The eighth episode of “Fargo” Season 2, entitled “Loplop” aired last night on FX. What follows is a Minnesota-centric review that contains spoilers.
This year, “Fargo” takes us to Southwestern Minnesota in 1979, the same year I was born on the other side of the state. A small town family crime syndicate based in Fargo is under siege from a larger, corporate mob looking to expand. Events draw in innocent bystanders and noble cops across the border in Minnesota to test the mettle of every character, each quite literally under fire.
Here at MinnesotaBrown.com, I provide specific Minnesota color commentary on each episode of “Fargo.” I use a ratings scale of “Oh, ya!” for the best moments, ranging down though “Pretty Good,” “Could Be Worse,” and the ultimate Minnesota dismissal, “Interesting,” for the most baffling elements.
Oh, jeez, art history now? “Fargo” writer Noah Hawley had this journalism school pretender cramming a lot more about German surrealist Max Ernst last night than a fella probably should. The episode was called “Loplop,” a reference to the bird-like alter-ego and frequent subject of Ernst’s Dadaist works. Guy thought he was a bird, see.
But see, who’s to judge? Maybe that Ernst fella was a man bird?
This episode poses some deep questions about self-identity and the way people blow like sand across the rocks of good and evil. Practically speaking, “Loplop” essentially rewound a few days to replay the action of last week from the point of view of different characters. We see Peggy (Kirsten Dunst) in her basement with Dodd Gerhardt (Jeffrey Donovan) all tied up. Only Peggy doesn’t see Dodd. Peggy is talking to some kind of therapist or self-help guru (the guy from the conference she’s about to miss in Sioux Falls?) She’s chattering away with him, exploring the nature of being.
“Have you actualized, fully?” asks the man. I was half expecting him to add “you know,” the way Peggy does. Peggy is obsessed with the question, but doesn’t know the answer. “Think or be. You can’t do both,” says the man. Peggy thinks that makes a lot of sense, but then proceeds to ignore the rule, immediately overthinking once again.
Of course, this is all in Peggy’s head. A very confused Fargo mobster is listening to her half of this conversation in stunned silence. Ed (Jesse Plemons) comes home, to be informed by Dodd that his wife is nuts. We’ve already established that Ed is willing to ignore this fact.
The pair speed away with Dodd in the trunk of his own car. Finally moving in the same direction, “Fargo” still brilliantly portrays Ed and Peggy in their own “frame,” each talking past each other, focused on their own priorities — Peggy on herself, Ed on survival.
They’re headed to a hideout to avoid being noticed. Ed refers to his Uncle Grady’s “hunting cabin” near Canistota, South Dakota, just southwest of Sioux Falls. Here’s a fun Midwestern fact for you. In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan people generally call these things hunting “cabins” or “camps.” In Minnesota, people generally call them hunting “shacks.” Now, I’m not sure how that would have played in 1979 just over the border in South Dakota, but my guess is that “shack” would be proper usage here. Could be worse.
This is a big episode for Hanzee (Zahn McClarnon), the Dakota assassin and scout who works for the Gerhardt family. In looking for Ed and Peggy he checks out a bar near Sioux Falls. A commemorative plaque hangs on the wall out back declaring this the place where 22 Dakota were hanged. Below the plaque, a drunk had recently barfed. It’s an upsetting sight for Hanzee. If you knew regional history you’d immediately recall the 38 Dakota men were hanged in Mankato amid the U.S.-Dakota war of 1862. After that conflict, the Dakota people were expelled from their home state of Minnesota for generations, and were later — as you might recall from an earlier episode — sent to boarding schools as children to have their culture beat out of them … just like what happened to Hanzee.
Hanzee goes inside to query the bartender, immediately suspecting that the man spit in his glass of water. The bartender begins giving him the business, a stew of typical racist attitudes about Indians. Hanzee tries to stay classy and then leaves. But when three bar punks follow him to create trouble, taunting him in the parking lot, he responds violently. He shoots out the knees of a couple of the goons, then goes BACK IN THE BAR to shoot the offending owner, then kills the two cops who show up in response to the call. Another example of how you shouldn’t mess with Hanzee.
I’ve read some opinions that this was a little too over-the-top in playing the “racist” card. Why wouldn’t a pro like Hanzee be more adjusted to that kind of stuff? Well, there is such a thing reaching a breaking point. This episode is actually a fairly accurate understanding of the overt racism toward Dakota and Ojibwa people in this area during the 1970s. Hanzee is a human, and he’s smart. He knows his employers are on their way out and that his life, such as it was, is also nearing its end. As he leaves the scene, we know Hanzee is on his own now, something all too obvious when we see him later. Oh, ya!
