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Fargo Review: “The Castle”

(Episode 2.09)

TV Reviews Fargo
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<i>Fargo</i> Review: &#8220;The Castle&#8221;

I’m just going to go ahead and say it—I don’t get the need for the alien angle. Fargo has been brilliant this season with amazing performances, taught direction and stellar scripts. There have been entire episodes where I’ve held my breath because the hour has been so tense. And there have been surprisingly humorous moments. Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons, in particular, have done a fantastic job of mixing comedy with tragedy. There are so many reasons Fargo is on Paste’s list for the best shows of 2015.

And I loved this penultimate episode, which featured the much-anticipated massacre at Sioux Falls and brought together so many disparate plot points. Hanzee was acting on his own in his betrayal (not that Bear didn’t want to kill Dodd, as evidenced by him creepily calling out “Brother”). Hanzee told Bear that Mike Milligan and his crew had Dodd in a motel room when, in truth, Dodd is long dead and it’s the police awaiting the meeting with Mike at the hotel room. So Hanzee sets up the Gerhardts and kills Floyd himself (the look on Jean Smart’s face as Floyd realizes Hanzee betrayed them all should be enough to secure an Emmy nomination). Historians, we are told, are still trying to figure out why Hanzee turned on the people he had lived with since he was eight years old.

At the cabin in the woods, the State Police pull rank over Lou and decide to wire Ed for his meeting with Mike Milligan. Lou thinks this is a horrifically bad idea, but he’s outranked and ordered to leave the state. Hank also knows the plan is fraught with problems, but decides to stay behind to try to at least monitor the situation.

Ed and Peggy are taken to a motel where they wait for their meeting with Mike. But the state troopers and officers, more interested in discussing strange places to urinate than in standing guard, are sitting ducks for the ambush by the Gerhardt clan. The chief, so focused on the glory he’ll receive for bringing down the Kansas City crime syndicate, even goes radio silent so Lou is unable to warn them that the Gerhardts are on their way. The Gerhardts are able to storm the castle, which may be where the episode title came from.

While all of this is going on, Betsy collapses (while making orange juice from a frozen can, something I so remember from my childhood). It certainly seems like Betsy is dead, but it’s unclear why Lou hasn’t been told that she’s collapsed. I mean, they were able to get to Lou to let him know that Constance had been strangled.

There was terrific use of music in this episode. The score added to the tension, suspense, melancholy and terror. And having the story told as if it were a history lesson was a great touch, as was the continuing and innovative use of the split screen.

Which is why it makes no sense that, as Bear is strangling Lou, a UFO appears overhead temporarily stunning everyone. This story is great. We don’t need aliens. Up until now, the series has just hinted at the alien angle, so I was able to explain it away in my mind. But there was no mistaking what was happening in “The Castle”—it was Close Encounters of The Third Kind (which came out in 1977, two years before the events of this season). I don’t get it. It distracts from the amazing storytelling. Even if it did lead to a great line from Peggy: “It’s just a flying saucer Ed. We gotta go.”

Somehow Ed and Peggy (who is beyond scrappy at this point—being fully realized is really working out for her) are still alive, with Hanzee coming right after them (and this time I don’t think he wants a haircut). But I kind of think the finale will be less bloody. Who is left to kill really? We know at least Lou and Molly survive. Will Mike Milligan take credit for the massacre? Does the alien angle bother you as much as it does me?
What do you think? Talk about it below!

Stray Observations:

His name was in the closing credits so I’m fairly certain that was Martin Freeman, Lester Nygaard last season on Fargo, narrating.

Wouldn’t Lou at least have waited around to make sure the officers arriving on the scene knew where Hank was, and that he needed immediate medical attention? Or does he already know his father-in-law has suffered a fatal gunshot wound?

I loved Mike arriving late to the massacre, declaring “Okay then,” and getting back in his car.

Ben got a couple shots at the Gerhardt men, proving that even a bad cop can be good once in a while.

Amy Amatangelo is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and a regular contributor to Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.

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