Fargo: Before The Law
October 19, 2015 10:10 PM - Season 2, Episode 2 - Subscribe

The Gerhardts get a surprising offer; two unlikely murderers do their best to clean up their mess.
posted by JimBennett (39 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
this was a very very very good episode of television
posted by JimBennett at 10:15 PM on October 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


Enjoyed this one even more than the last; we got to see more inside the family empire, and basically of the characters in general. The scene between Hank Larsson and the Amish posse hoping to take over the syndicate was especially resonant with modern-day awareness of cops/racism, and stretched the tension out in an entertaining way.

So Kirsten Dunst (Peggy Blomquist) has pre-existing mental health issues? You know, steal some of your employer's toilet paper, leave a dead guy you hit with your car in the windshield.. that sort of thing. And her co-worker is a lesbian feminist who has the hots for her? I assume that's what the lingering shot on Durst's derriere was about (in culottes - very nice 70s touch).

And they slid in Jeff Wayne's Musical Verison of War of the Worlds (read by Richard Burton) right at the end there - nice touch that carries over the UFO appearance (?) in the first episode.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 12:06 AM on October 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Never trust anything came from the sea."
"We came from the sea."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 12:09 AM on October 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


And they slid in Jeff Wayne's Musical Verison of War of the Worlds...

Yeah, I liked that touch, too. The music selections have been really good, so far. That Burl Ives tune while Ed cleans the garage was especially delightful.

Loved this episode.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:02 AM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


The shoe in the tree continues to resonate.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:21 AM on October 20, 2015


So great. I'm loving Bokeem Woodbine's character.

A couple of questions:

Was the mylar balloon supposed to be an explanation of the UFO that Rye saw?

Didn't Rye Gerhardt leave his car at the Waffle Hut? Why have they not run those plates and tracked him down to his house? Did I miss something?

I didn't get why Lou stopped by the butcher shop. Was it indeed just to get bacon? I felt that was a bit unnecessary, like it was only there to add an "oh shit!" moment but nothing else.
posted by bondcliff at 8:24 AM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Maybe also to suggest that Lou had a "huh, the lights are still on, that's odd" cop-hunch tingle; although if that was the case, surely Ed's jitteryiness would have tingled him harder.

Amazing contrast between this and True Detective S2; this feels incredibly sure-footed.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:55 AM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh, and then I read Todd VanDerWerff's Vox review:
[If] we know anything about Lou (largely via his daughter, whom we met in season one), it's that he's got a good nose for when something's not right. After a late-night conversation with his father-in-law, it's almost as if Lou's slowly circling the thought that something horrible has come to his town.

So why does he stop in to the butcher shop? The light's on.

[...] Fargo is, on some level, about people who are trying desperately to reestablish a status quo that they can never return to. Thus, it falls to people like Lou to realize when something is out of place, no matter how minor, and then to start tugging at that thread.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:59 AM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


So why does he stop in to the butcher shop? The light's on.

Lou is actually a moth.
posted by bondcliff at 9:06 AM on October 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


"Was the mylar balloon supposed to be an explanation of the UFO that Rye saw?"

I took it that way, and then they whammy'd us with the War of the Worlds quote at the end as if to say, "Oh, did you think the balloon was the explanation? Maybe it is aliens. Or not."

What was the song in the opening credits, by the way?
posted by komara at 9:44 AM on October 20, 2015


Also, will someone with better ears (or who is about to re-watch this episode anyway) help me out here? I thought when they pulled up to the Waffle Hut that Lou told his wife to stay in the car.

... but she didn't, and then Molly saw the balloon, and then Betsy found the gun.

So if Lou did ask them to stay in the car then what do you think the writers were saying about the fact that them breaking his rule turned out to be a good thing?
posted by komara at 9:49 AM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


komara...He did tell her to stay in the car. But, just because he said to stay, doesn't mean she will. Especially when it means keeping a child entertained. Every parent watching probably rolled their eyes and thought "Yeah. Like that's gonna happen." when he said to stay.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:13 AM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well sure, I understand that, and if this were just a home video of two parents I would totally expect it. The fact that the writers wrote it that way and had him speak the line makes me think there was some further significance to it.

Or maybe that was just a small build-up to Lou telling his father-in-law that "Betsy helped solve a case ... again" (paraphrased), maybe a small inside reference to Molly taking after both her parents.
posted by komara at 10:23 AM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


What's with the weird horizontal lens flair over the butcher shop at the end, and over Lou's face outside the diner?

Shouldn't the diner have been rich with flies? Food all over, blood all over? Or, whoever owns the place cleaning it like mad?

I'm really liking this show.
posted by Marky at 11:37 AM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


What was the song in the opening credits, by the way?

Bobby Gentry - Reunion
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:18 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


What's with the weird horizontal lens flair over the butcher shop at the end, and over Lou's face outside the diner?

Aliens
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:19 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


The best thing about this show as I go into every scene expecting a horrific bloodbath
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:20 PM on October 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Shouldn't the diner have been rich with flies?"

