It’s the way the world works. The status quo inevitably shifts, and as that shifting happens, the old slowly splits apart, strong bonds torn and withered until the individual pieces that are left get washed away. It’s this inevitability that we hate to look at. We want to believe that we have free will and agency in our own lives, that we can create something on our own, but how much of our existence is dictated by outside forces? How much of our own lives are out of our control, dictated by socioeconomic status, by race, by gender, by how well we fit in or our willingness to evolve?
Fargo’s “’Did You Do This? No, You Did It!’” focuses intently on the infighting within the Gerhardt family and how pointing fingers splits apart the bonds they once had. It positioned this infighting as a sort of inevitability, not that all families inevitably split apart, but that this family is built on a structure of the past, and with the fall of that structure comes the fall of the family. The Gerhardts here are weaker than ever before, with Otto dead after the Gerhardt family home was shot up by Milligan and his men. Bear, reeling after the incarceration of his son, something that was influenced by Dodd’s intervention, ends up taking his anger out on Simone, killing her for her disloyalty towards the family.
Simone’s death is the centerpiece of the episode, mirroring another famous death from The Sopranos in how inevitable it feels and how it’s done in the middle of the forest, only the wintery wastes as witness. It’s a remarkable sequence in that Simone slowly comes to understand what’s happening, but doesn’t really realize the finality of it until she’s on her knees in the snow. It’s as Lou said a couple episodes previous, that you don’t see the inevitability of your fate until its upon you, and Simone doesn’t see her own death until the gun is pointed right at her. But most interesting is how Bear hesitates, how he lowers his gun for a moment before saying that “It’s already done”. For a moment, he considers how not killing Simone would mean breaking a cycle that has been set in motion ever since Otto Gerhardt took over the crime syndicate all those years ago. But he gives in to the inevitable, asserting that there’s nothing he can do now. Inevitability and social forces can dictate our actions, but if we give in to them, how can we expect to ever break free? There’s some ability to exercise free will in our lives, but how do we actualize it? It’s something that Bear can’t figure out, and when he smashes his cast on the car, it’s less about killing Simone as it is mourning his own inevitability. He can see the end, and he knows he won’t make it through.
But this is only a small part of the episode. The rest of the episode focuses on Milligan’s assertion that the Kansas City Syndicate is the future (and the violence he utilizes to ensure he’s a part of that future), as well as the police attempting to inject themselves into the war. The entire season has largely pushed the police to the sidelines, as the police are a symbol of the status quo and are pushed aside during the tumultuous changing of that status quo. Hank tries to flip Floyd, pushing her to inform, if only to save her family from Kansas City. It works, as Floyd is becoming increasingly desperate now that Dodd is in the wind (though it turns out he’s in the back of Ed’s car). Floyd knows that the police are much more willing to work with her than Kansas City, so she uses that mutual desire to enforce the status quo in order to partner up with the police.
Milligan is a character that hasn’t been heavily characterized up until now, but this episode smartly takes a step back to show us just what is motivating him. It’s important that he’s a black man, and it’s important to note how he was called a racial epithet by one of his superiors. Just like Simone and Floyd are often pushed aside because of their gender, he’s somebody that can easily be pushed aside because of his race. The only reason that Floyd is still standing is because she has the authority to have others kill on her behalf, and the only reason that Milligan is left standing is because he’s willing to kill. He exists in constant struggle, trying to enforce the new status quo, but fighting an uphill battle because his superiors don’t respect him. So he ends up killing his replacement, The Undertaker, because he isn’t ready to give up his place in that new status quo. It goes to show that when you’re at a disadvantage, sometimes force is the only way to even the odds.
While “’Did You Do This? No, You Did It’” is an episode that takes a step back from the frenetic pace of “The Gift of the Magi” and “Rhinoceros”, it’s even more brooding, showing us the slow decline of the current status quo and the fight to stay ahead of the change. The middle segment with Simone’s death was one of the smarter scenes the show has ever done, cutting to the dead trees and the snow as a way of showing us the fruits of inevitability, what the Gerhardts will eventually become. Because people like Bear and Floyd, people so entrenched in the status quo that they have no way to be a part of what comes next, they’re simply being phased out. They’re of no use to the new society that’s forming. It’s the way we treat our elders, phasing them out of their work, leaving them behind, putting them in homes when they can’t function on their own.
Because in America, we need a function of our own, one that’s worth something to the new status quo, or we’ll be pushed aside and left in the wilderness to waste away.
What did you think of the episode? Who do you think is going to end up dead next? Let me know in the comments!