Following Fargo S2 E9: The Castle


Hanzee spying on the local police in Fargo.

Warning, this review contains spoilers from this episode, as well as from following ones.

For those who didn’t see it:

Ed and Peg are caught by the police in the cabin, where the local police Captain offers a deal with them. For a lesser sentence, they can help them ambush Mike Milligan when he comes to meet Ed. Lou strongly advises against it (knowing it could only end in a bloodbath), so he’s escorted out of state.

Hanzee figures out what the police are up to, and starts to make plans of his own.

For those who did see it:

Ever since Keith Carradine’s Lou was introduced in season 1, the Sioux Falls Massacre has been being hyped up. This episode (directed by Adam Arkin, interesting choice) is even narrated by Martin Freeman like a book on bizarre true crimes. Although it’s a good narration and fits the vibe well, it’s kind of useless. All it tells us is build up the massacre even more, and that the events leading up to Sioux Falls Massacre were random and unexplainable.

For all the bloodshed that’s been going on, it’s hard to imagine what could possibly live up to the almost mythological hype surrounding it. How big could it really be?

The last 20 minutes of The Castle answer that, and proves that Fargo does not use the term “massacre” lightly. The event easily doubles or triples the already high body count, and also wipes out the rest of the few remaining Gerhardts.

Ed tells the police he’s meeting Milligan at a motel nearby, so the entire police force secretly hide out there, wiretapping the rooms in preparation of an ambush on Milligan. Hanzee spots this, and tells the Gerhardts that it’s the Kansas City syndicate hiding there and that Dodd is still alive. Our helpful narrator tells us it’s unknown why Hanzee betrayed the family like this (thanks Martin Freeman, couldn’t have figured that one out without you).

Meanwhile Lou has been escorted out of the state by the local police do to the fact he kept telling them not to go through with the ambush. The local police are frustratingly ignorant, and unfortunately Lou is too good of a person to just turn around and let them screw up. He heads back, but not before trying to call Betsy and check up on her. This leads to one of the show’s most devastating moments, as we see Betsy take a turn for the worst and collapse in her own house (perfectly set to the Dr Hook song Sylvia’s Mother). The gut punch comes not only from that, but the fact Lou heads back not knowing his wife may be dead shortly.

So Gerhardts send all of their men to the hotel at night for an ambush, not knowing dozens of armed cops are waiting there instead expecting one Mike Milligan, and you can see where the body count will skyrocket.

Once the Gerhardts kick down the hotel doors, everything hits the fan. The cops starting getting shot since they’re off their guard, but quickly find their guns and return fire, causing a huge shootout. Lou catches the tail end of it. He shoots Bear a couple of times, but Bear seems to be indestructible in a fit of rage knowing his family’s been betrayed. He tackles Lou and starts to strangle him. Hank gets shot in the gut by Hanzee, who then has boiling water splashed on him by Peg and Ed who try to run away. As all of this goes down…

A UFO appears.

This is probably going to be the dividing moment in the show for most people, where it either becomes great or terrible. I think it’s a great moment. Like the raining fish in season 1’s white out shootout, it’s an event that cannot be explained, and just happens to occur at a time of extreme bloodshed. It also gives Peg one of her best lines:

Ed: (In baffled amazement) “Are you seeing all of this?”

Peg: (Dismissively) “Yeah, hon, it’s just a flyin’ saucer. Let’s go.”

I also couldn’t help but notice that Bear became the second Gerhardt son (behind Rye) who was killed because he was distracted by a UFO (Lou shoots him in the head while he’s distracted).

I don’t really know of anything Adam Arkin has ever directed, so it was surprising to see how well he handled everything in the episode. Between the shootout and the UFO, we also lost the rest of the Gerhardt family with Hanzee stabbing Floyd at the hotel. Yet Arkin handled it all smoothly, like he’s done it a hundred times before. So with 90% of our main cast seemingly gone (fingers crossed Hank makes it out OK), here’s hoping that Arkin can stick the landing with the finale.