9.8

Fargo Review: "The Gift of the Magi"

(Episode 2.05)

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<i>Fargo</i> Review: "The Gift of the Magi"

Monday, Bloody Monday.

There was a point during “The Gift of the Magi” where I wondered if there would be any characters left by the time the episode was over. Joe Bulo—who is revealed to be quite the coward—and a Kitchen brother were two of the episode’s biggest causalities.

The war between the Kansas City mafia and the Gerhardts escalated to a bloody showdown in the woods. To make his mother feel better about how Rye died, Dodd and Hanzee tell Floyd it was one of the Kansas City men known as “The Butcher” who killed him, not an actual butcher. Rye couldn’t die at the hands of just an ordinary person. Dodd, who wants war, convinces his mother that this is the Kansas City mob making the first move. His brother Bear, who cries silently at the news of his brother’s death, doubts Hanzee is telling the whole truth and tries to get him to come clean, but Hanzee is loyal to Dodd above all else.

Simone and Charlie both think they’re ready to play in the big league, but neither are—they’re more like kids playing dress up. Charlie begs his uncle to let him be the one to kill the butcher. But when Charlie comes face-to-face with having to kill Ed not only, but also Noreen, the butcher shop cashier (who he actually flirts with), he can’t do it and ends up with a package of meat instead. He goes back into the shop to finish the job, but he misses the first shot and his gun jams leaving Ed ample time to fight back and kill one of the Gerhardt henchman, before rescuing Charlie and Noreen as the butcher shop (and Ed’s American dream) goes up in flames. “I saved the kid, didn’t I?” Ed desperately says to Noreen, now shocked by the fact that he’s killed two men.

Simone goes to see Mike, who shows her Joe Bulo’s head in a box. Simone is also in way over her head, thinking she has a relationship with Mike that she clearly does not. “I want to know what they’re going to do before they do it every time. Otherwise you can die with the rest of them,” he tells her.

Peggy, who is revealed to be a huge hoarder, wants to leave town, but Ed wants to stay. “Whatever comes we’ll deal with it, or it will deal with us,” he tells his wife. Peggy is about to leave town without him, before thinking better of it and selling her car so they can buy the butcher shop—the butcher shop that is now up in flames.

The whole episode was juxtaposed against the backdrop of Ronald Reagan’s (played to absolute perfection by Bruce Campbell) campaign stops throughout Minnesota. Reagan’s speech is full of hope and promise. But when confronted by Lou about the ugliness of war and the evil in society, Reagan has no answers. Like a true politician who is full of rhetoric, he just smiles and walks away.

This was the most literal episode title the show has had this season. In the story by O. Henry, a husband sells his beloved pocket watch to buy beautiful hair combs for his wife, and his wife sells her long hair to buy a chain for her husband’s pocket watch. Peggy and Ed are officially Della and Young Jim.

The episode was masterful in its suspense and in its reveals. We don’t see Joe Bulo die. We only see the top of his curly head in a box.The end with Peggy and Ed looking out at the police cars on their front lawn was ominous. The war has come to them and there’s no escaping now.

Other thoughts on this episode:

Seriously what is with the UFO?
“We’ll just be here eating sugar cereal and playing with my service weapon.”
Campbell sounded so much like Ronald Reagan, it was downright eerie.

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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