It's the dead of winter, so I personally would not expect that.
posted by komara at 12:43 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


The spectre of Ronald Reagan crops up again, just like that hilarious and strange opening bit on the film set. When Ed is dragging the corpse out of the bed of his truck, a Reagan campaign poster is slightly out of focus behind his shoulder.
posted by codacorolla at 3:00 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, curiosity made me go back and look what book the woman in the butchers is constantly reading is (it's easier to spot in the first ep)... and it's The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus

Camus introduces his philosophy of the absurd: man's futile search for meaning, unity, and clarity in the face of an unintelligible world devoid of God and eternal truths or values.

Very Fargo.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:38 PM on October 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Noah Hawley discusses — and annotates the script for — the scene between Hank Larsson and Mike Milligan.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:38 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is very, very good television. I frankly am a bit overwhelmed by admiration and enjoyment.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:46 AM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


What the hell kind of snowman was that? Have they even seen a snowman?
posted by Flashman at 5:59 AM on October 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


Question...At the end of the scene where Ed is burning his clothes in the fireplace, what is the object the camera pans down to inside the fireplace? I was watching from across the room on my tiny tv, and couldn't make it out. It sort of looked like a badge on the little screen.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:23 AM on October 21, 2015


I though it was a belt buckle, which perhaps will show up later and point to Ed as a suspect.
posted by bondcliff at 6:44 AM on October 21, 2015


It sort of looked like a badge on the little screen.

I'm pretty sure it was Rye's belt buckle.
posted by pitrified at 6:44 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Which is never going to feature again in the plot, no sirree.

What the hell kind of snowman was that? Have they even seen a snowman?

I'm imaging them on the set, scripts in hand, realizing that fake movie snow doesn't actually roll up into balls, and having to quickly improvise.
posted by Flashman at 10:33 AM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


What the hell kind of snowman was that? Have they even seen a snowman?

Have a heart! It's a five year old girl and a woman coming home from a chemo dose... it's never going to be full on Frosty
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:02 PM on October 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Last night, I started and then abandoned a comment about something I feel that I think three of the best television shows lately have in common -- Fargo, Rectify, and Better Call Saul. They're each fairly distinct from each other, although you could say that Fargo and BCS have a lot in common. Well, actually Rectify, too, with what I had in mind -- an ironic or absurd and understated sense of humor alongside the drama. Not that I feel that those adjectives are accurate. Fargo is at one end, though, in terms of an ironic and somewhat unreal detachment, and Rectify at the other, which is more realist, with BCS in the middle. But they all manage to have the realist drama be complemented by the ironic comedy, not undermined.

But that's not really what I intended to talk about. The main thing that comes to mind is the quality of the writing on all three shows, which is right at the top of heap. They're character-focused, but all include a great deal of plot within which the characters move. They all have superb photography, particularly Rectify and Fargo, but also BCS; and the direction and editing is always way above the merely competent and quite often at an equivalent level of artistic mastery as the writing. And none of this would count for much if the acting wasn't up to it. But it is.

They're all reasonably courageous -- I mean, these days it's not quite so extraordinary to do something highly serialized that approaches their subjects from an unusual angle. But even so.

And all of that isn't precisely what I am trying to talk about, but that it's all the stuff that's involved in a particular characteristic I notice and which is probably why this thing I'm so interested in works. It's how often there's silence, and the camera lingers on a face, and just this sense of figurative space within which we, the audience, are allowed to see deeply into characters via tiny revealing moments within these period of quiet and stillness. Lesser television (and film) believes that something very overt needs to be happening on the screen at all times, if not also actual dialog. But in these shows we get scenes like that of Ed standing motionless, in his underwear, before the fire. Long scenes like this.

I keep thinking of the word space, and that's why I abandoned my comment last night. I don't know what I mean by that word -- it seems like it's a kind of expansiveness in multiple dimensions. Even explicitly in staging and composition, but also more metaphorically in terms of silence in dialog, or of stillness in a character, or of the narrative space opened up that allows for small expressions on a character's face seen by a lingering camera. And also space in terms of narrative and psychological depth. Another example: what we've seen of Betsy Solverson. She's not actually given that much dialog, and what they show of her to us is sparse. Yet we see so much of who she is from so little. And that's because there's actually quite a bit of her there to see. But it's mostly found where other shows fill up all the space to bursting, where we'd have her explained to us explicitly in dialog, along with five other things, which we're not trusted to notice on our own.

Another example: Lou and Hank on the steps outside the diner. It's quite remarkable all the things that weren't said that another show would have made explicit. Particularly in Hank's very brief similar anecdote, after which he says very little. Neither of them do. This is in character for these character types from that culture, but it's more than that. It's also that a bare minimum of words of dialog were used to evoke a host of ideas that were implicit in those two veterans, father-in-law and son-in-law. How they think about their lives, but also about how they understand each other.

