Fargo 2×09 ‘The Castle’: Massacre at Sioux Falls

Fargo 2x09 Cover

Fargo has, over the course of its season, references a great deal of existential literature. From Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus to Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, Fargo drops these references into the narrative to underline the existential crises at play. But there’s a key word used in conjunction with those texts, a word that speaks volumes about the purpose of Fargo: absurd. We can make some sense of life, using philosophical theory and reasoning to understand attempt to our purpose and how we got to where we are, but there’s still an absurd element to the world, unseen forces that we will never understand. It’s as if there is something controlling us, moving us around, and all we can do is yell as flail as we’re moved.

Fargo 2x09-1

Source: FX

The big scene at the end is the reason I bring up the idea of absurdity, as it could have been easily avoided if Hanzee decided not to betray the Gerhardts, if Captain Cheney had decided to be more careful, if the radio wasn’t turned off, if Lou wasn’t stopped and let to the state border, and those are just the causes in this episode. But, at the same time, there’s an element of inevitability to it all. Peggy was always going to want to “actualize” herself, Dodd was always going to want more power, Floyd was always going to struggle as a leader in a male-centric world, and Hank was always going to end up a victim of his own passivity. Sure, the circumstances are random, but the forces behind those circumstances are very real, and they push everybody towards boiling over, just as Lester did in Season 1 when he murdered his wife.

Fargo 2x09-4

Source: FX

But wow, the massacre at Sioux Falls lived up to its name. A plethora of characters were gone by the end of the episode: Floyd, Bear, and pretty much the entire Gerhardt clan, as well as most of the cops and probably Hank. It’s a slaughter, and it’s easily the most intense moment of the season. More than that, it’s the moment when all of the characters (aside from Hanzee, who doesn’t give up) realize how little control they have over the world around them. The shootout is the culmination of the lives of many of these characters, and there’s no real way to untangle exactly how it all happened. It’s absurd, but there are links drawn so far back in time that have made it happen, links that the characters have no way of truly understanding.

Fargo 2x09-2

Source: FX

On a lesser show, a UFO showing up and saving a character’s life would feel like a ridiculous deus ex machina. But here, on Fargo, it makes sense, in line with the modus operandi of incorporating absurdity into the fabric of the show. The UFO is representative of the unknown nature of the forces around us, and the forces that actually draw the characters to the motel are just as insane and unknowable as the force of the UFO. Here, the UFO saves Lou by giving him enough time to put a bullet in Bear’s head, and at the end of the day, all Lou can do is try to move forward. The massacre easily eclipses the rest of the episode, which is mostly set-up, but an interesting narrative technique used here is the idea that this is a story being told out of some true crime book. This again plays with the idea of process, of being one chapter in a history so massive as to elude comprehension. It’s an interesting idea, and one that helps to accentuate the ideas at play here.

“The Castle” wasn’t the best episode of the season (that probably goes to “Rhinoceros”), but the last ten minutes were better than just about anything the series has done thus far. It takes a great deal of the dramatic tension and blows it up in a sweeping massacre, but it still leaves enough to raise the stakes once more for the finale. With Hanzee coming after Ed and Peggy, and Lou the only one left to stop more murder and violence from happening, the grand stakes of the season are funneling further inward, narrowing the focus for what will surely be an insane finale.

What did you think of “The Castle”? Do you think Ed and Peggy will make it out alive? Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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  • George Liapes

    I’ve been waiting for you all week, man! The episode was pretty intense, though to be fair, ALL episodes have been like that lately, and while the fall of the Gerhardts wasn’t unexpected, it was definitely tragic.

    The UFO kinda felt a little too unreal, since the show while not the most realistic, was still grounded in reality, but with the foreshadowing all season and the relation of it to the themes of the show, I was more than okay with it.

    As for the finale, I’m really not sure whether or not Ed and Peggy will end up surviving, though It’s pretty clear that Betsy herself is gonna die (unless she already is dead). Man that scene was awful. Hank could probably succumb to his wounds, but I don’t know if the show will hit us with the double whammy of both Solversons dying.

    I’m gonna miss not having anything to watch Monday nights, though I’m planning on starting THE LEFTOVERS over the winter break and I started on the third season of THE AMERICANS last night.

    Here’s to the last one, man!

    Fun fact: the guy we narrated the events of the Massacre and the episode was Martin Freeman.

    • Michael St. Charles

      I was still pretty surprised that the entire Gerhardt clan was wiped out. I mean, they’re ALL dead (except for Charlie, I guess). But yeah, the UFO really was a gamble. It’s blatant surrealism, and I was weird about it at first, but, I don’t know, you just kinda have to go with it. It fit well enough for me to say that it worked.

      Sorry it took me so long, haha. Been a busy week. But I’ve got a good feeling about the last one. That promo was INTENSE. I honestly have no idea what is going to happen (except for Lou surviving, of course).

      Also, I love love love The Leftovers, but it’s a rough show. Pretty bleak, but if you can soldier through, it’s one of the most rewarding viewing experiences I’ve had. So fantastic. I’ll be reviewing The Americans when that comes back too. That’s also an amazing show.

    • Michael St. Charles

      Also, if the first two episodes of The Leftovers aren’t enough to sell you on the show, watch the third one. It’s remarkable stuff.