When Patrick Wilson‘s Lou Solverson said those words, we knew the “Massacre at Sioux Falls” was imminent—the savagery we’ve long heard about since season one, finally here for us to witness. What we didn’t know was that even with the weight of expectations, this episode of Fargo would go on to become one of the greatest hours in television history.
From start to finish—beginning with Lou’s desperate pleas to Peggy and Ed to not take the shortsighted deal being offered, to the complete and total betrayal by Hanzee, the massive gunfight that was so well shot and coordinated it felt like a beautiful dance-cum-mass execution, to Lou chasing after Hanzee, Peggy, and Ed—this was as intense and engrossing as storytelling, in any form, gets. Honestly, I was still shaking and my heart was still racing fifteen minutes after it was over.
Using a narrator/historian to tell it like a legendary tale and give it context, only added to the feeling of experiencing an epic story. (Using Martin Freeman as the narrator, one of the stars of season one and owner of a delightful British accent, only made it better.) We were witnessing the culmination of a story so big—one more saga than mere story—the decision to suddenly change the presentation of the narrative felt as inspired as the story that was unfolding.
It almost doesn’t seem possible to create so much tension with a character we already know is destined to live, but there it was, in every fraught, agonizing moment with Lou Solverson. By the time he showed up at that motel I didn’t even remember his assured survival, I was too sick worrying about his safety. It takes a special kind of show and a special kind of episode to pull that off.
To be the best episode of a truly special season, it had everything you’d ever want: pathos, action, intrigue, tension, beautiful cinematography, a wonderful score. It even included an actual spaceship.
I never thought it would turn out that the blue lights that distracted Rye in episode one would turn out to be literal aliens, but here they were, a metaphor for the season becoming a tangible player in its narrative. (Note: Gerhardt boys are attracted to blue lights like bugs to a zapper, with the same results.) So what does it all mean?
The show has been developing the theme of an unseen danger all season, one where you may not know you are in trouble, and it doesn’t matter because you probably can’t beat it anyway. Yet, while “we are not alone,” the outsiders haven’t actually done any of the damage. The main characters have all been put in perilous spots, but their own actions have done them in. We are the danger; we create the threat. The aliens have just been watching—intelligent life forms shocked and awed by the cruelty of which we are capable.
The “Massacre at Sioux Falls” happened before 1979, and it’ll happen again. Can we be saved from ourselves? You can keep waiting for Dutch, but Ronald Reagan can’t help you, not when you are the threat. With one episode left it’ll be interesting to see if those two motifs are more overtly brought together.
So with only the finale to go, the Gerhardts are gone—and Mike and Kansas City didn’t even need to destroy them, they destroyed themselves. They may have been a family business, but they lacked all of the traits a family needs to be successful, like love, trust, and loyalty. Kansas City was always going to win, it was just a matter of who was left of the Gerhardts at the end. Poor Charlie in jail was the only one who was safe.
If Betsy is still alive it’s probably not for long. The question will be whether or not Lou makes it back in time to say goodbye, or if even that will be taken from him by the mounting bodies he’s had to deal with.
The major loose end is, of course, the fate of our favorite couple. Hanzee hasn’t been stopped yet, and as Lou tried to explain to Ed and Peggy, they’ve been lucky so far—but every hot streak comes to an end. Peggy may think they are “realized,” but the truth is more likely that they still don’t realize they can’t escape, “actualized” or not. Even if they don’t make it, at least Peggy got to say one of the funniest lines you’ll ever hear.
I also think we still may find out the shot in the hip during a routine traffic stop that old Lou Solverson told us about in season one, the one that forced him to retire, might have a different story behind it.
(Oh, and even though show runner Noah Hawley has already said that season three will take place chronologically after season one, we may have been given a hint or two about a future season when Ben Schmidt yelled—just like he did in season one about Sioux Falls—”It’s Rapid City all over again.” Man, Ben can’t catch a break.)
With only one episode left, it might be impossible to top this week. But if any show can do it it’s this one. It will be interesting to see how dark this season ends, even if we are looking at bright blue lights when its over for us.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Tell us in the comments below.