The idea behind Fargo is that people want something different for their lives, but simply don’t have the resources to obtain it. Maybe they grew up in a place where the level of achievement they personally desire isn’t what is socially normal. Maybe they’re born into a deficit, where they’re impoverished or a person of color or really anything other than cis-gender heterosexual male. Really, just about all of us are held back by one force or another, and it makes it difficult to aspire to whatever unrealistic expectations we have. Because we all have unrealistic expectations that are cultivated by the capitalist, cutthroat American system, and we will inevitably let ourselves down.
Look at Peggy and Ed. Both see their lives in two entirely different lights. Ed is completely comfortable being a butcher and aspiring to owning the butcher shop. Owning the title “Butcher of Luverne” has given him a certain level of power that he enjoys, but it was never something that he actively sought out when it wasn’t in front of his face. Peggy, on the other hand, is simply a beautician, and one that doesn’t see anything beyond that. She wants to “actualize” herself and “be all that she can be”, but what does that really mean? They’re cute self-help phrases that serve to create the delusion of progress, trinkets that somebody can add to the collection of stuff in their head. She understands that she has to “do” something in order to achieve that “actualization”, but she has no idea what that has to be. She’s kind of flailing, lashing out in whatever way she believes works.
“Loplop” goes back in time a little bit to the end of “Rhinoceros”, where Dodd is tied up in Ed and Peggy’s basement, moving through the next couple days where they hold Dodd hostage in a cabin out in the woods. It seems strange to jump back a couple days to catch up with Ed and Peggy, but “Loplop” focuses intently on the two of them, especially Peggy, emphasizing the absurdity of what is happening. Ed and Peggy went from being two uneducated small-town workers to killing people, dodging gunfire, and holding a gangster hostage in the woods. Things such as Dodd pissing into a teapot emphasize how unprepared both Ed and Peggy are, and how neither of them really know where to go from here. Ed proposes a trade for his and Peggy’s freedom, but does he really believe that they’ll just be let go? Does he really think that Floyd won’t just kill him anyway, or that Mike won’t kill him to keep him quiet? Both Ed and Peggy, even though they feel empowered by the control they have over Dodd, have no real idea about what to do next and no real way to get out of their current predicament.
It’s fantastic how “Loplop” works heavily as a dark comedy, most of the episode taking place in the small cabin where Dodd is tied up. It’s hilarious, but at the same time positions Peggy’s mental instability and desperation as somewhat disturbing. The way that Dodd quiets down after Peggy stabs him twice is dark and brutal, as it’s smartly juxtaposed with the calm way that she tells him to be polite. Peggy’s instability is played wonderfully by Kirsten Dunst, who revels in the power and agency that she has during the episode. But the most interesting part of her character’s arc happens at the end, when she stabs Dodd in the foot. Dodd launches into this rant about how women are useless and that men are destined to rule the world, but in underestimating Peggy ends up dooming himself. It goes to show that minority groups (women, people of color) have a brighter future, that they will have more agency in the world, but have to fight and scrape by to be a part of that future. Peggy and Hanzee are both tough and fight to ensure a better future for themselves, as evidenced in the way they both hurt Dodd, but they’re both too far gone to make it in the long term.
The best part of this episode, however, focused on a character that has been pushed to the periphery for the majority of the season. Hanzee spends the episode hunting down Ed and Peggy, but encounters a group of racist white guys along the way. It’s clear that he’s used to dealing with racism, and it’s clear that he’s used to seeing his culture obliterated by white people in America, but his reaction to these social and political forces is much different than, say, Peggy, who uses self-help phrases to deal with her feelings of failure and oppression. Hanzee reacts with violence, the violence that he utilized during his tours in Vietnam and the violence that he employs as the muscle for the Gerhardts. But the thing about being muscle is that Hanzee is still employed by white people who don’t care to integrate him into their people. He’s still oppressed by the Gerhardts. So when he shoots up the racist white people, the cops, and eventually Dodd, he’s lashing out at the powers that oppress him.
But even though he lashes out at these powers, he realizes the futility of his efforts. He has to shed part of himself in order to integrate into a culture that couldn’t care less about him, so he asks Peggy to cut his hair, changing how it is that other people see him. But what good does that really do? He can’t change the color of his skin. He can’t change the way he speaks, the way his hair grows. He’s still a Native American, and he’s still part of a culture that has been stricken by genocide and violence for centuries. When Lou and Hank burst into the cabin, shooting at Hanzee, not allowing him that haircut, it’s a way of showing that Hanzee isn’t going to be able to move past the forces that oppress him. He, just like Peggy and Simone and Floyd and Mike, is going to have to content with these forces for the rest of his life.
Fargo operates brilliantly in “Loplop”, setting up the massacre at Sioux Falls by setting up the chaotic collision between Mike Milligan, the Gerhardts, and the police at the meeting Ed set up. While “Loplop” is a long, slow-building episode, it smartly digs into the chaos of coincidence, as well as the chaos inherent in people navigating a world they don’t understand. Because while everybody on this show catches a glimpse of the oppressive mechanics behind the world they live in, they can’t quite understand it. They’re like Peggy, feeling the discontent in their lives but unable to understand exactly why it’s happening, blindly lashing out in an attempt to change things. And they simply keep circling the drain.
What did you guys think of the episode? Do you think we’ll see the massacre next episode? Let me know in the comments!