“Think, or be.”
Where does one start with an episode such as “Loplop?” That’s a vague way to open up a review, but no less vague than the inner mind of Peggy Blomquist, who finally began the process of “self-actualization” and realized she needs to stop thinking and just start being.
Knowing that Peggy speaks to an imaginary therapist helps us understand everything and nothing. Her actions somehow make sense now, but the reasonings are entirely absurd. She’s delusional. She’s trying to be the best Peggy she can be (“Positive Peggy!”) while navigating between two rival mob gangs and holding Dodd Gerhardt hostage. These aren’t easy circumstances to try and find your inner self, but Peggy makes the best of it, encouraging Dodd to learn some manners with the pointy end of a steak knife.
“Loplop” somehow manages to ground all of its characters, Peggy included, while everything else spirals out of control. It works because Peggy is acting like, well, Peggy, and she and Ed are doing their darndest to get out of their situation. It would be endearing if they weren’t so nuts. Hanzee is also caught in a whirlwind of violence and madness, but not without his personal reasons.
Power is a bland theme to discuss, but “Loplop” works because it plays with the fickleness of it all, shifting power dynamics from scene to scene. It was clear halfway through the episode that the tables would keep turning until the final minute and someone was left staring down the barrel of a gun. Even then, the resolution that the episode gives us is essentially meaningless to the viewer. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but it’s meaningless in the sense that we just can’t make sense of it. If anyone can accurately predict what’s going to happen in the final two episodes, they should be playing the lottery.
Let’s follow how the entire episode shifted in ways it seems it shouldn’t have. Ed and Peggy capture Dodd, which is fine. They’ve proven themselves delusional enough to try and get away with something like that. Ed can’t get in contact with the Gerhardts, putting their entire plan into jeopardy. Meanwhile, Hanzee is on their trail shooting up a bar in Sioux Falls on the way for no obvious reason other than a combination of PTSD and a lifetime of racist hate. Busting the knee caps of the guys who followed him outside the bar is one thing, but then he goes back inside the bar just to finish off the bartender, then kills two more cops.
Somehow in the absurd world of Fargo, you can call these justified murders. For a character like Hanzee, it is absolutely in line with his history and the themes of the show. He’s a Vietnam veteran himself. Remember way back in the second episode when Hank and Lou discussed the realization that the war might have been brought back home when it ended? This is Hanzee. This is that distant whirlwind of chaos and violence brought home and manifested in someone who was here long before any of these white dudes. He’s a nasty reflection of all the hate and horrors in the world, and he is capable of broad daylight shootings as much as he is at instilling subtle terror, like an arm draped around Constance.
But back to the power struggles. Ed finally manages to get a hold of the other side, contacting Mike Milligan, much to his relief. All power shifts to Kansas City for a moment as it looks like the Gerhardts are finally done in and Mike Milligan is back on top after almost being replaced by the Undertaker. Then Ed returns only to find Dodd has escaped. Swinging at the end of a noose, Ed has every reason to die here until Peggy fights back again, thanks to Dodd’s misogynistic underestimation of women in general. Then enter Hanzee, who upon being insulted by Dodd immediately, puts a bullet in his head. Then enter Lou and Hank, who are left with Ed and Peggy as Hanzee escapes.
We’ll backtrack to unpack some of that in a moment, but I’d like to point out the use of this episode’s split-screen. It’s been a bit of an enigma since the season began, serving sometimes as a way to cleverly compress time, other times as a unique choice of aesthetic, but here it clearly expresses these power relationships. It starts with the car, Ed and Peggy being split even though they’re already side by side. The show goes out of its way to give them their own separate, but equal, spaces. Yeah, they’re on separate lines of thinking, but they’re both even, butting against each other neutrally.
Compare this to its next use. Peggy is on the phone with Constance as Hanzee has his arm around her neck. Peggy is smooshed, pushed up against the frame, while Hanzee and Constance dominate the image. Ed interrupts in the middle, briefly evening the playing field, slightly in favor of Peggy, as he attempts to contact the Gerhardts again, which then fails and he dissolves.
We see a similar situation again when Ed is on the phone with Milligan. Ed, on the defensive with no other cards to play, is cramped in the phone booth while Mike and the remaining Kitchen brother take up the rest of the frame. Ed is essentially saving Mike here (“If I kiss you when we meet, would that be inappropriate?”), but as we saw at the end of last week, Mike is just as unpredictable and formidable as Hanzee. It’s an uncomfortable use of the split screen that effectively creates more tension, while telling you who’s really in charge at the same time.
There’s one more chunk we have to analyze, which gets back to the heart of Fargo’s second season. Right before Lou enters the cabin and before he kills Dodd, Hanzee asks Peggy to cut his hair. It’s a bizarre request, kind of funny, but entirely sincere. He wants something professional. “Tired of this life,” he laments, simply, as she poises the scissors over his hair. There’s great tension in the actual act of cutting, as if Peggy holds the power to tame the chaos and the violence that Hanzee brought. She has the power to change him, and we hope the ability to end the destruction as well. Before she can fulfill his request, they are interrupted by Lou, which sends Hanzee fleeing into the wilderness again, back out into the world the same man he was.
Fargo has achieved a lot with season two, and despite all the analysis, “Loplop” was an incredibly fun ride that unfolded chaos in a way that was logical for the world and the characters. There’s only two episodes left, but none of the tension shows signs of winding down anytime soon. Hanzee killing Dodd is arguably the shocker of the episode, even though one might have seen it coming as the episode drew to a close. How this will affect the Gerhardt and Kansas City relationship moving forward is anyone’s guess. Then again, absurdity has always been at the heart of this season. It’s only fitting if we’re pulled in a few different directions right up until the end.
Odds and Ends:
- No UFO stuff going on this week, that I noticed anyway.
- We took a break from a lot of characters this week, so any potential Simone revelations have only two episodes to work with.
- “Hon, you’ve got to stop stabbing him.”
- “Yeah, she scares me more than you so…I’m gonna call.” – Patrick Wilson didn’t have much to do this episode but still made the best of it.
- Milligan certainly has been having “a day.” I wonder if we’ll ever see him and Hanzee cross paths before this is all done.
- Yes, that was the fake Ronald Reagan film “Operation Eagles Nest” that Peggy was so transfixed with.
- Dodd definitely needed a bullet to the head, but Jeffrey Donovan gets some great last moments. His wide eyes sold it all.
Steve likes writing about Fargo. He’s on Twitter.