It's this kind of television that makes me so excited about television these days. It's what I wish all television could be, because while traditionally, and still most frequently, television is a light, unambitious entertainment that's expected to be, inherently, less artistically interesting than film, what we increasingly see from television is that it can become everything that great film is, but greatly expanded in length. Expanded in length in ways that both allow for the kind of depth-over-time that we get from books, but also an ongoing relationship with the work that exists over a period of time measured in days and weeks or even months and years. In my opinion, we're seeing television mature into a truly serious kind of art, in a way that cinema did long ago.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:08 PM on October 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


That's what is so great about Fargo and Better Call Saul, isn't it: the story that isn't told. The writing and acting is stellar as much for the things left unsaid.
posted by tracicle at 8:17 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Camus introduces his philosophy of the absurd: man's futile search for meaning, unity, and clarity in the face of an unintelligible world devoid of God and eternal truths or values.

Very Fargo.


I don't think I agree with this. The universe of Fargo is not absurdist or existentialist. It is not a world devoid of value; nihilism does not hold. It is hard to imagine there being a loving God in their universe, but there is value. There are true tragedies in this world as well as true victories, and justice is meted out at least on a long enough a timeline. Those who eschew decency and humility are just wrong, while those who uphold it gain and maintain, in virtue of doing so, goodness.

Fargo is a world where it is easy to be blind to what is good. It is a world in which one's actions stitch themselves together into a fate: like actions produce like effects. This leads to considerable darkness and horror for those who are themselves willing to produce darkness and horror. But for those who live simply, who accept decency and order, the result is true goodness.

At the end of the movie, Marge is just right when she says that there's more to life than money, and then later that they're doing pretty good for themselves. She's right: her family is good, and the result of this is further goodness in the form of well-ordered civility.

Any character who says (or implies) their actions do not matter--any character who might start spouting nihilism or absurdism--is a character you can bet is setting a trap around himself, and he won't realize it until it is sprung on him. This is why I'm so worried about our butcher: he really is a decent person, but he has strayed from the right path. That is the sort of thing that has consequences.
posted by meese at 7:17 PM on October 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


I take you points. However when I found out what she was reading and read up a little about the book I immediately thought of the end of the original film where Marge fails to find any ultimate reason or meaning in the crimes - why would somebody do that just for money? Grimsrud ain't saying. However she accepts it and moves on and realizes she can be satisfied without an ultimate answer to everything.

There's Evil in Fargo that is like a force of nature personified in the likes of Grimsrud and Malvo and evil in the form of fuck-ups like Lundegaard and Nygaard and Showalter and many others... and its effects are horrible and arbitrary. It almost seems that good will be overwhelmed but Law and Order keeps pushing that rock back like Sisyphus.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:53 AM on October 25, 2015


Although I watched all of season 1, it ultimately felt to flat for me and I didn't even bother watching this until it was highly recommended.

It's wonderful. Like Breaking Bad and more recently Deutschland 83, it has that live action version of a great graphic novel (would work in reverse too I'm sure) feel to it but with the depth of character that performance brings both physically and in dialog and non-dialog.

It's a huge surprise and a delight to get another great show.
posted by juiceCake at 6:58 PM on October 26, 2015


Ugh, no more UFOs, please.
posted by Monochrome at 5:55 AM on November 1, 2015


To clarify, that is the sole negative comment about this episode. Otherwise top notch. Surpasses the first.
posted by Monochrome at 7:01 AM on November 1, 2015


We're a week behind in the UK so I've just caught up on this. Fat Landry was a bit of a shock, but Jesse Plemons must win the award as the Least Vain Actor in Hollywood.
posted by essexjan at 9:16 AM on November 1, 2015


Yeah, the "burning the clothes" scene has really stuck with me: Plemons' body lit by firelight and the camera just hanging on him, drinking him in. It felt simultaneously very exposing and very loving.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:07 AM on November 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lesser television (and film) believes that something very overt needs to be happening on the screen at all times, if not also actual dialog.

Last night I saw the live taping of The Kevin Pollack Chat Show with his guest Vince Gilligan and he talked about this in relation to Fargo. KP asked him if he'd seen the show and he said he'd had seen the first season and will catch up with season two when he has time. He said he really liked it, and KP pointed out some similarities. VG said that it was because they both took their time telling the story. The instinct is to keep the person's attention, from script readers to the audience, and from commercial to commercial to act break, boom boom and you think the way to do that is to throw everything you have at them to hook them, but it's ok to let the story tell itself. I think he said the writer's strike taught him that, since they had to stop writing.

I think that is so true for Fargo. Long silences where no one talks or nothing happens. It's rare. (He talked about working with Jesse Plemons and I so wish he could comment on S2!)
posted by Room 641-A at 6:14 AM on November 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Since no one has mentioned it, I will note that "Before the Law" is a great, mysterious and probably nihilistic story by Kafka. It is very short, you can find it in its entirety here.
posted by ubiquity at 7:13 AM on December 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


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