Whereas last week’s “Did you do this? No, you did it!” keeps Ed and Peggy offscreen until the tag, focusing on the rest of the ensemble, “Loplop” takes the opposite approach, filling in the gaps between Peggy’s tasering of Dodd and Ed’s call to a blood-stained Mike. The results prove no less compelling than the previous episode’s concentration on the rest of the ensemble, demonstrating the depth of the characters and story in Fargo’s increasingly remarkable second season.
“Loplop” gives particular attention to exploration of Peggy’s psychology, beginning in the first scene, in which she imagines a therapist asking her, “Have you actualized fully?” Even if he’s not real, her growing independence is, and the scene reflects her development without feeling too heavy handed. Kirsten Dunst has been key in building the character, conveying Peggy’s wide-eyed innocence without disregarding her self-determination.
In contrast to the therapist, Dodd is very much real, and he wakes up from his taser-induced stupor not very happy about his situation. Unmoved by Peggy’s contemplation of “the difference between thinking and being,” he calls her crazy but can’t get too many thoughts out before Ed sucker punches him. A crane shot shows the strange bedfellows driving away, followed shortly thereafter by Lou and Hank arriving at the Blumquists’ home just a bit too late. Hanzee misses the couple as well, but he doesn’t miss the letter informing Constance of her hotel reservation, giving him a clue as to where to find Ed and Peggy.
The growing disconnect between the couple becomes clearer and clearer as they drive away with Dodd: a bit too clear, in fact. While the use of split screen throughout the season has often been effective, it over emphasizes Ed and Peggy’s gulf. She’s giddy over becoming “actualized,” he fears the threats facing them, and the gap is more than evident enough without the characters being shown in separate frames.
As obvious as their divergence becomes during the car ride, Ed and Peggy’s respective behavior as they arrive at a cabin belonging to someone named Uncle Grady makes the distance even more overt. Peggy’s self-determination leads her to give Dodd a much deserved stabbing and tease him by going between withholding food and force-feeding him, punishing Dodd for berating her with misogynistic insults. Ed, on the other hand, feels overwhelmed by anxiety from the cops and criminals chasing him, and the looming shot of a faceless cop (while he calls the Gerhardt compound) perfectly reflects his paranoia. The conflict between the couple comes to a head as Ed arrives home to Peggy sitting teasingly close to Dodd, with the husband hilariously reprimanding his wife by saying, “Hon, you gotta stop stabbing him.”
Hanzee, meanwhile, looms in the rapidly diminishing distance, as he arrives at a bar with a plaque bragging about the lynching of “22 Sioux Indians” with puke underneath it. Inside, the bartender and patrons are no more hospitable, mocking Hanzee with racist jokes about Wounded Knee. As offensive as their statements are, Hanzee soon gets revenge by shooting the patrons in the kneecaps, murdering the bartender, and killing a pair of cops as collateral damage. The juxtaposition of Hanzee’s violence with the racism at the beginning of the scene contextualizes his actions, framing them as reactions to discrimination rather than ad hominem attacks.
After the violent diversion, Hanzee returns to his real mission: tracking down Ed and Peggy. He finds Constance’s hotel, keeping a mortifying grasp on her as she tries and fails to lure Peggy in an effort to appease him. She’s become “actualized” to the point where she can’t be tempted by the offer of self-help material, saving herself (at least for the time being) in the process. By contrast, “Loplop” leaves us to guess Constance’s fate, but the murderous look in Hanzee’s eyes doesn’t bode well for her.
Of course, as much progress as Peggy’s made, she’s still not above being enraptured by a fictional World War II film. In the romantic, courageous male lead, she sees the ideal she’s been missing with Ed, and the fantasy engages her thoroughly enough for Dodd to free himself and prepare a noose trap for Ed.
Being Ed, he walks right into it, giving Peggy the opportunity to be yet another Fargo female character saving a male character from his own stupidity. The violent final act feels a bit over the top, especially with the bizarre juxtaposition of Hanzee demanding a haircut, but it’s hard to argue with Dodd getting his long deserved fate. Jeffrey Donovan has been an excellent villain this season, and his final exhortations of “mongrel” and “half-breed” give the character an appropriate parting image.
Will Ed and Peggy get what they deserve? What do they deserve, exactly? The last two episodes will presumably provide some sort of answer, as “Loplop” ends on a gripping cliffhanger showing Hanzee escaping and Hank and Lou arriving at the cabin. The skittish percussion music with which the episode begins and ends ratchets up the tension, leaving anticipation high for the conclusion soon to come.
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.