TV Review: Fargo: Season 2, Episode 5 (SPOILERS)
Season 2, Episode 5: The Gift of the Magi
REVIEW: Damn, how good is this show? With episode five marking the official midway point of season two's 1979-set prequel to season one, the only downside here is that there's only five more hours of Fargo to enjoy. These cable programmers are on to something with their ultra-contained ten-to-thirteen episode seasons, with no fat whatsoever on the bone. All four episodes leading up to this have been well-paced and lean, but five is possibly the most explosive installment yet.
Show-runner Noah Hawley's M.O seems to be to open each episode with unexpected gusts of violence, and this week's teaser is no slouch with Brad Garrett's scene-stealing Joe Bulo meeting his maker in a violent shoot-out with the Gerhardt clan. As usual, the gore is extreme but darkly comic, with the juxtaposition of Bulo's deer hunting party stalking their prey only to be unexpectedly slaughtered themselves. All of this is set against Ronald Reagan (as played by Bruce Campbell) giving his famous “”rendezvous with destiny” election speech.
Campbell's Reagan proves to be one of the few opportunities for levity in this tense episode. Campbell's certainly in the midst of a great run on cable, with his sharp, comical turn here as the confused Reagan (who quickly relates his Hollywood WW2 adventures to Lou's actual service in Vietnam) being a nice complement to his awesome turn on Ash vs. Evil Dead. This feels a bit like Bob Odenkirk's role in season one, although I have a feeling his appearance here might be a one-off. Nevertheless, he's great and one assumes his old Burn Notice buddy Jeffrey Donovan put him up for the gig. It's great to see Campbell getting the quality work he deserves.
But back to Fargo – this proves to be an exceedingly tense episode, with Milligan's confrontation with Dodd's traitorous daughter having a real undercurrent of menace. Even better is Charlie's attempt to kill Ed, with him opting out in order to spare Ed's cute Camus'-quoting co-worker, Doreen. Charlie's attempt to get the drop on him later goes badly awry, with Ed once again proving how adept he is at killing, making short-work of Dodd's enforcer in order to save Doreen, who convinces him to not only spare but save Charlie. It'll be interesting to see what the payoff is here, but Ed and Peg (Kirsten Dunst) are proving to be much more sympathetic than Lester Nygaard proved to me in season one, with Peg even coming through with the money for Lou's butcher shop – only to see his dreams go up in flames. Hopefully they''ll have a better outcome.
In the end, I'd say this has been all-around my favorite episode of the season so far, although there's still half of the season to go. There's no doubt that by the time season two ends we'll have seen one hell of a story. Between this and The Knick we're really being spoiled in the quality TV department right now.