“Sisyphean” doesn’t even begin to describe Dodd, Lou, Mike, Joe, and Skip’s futile searches for Rye Gerhardt, the dead man around whom Season 2 of Fargo has thus far revolved. There’s a wonderful irony to the efforts of these men, with their connections to law and organized crime all being foiled by the ostensibly innocent (prior to her hit and run, anyway) Peggy. All of the guns, money, and connections to the powers that be can’t help them find what they’re looking for, and the futility is due to Peggy’s seemingly happenstance action.
“The Myth of Sisyphus” sets up the first of these doomed quests over a breakfast meeting between Joe and Mike, but only after a conversation about the challenges of getting shampoo out of one’s hair with the “goddamned Northern water.” After a hilarious climax to their back and forth involving Mike touching Joe’s hair at his request, they move onto their “real” business: getting the Gerhardts to agree to their takeover plan. Mike and Joe still want to track down Rye, but Joe reveals his crucial discovery of the murder, adding another wrinkle to the situation. They still don’t know everything about Rye’s fate, of course, although their realization suggests that they may be getting closer to the truth.
Also learning more about Rye are Hank and Lou, as Hank discovers the dead man’s fingerprints on the gun Betsy found (even though Hank credits the find to Lou). Lou gets the news as he makes his way to Luverne, where he gets led around by the Gerhardt-controlled Ben Schmidt. Their conversation about the case soon breaks into a reminiscence about serving in Vietnam, which, given the Coens-inspired context, can’t help but echo The Big Lebowski’s Walter Sobchak. As with the tangential shampoo lead-in to Mike and Joe’s discussion of their plan, writer Bob DeLaurentis seamlessly weaves the digression in with the plot-oriented conversation, developing the characters’ relationship without distracting from the plot.
The tangent works in part due to the momentum built by Hank’s discovery, and his incorrect attribution gets echoed nicely as Betsy gets her hair cut in Peggy’s salon. Betsy’s intuition is proven right once again, as she correctly discerns the circumstances around Rye’s death, making Peggy understandably uncomfortable. Her discomfort leads her to Ed at work, where she informs him of their dirty secret getting closer to being revealed. A tracking shot of them crossing the street is nicely punctuated by Ed’s discovery of Rye’s wanted poster, and the stunned look on his face (beautifully conveyed by Jesse Plemons) expresses his epiphany about the threat they face.
Ed and Peggy have to do something, and she recommends purposefully crashing the car for insurance fraud, a trick learned from her alcoholic uncle. After he unconvincingly asserts his desire to “man up” and instigate the collision, black ice gets in his way, creating an “accident” but also leaving Ed with whiplash. Still, Peggy is determined to stick with her plan, suggesting that they claim that she crashed the car into their garage door. Given how fate has treated these two thus far, it’s hard to imagine her plan going too well.
But regardless of where they’re heading, any tragic end they might eventually meet won’t come before the one suffered by Skip, Ed’s rival in impotence. When looking for Rye, he gets surprised by Simone, who echoes Mike’s torture-by-tie last week in her leading of him to “fun.” As he soon finds out, her idea of fun is different from his, presuming he doesn’t enjoy getting buried under concrete. Fortunately for us, (at least those of us who don’t mind our humor with a sadistic streak), his death makes for a darkly hilarious sight. Gallows humor is a trademark of just about all of the Coens’ work (and Fargo in particular), and Noah Hawley and his writers have done a brilliant job of coming up with gags worthy of their show’s namesake.
The murder brings a violent conclusion to Skip’s search for Rye, even if, like Sisyphus, he pursues a task without an objective. It remains to be seen how the other hunts for Rye will go, but all evidence thus far at least suggests that they’ll make for great television.
Max Bledstein (@mbled210) is a Montreal-based writer, musician and world-renowned curmudgeon. He writes on all things culture for a variety of fine North American publications. His highly anticipated debut novel will write itself one of these days, he assumes.