We go back to the hunting “cabin” where Ed and Peggy have Dodd tied up. Ed is trying to reach the Gerhardts on the pay phone at the nearby gas station to bargain their lives for Dodd. As we learned last week, he isn’t getting through to Bear or Floyd so he has to try many times. Peggy ends up spending a lot of time with Dodd, much to Dodd’s chagrin. We know he doesn’t like women very much, and Peggy is a manifestation of everything he hates about them. But she’s not having his misogynistic act. When he won’t shape up, she gives him to good stabs in the chest with a kitchen knife, careful to avoid the organs. She offers him beans, which he declines. She feeds him beans anyway. When he decides he likes the beans, she stops feeding him and eats the beans in front of him. This all seems pretty cold, but it’s not clear that Peggy realizes she’s even DOING this. She is a ball of nerves and reactions, living alone in her own mind.
Some might have enjoyed the scene where Dodd has to go to the bathroom. They can’t untie him, too dangerous. Ed suggests he pee his pants, but neither he nor Peggy have the heart to actually make him do that. This leads to a painfully awkward scene where Ed has to assist Dodd to whiz into a kitchen pot. Peggy offers to help, but Ed and Dodd both say “NO!” at once: Ed because it’s his his wife and another man’s member; Dodd because he has ever reason to believe that Peggy will harm that member irreparably. Pretty good, on account of those parts being not for touching even under the circumstances.
We learn from Ed’s interactions with the gas station owner that it is an exceptionally warm March, the first overt reference to a date that I can recall this season. Now, perhaps this is Noah Hawley’s way of explaining why he’s digging so many winter graves. It’s warm, see? Yeah, March is still a little early for frost to go out, though. Even if it’s nice out. But I see what you did there. I’m upgrading winter graves from Interesting to Could be worse.
Back in the cabin, Peggy is watching some old movie, a WWII picture about a young couple fleeing a sinister Nazi officer. The man valiantly offers to shield the woman from the Nazi’s gun. Just as they emerge from the bunker, the Nazi is gunned from behind by — you guessed it — Ronnie “Dutch” Reagan. More than a callback, we also see the “dead” Nazi get up after Reagan and the couple run away. He’s not dead? It was an interesting way to convey the notion that dead things are not dead. For that is the precise moment Peggy realizes that Dodd is free. Oh, ya!
The final scene is bananas. Ed finally connected with Mike Milligan of the Kansas City mob. (If the Gerhardts won’t take the call, he will). He schedules a meeting at a Sioux Falls motel. After arranging to delver him Dodd in exchange for protection, Ed comes back to the cabin to be strung up by Dodd, who proceeds to hang Ed from the rafters. While he’s monologuing about the evils of women, he, of course, overlooks the deadly threat of Peggy waking up from her knock to the head. She stabs his foot, stalling Dodd long enough for her to find something bigger to hit him with. We feel the taut seconds as she looks for something to use to cut Ed down from the noose. Just as they again contain Dodd (who appears to be paralyzed this time), in walks Hanzee.
“Shoot him you half-breed,” Dodd bellows. Yeah, wrong time to be racist, Dodd. Hanzee gives Dodd the fate we all knew he was due. Oh, ya!
Hanzee doesn’t want to kill Ed or Peggy. He wants a haircut. He wants to escape and never look back. “I’m tired of this life,” Hanzee says.
There is a touching moment where Hanzee trusts Peggy to wield scissors near his head. Of course, right then, Lou and Hank arrive to bust up the party. Hanzee shoots at Lou, who survives thanks to a well-placed tree. Peggy — again, almost outside of herself — stabs Hanzee in the neck. He flees. Lou storms in to find Ed and Peggy, hands up, wearing the nervous smiles of Minnesotans who have a pot of pee still standing warm in the sink.
So, back to Loplop. What does the name of this episode mean? Well, check out this 1937 painting by the aforementioned Max Ernst from his Loplop series:
This painting was Ernst’s reaction to the rampaging evils of fascism in pre-WWII Europe. We see Loplop storming the lands, spawning new demons from its body. See how deeply this connects to the 1979 world of “Fargo?” This is Hanzee. This is Milligan. This is Kansas City. This is the coming of the 1980s. This image might well be a visual representation of the ethos of Fargo’s entire second season. Horrors on the march! Who will stop them? Lou, the cop from Luverne? Is it even possible to stop these evil forces? Or will they just stomp themselves out, everyone receiving what’s coming to them in the end — just as Bear Gerhardt foretold last week.
We’ll find out.
Aaron J. Brown is a northern Minnesota author and radio producer. He wrote “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range,” an earnest, humorous look at the people, history and culture of the unique rural-industrial landscape of northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He is the producer, writer and host of the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio, a Northern Minnesota traveling comedy and music variety show. A columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune, his work also appears in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio and The Daily Yonder.