizarrely optimistic naiveté. As she eats beans with a wounded man in front of her, Peggy honestly believes that life will go on as normal.
Hanzee arrives at a bar with a placard that reads, “Here were hanged 22 Sioux Indians,” and we see there’s puke underneath it. It seems like a throwaway moment at first, another character bit about the mistreatment of Hanzee’s people, but the detail is essential to his actions later in the episode. It’s another straw on the camel’s back. He walks into the bar, then gets into an argument with a racist bartender. Hanzee may have done three tours in Vietnam, won a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, but bigots still spit in his water. A few day-drinkers make the mistake of messing with Hanzee in the parking lot, so he shoots two of them in the kneecaps before he goes back inside to take out the barkeep. Two cops pull up to the scene, spit out, “Freeze, Cochise,” and they get gunned down too. Hanzee won’t take it anymore.
As Ed and Peggy try to figure out how to let Dodd urinate, Constance gets an unexpected visitor at her door. In an interesting set-up that implies Constance was hoping for a bit of romance with Peggy — she’s wearing a robe, lighting candles, and put a bottle of Chablis on ice — Hanzee greets her instead. It’s not long before Peggy calls, then we get an extended scene as Hanzee and Constance eavesdrop while Ed tries to reach the Gerharts. Which will happen first? Can Ed broker a deal before Hanzee finds them? I love the way this scene is constructed and edited. It literally drops Ed in on the pay phone into the split screen and then back out again.
Constance tries to get Peggy’s address for her captor, and I kept wondering if Constance would warn her, purposefully or accidentally. It ends with what I expect will be Constance’s final words: “I tried. You heard.” So much death has happened off-screen this season: Joe’s beheading, Otto’s shooting, and Simone’s murder. We can probably add Constance to the list.
The next morning, Peggy watches the fictional film-within-the-show Operation Eagles Nest on the South Dakota Morning Movie. (Molly was also watching it in episode three and Reagan referenced it in episode five.) In the film, a couple hides from a Nazi in a basement. He gives a speech: “Make a promise … if something should happen to me … ” Is this foreshadowing that Peggy will survive and Ed will not? Or will they both be saved by Reagan-like good guy Lou Solverson? While Peggy is distracted, Dodd unties himself. She should have been thinking, not just being.
While Ed (still) has trouble getting a hold of anyone at the Gerhart compound, he stumbles on a newspaper headline that reveals how he knew Mike Milligan was at the Pearl Hotel. Ed calls and we see more of last week’s episode; Mike answers the phone with the bodies of the Undertaker and his henchmen on the floor. Ed needs Mike to force the Gerharts to stop chasing after him. They’ll make the exchange at the Motor Motel the next morning.
Hanzee pulls up to the Rushmore Grocery Store and we get another chit-chat scene with the owner. This one quotes the “goin’ crazy out there at the lake” scene from the Coen film, which I quote more often that I probably should. The owner sees Hanzee’s picture in the paper and calls the authorities, which should bring Hank and Lou to the area. Who will get to Dodd, Peggy, and Ed first: Mike, Hanzee, or the authorities?
When Ed comes home, he’s strung up by Dodd. Peggy wakes up and sees the knife under the bed, stabbing Dodd’s foot to the floor before smacking him in the head with a poker. Peggy cuts Ed down before he suffocates. Hanzee bursts in, and Dodd presumes he’s rescued. The grade-A moron that he is, though, Dodd calls Hanzee a “half-breed” and a “mongrel” before he gets a much-deserved bullet in the head. Peggy gets the scissors to give Hanzee a haircut, while Lou and Hank sneak up outside. When the shooting starts, Peggy stabs Hanzee in the back. He flees. Lou and Hank burst in, and hands fly up.
- The title of this week’s episode is a reference to the paintings of Max Ernst. Ernst would paint a birdlike character named “Loplop,” who often served as his alter ego.
- No music cues point directly to Coen films this week, but I think “Bashi Mwana” is an effective way to open the episode.
- I love that Peggy can stab a man in the shoulder, but gets embarrassed when she hears him pee. Dunst was great in this episode.
- The death count keeps rising. We’ve lost Rye, Joe, Simone, Otto, Dodd, and a dozen or so players in the Gerhart and Kansas City gangs. (And probably Constance, too.) Who do you think will be next? We know Lou lives, but everyone else feels expendable. What about the “bad” guys? Will Floyd, Mike, Hanzee, and Bear make it out alive?