Fargo – Send in the Undertaker
The Undertaker is coming for more than Mike Milligan in the Fargo episode “Did You Do This? No, You Did It!” Impending death looms over both the deserving and undeserving, as Betsy faces down death with a shotgun, Simone begs for one more chance, and Floyd cuts a deal to spare what’s left of her family from “the ground.”
Floyd, the Gerhardt materfamilias, bypasses an official undertaker by giving Otto a homemade burial. In a nod to her fidelity, she drapes his coffin with her bridal gown, while Simone tosses Rye’s belt buckle into an oversized plot, completing the double funeral. Lou Solverson and Benjamin “Shit Cop” Schmidt escort Floyd to the station. They leave Bear behind to manage Dodd’s disappearance with support from his man from Buffalo. Floyd chooses a new path through the war by feeding the police information about her KC rivals. Bear’s conversation later with Simone suggests that this type of subterfuge has not been the Gerhardt’s “way” in the past. In this case, as in others, Floyd puts men into action. She has yet to get her hands dirty, though she could if pressed.
Betsy, materfamilias of her own small family, returns home to find two extra pairs of boots in her entryway. As mothers, she and Floyd are not that removed from one another, and when Betsy silently loads a shotgun and begins searching her house for intruders, one can easily imagine Floyd doing the same. Betsy finds Karl and Sonny doing their Walter-and-Donny act in her kitchen. Lou sent them there to watch over her, though Betsy has never needed coddling. Later she confesses to a drunken Karl that she will lose her stoic battle with cancer because the doctors armed her with sugar pills instead of Xanadu. Betsy adds that Lou was supposed to marry her sister Lenore, whose very name portends death (“the ghost of lost Lenore”), but ended up with Betsy the “dud.” Far from it. This tiny woman, who “dream[s] of having chickens someday,” exhibits more strength than Mike Milligan’s entire army. She wants anyone—whether Karl or a new wife—to look out for her family: anyone, that is, except Rhonda Knutsen. If Rhonda is any relation to Fawn, then Betsy shows her usual good judgment.
Simone Gerhardt, Fargo’s own version of Fawn Knutsen, flirts with independence from her family. After her grandmother slaps her across the face for declaring that Dodd and the others are “just men,” she drives straight to Mike Milligan, having learned nothing from his murderous raid on her home. Milligan calls her a “little girl” and moves to eliminate her. Lou and Schmidt save Simone from Mike and what’s left of the Kitchen brothers. Simone, wearing a long coat similar to feminist Maude Lebowski’s robe, knows the end is near. She tells a wounded Schmidt, “If I’m goin’ to the noose, I’m goin’, but I’m done lying down for men.” Then, for all her bluster she foolishly climbs into a truck with Uncle Bear, who is not as dumb as he looks. He cannot forgive her for whatever part she played in his son Charlie’s corruption and her traitorous collusion with Milligan.
Simone defends herself by disparaging Dodd and making a reference to her father’s sexual abuse – “You don’t even want to think about what he does when you’re not around.” Dodd’s preoccupation with his daughter’s body (note the scenes where he calls her a whore and leers at her) confirms Simone’s claim that “I’m the victim here.” Floyd’s earlier slap suggests that Simone would not find a sympathetic ear in her grandmother if shared this information. Simone collapses under the weight of her own victimhood as she begs Bear to spare her life. A mournful rendition of “Danny Boy” indicates that he kills her and loses what’s left of his soul in the process. The lack of blood spatter and a corpse, however, leaves the door open for Bear to have spared Simone’s life. Bear’s destruction of his own cast, an act of self-loathing, easily points to two different outcomes: that he did not have the courage to kill Simone, or that he did.
Ed Blumquist has the stomach for killing and more. Floyd’s assessment of Ed rings true. He has been one of those “sleeper agents” plodding through an ordinary life only to be awakened by his own murderous tendencies. Snuffing out Rye’s life and then feeding his body into a wood chipper meat grinder emboldens Ed, teaching him that his skill set goes beyond cutting and weighing beef shanks and chicken thighs. He brazenly reaches out to the Gerhardts and then to Mike Milligan, hoping to trade Dodd for a ticket out of cold country. Somewhere along the way Ed has become the Butcher of Luverne.
Mike Milligan, another butcher of sorts, prepares to face the Undertaker to the sounds of “Oh Death” from Oh Brother. At some point he faced his own awakening, realizing that no matter how many books he reads or how many speeches he quotes, men like the Kansas City boss will still see him as an incompetent “darkie.” Milligan proves to be smarter and cooler than his detractors. He ambushes the Undertaker and outmaneuvers his KC boss, proving the Lebowski lesson that while “Sometimes there’s a man . . .” in this case Milligan rises as “the man for his time and place.”
A final montage of Gerhardts both dead and alive leaves the door open for Simone’s return either to put a bullet through her father’s skull, or more likely, to turn tricks on the streets of The Dude’s Los An-gel-ees to the grooves of “Just Dropped In.” Whether or not Bear, as the song says, “pushed [his] soul in a deep dark hole and then . . . followed it in,” by murdering her, remains to be seen. Ed, Dodd, and Mike bring us one step closer to Sioux Falls, while Betsy asks Lou to “come home soon.” The undertaker is on his way.
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