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Fargo 2.10










Title reference: No idea. A couple of the other episode titles are allusions to literary or visual works rather than repurposed titles, so maybe just something a palindrome appears in or is connected to? Not that I've memorized all titles in the surrealist, existentialist and theater-of-the-absurd traditions. A text where the second half exactly reverses the first ... are they claiming the first season has some such relationship to the second? Beats me.

Ending: The final shot is pretty much the film's, but I think the island of moonlight in the sea of dark is supposed to suggest a world more full of evil and suffering than the film's. The "all the ships at sea" line confirms this, and connects with the picture of a weather- threatened boat behind the couch in the scene with Danson just previous, where he speaks of war, crime etc. as a sort of omnipresent distortion. Evil not in us but between us.

His language: Is this supposed to be Hawley delivering his show's credo at a remove? Danson speaks of starting simple then learning to make things more complex, etc., so it would also be a bit of an apology for the first season if so. But Julie points out that the example he uses is innocent and childlike, because he is, which could mean he's missing that malice can exist as something other than misunderstanding (Thornton in S1 as a possible example - but perhaps that's part of what's being left behind as too simple). His point about miscommunication does seem to be the key to several of the scenes in the episode:

1. Wilson's wife vs Noreen. As parents we were on her side against silly old Camus till that Lord line brought us to a screeching halt. And I think Noreen's cheerful ability to combine volunteer caretaking with finding life absurd means she's not really against the altruist position - perhaps finds the two entirely consonant. If the next person's life is absurd she could probably use your help; and since yours is absurd what better thing do you have to do? That sounds like me riffing, but I think it catches the exact tone of her being there. There's something more than blood relationships and judgemental Lords behind being good.

2. Wilson vs Dunst. The great Fargo-movie police car scene between McDormand and Stormare gets adapted here, and I think really well, excepting a reservation I explain in 3. For Wilson life is given its ultimately meaningless meaning by protection of one's family, especially women and children - and presumably, given his job, behavior, and his role in the Vietnam anecdote, the human family. He genders it in a smug way at the close, probably helping to provoke her response, which is that a woman can't both live for her family and for herself, given time constraints. We realize we've been seeing her go crazy trying, across the series, vacillations that get almost comical in the later episodes since she keeps saving Plemons then almost getting him killed again etc. This one is the clearest case of misunderstanding, I think - Dunst pretty much shakes her head and gives up on further articulation, at the end. After Wilson has pointed out that people have died, which is of course true. Except he said what he said about men only, and that wasn't right. Among other things it neglected how his wife has a religious version of the same protection philosophy, just applied to kids. She has her rock too. And her police-y genes can't get fully expressed, but are by their daughter in S1. By which point he gets it, but back here he's unwittingly part of the problem, like how the show stresses his saying of "the Indian" (consignment of an individual by ethnicity, which he wouldn't do with blacks or whites, and of course it's the wrong damn ethnicity). People have died, but people have also had their lives warped. I assume his wife (can't remember if its Milioti or Milotti or what, though I do see the irony of my identifying her that way) inadvertantly testifies to this when she speaks of following one's appointed work, motherhood, out of fear of judgment after death by the "Lord," that most patriarchal of common God terms. Wilson's comfortable borrowing the Camus imagery he'd been dismissive of when Noreen mentioned it. But the absurdity of life is less fun when you can't choose how you defy it, one assumes, or are expected to push two rocks at once - hence the appeal of a religious basis. And in a sense the helicopter story is Dunst's own, no? She just barely made it through a war, nearly crushed between two very large opposing boulders. No one would have expected her to. And of course the Americans were not precisely the saviors of the South Vietnamese, even if they represented themselves that way, so maybe Wilson's an aspect of one of those boulders. At the very least he's presenting a very politically contingent story as a sort of universal. And while Dunst's sense of the 37 hours worth of person she's supposed to be each day is in part created by the Mad Men type corporate world that's just taken over regional organized crime, I don't think we're to understand that that's an entirely manufactured pressure. More like the opportunistic filling of a massive void.

3. Dunst vs Plemons. Traditional, self sacrificed for family mindset vs new, family sacrificed for self one. With the complex (and - seriously, show - awfully risky) overlay of the one being sexist, stifling females while giving purpose to males, and the other being more or less what we accept as right now, within its bounds. Hairstyles and style in general seems part of it: she's a stylist and obsessed with style magazines, Hanzee asks for that cut from her when tired of his own (and gets a new name in the finale and plans on getting a new face), Mike is told by Adam Arkin to ditch his "Western" look, which I guess his hair is a prominent part of though I too it as more blaxploitative. He does start to grasp her language, but only enough to pretty much tell her they have nothing more to say to each other. Then dies.

4. Milligan vs Arkin. Milligan wanted power, misunderstanding that the only power on offer was the money-driven corporate pyramidal sort.

The Western thing presumably means he's a victim of the movies like Dunst is. The recap of that supposed Reagan film reminds us of the ensuing Loplop scenes - Hanzee kills the fascistic Dodd, and later the rest of his family, who were indeed trying to smoke out Dunst and Plemons (can't remember if they ever used the phrase). But instead of being their rescuing good buddy he killed one of them and wishes to kill both. Can he be standing in for the corporate future? Or anyway the reality behind corporate promises? Not sure if that quite works. Connecting an unleashed, Bob-of-Twin-Peaks-y, Chigurhesque evil with revenge-seeking by an oppressed minority member is another curiously risky move on the show's part. So risky that it's risk-free, is I guess the logic? Our liberal sympathy with women, blacks, "Indians" is assumed to be a given, so when they're identified with evil we're led to question the very concept? Mmmmaybe. I guess there's not a lot of people watching the show. Still, the high body count must be attracting some high body count fans. I dunno how to analyze costs and benefits in this area or anything. Just wondering if the writers do.

But corporate rule does lead to, for some, abundance - those stores that sell everything in that Raising Arizona dream. Middle class incomes have stagnated while wealth has become increasingly concentrated among the 10, 1, 0.1, 0.01 percent since the carefully chosen year 1979, but it's true there's all this cheap stuff everywhere. The phrase shocks us into seeing the change in the "nice" way after 9 episodes of being primed to see it the other way, I think. Aspects of this crap around us would indeed seem like paradise (as well as chaos) to a visitor from that time. Maybe especially a stifled housewife whose sense that she's stifled has even been stifled. Maybe something about the capitalist turn's making consumers of all of us really has freed us from the fasces, violent both in confining and in dividing, in a way we should marvel at, whatever else it's fucked up. What was up with that G for Gerhardt flag, btw? Looked fascist as hell, though I guess the American Eagle was there - with stuff in its claws? Didn't get a good look. The minority members working for the Kansas City Co. blew the guts of the last standing fascist all over it too soon.

And we do pretty much end with the misunderstanding note, so the placement of what Danson's saying is the firmest proof it's being endorsed.

Was there a bit of shadow in between Wilson and wife, in the last shot?

And is Hanzee supposed to come back as Thornton? Their ages might not quite fit (can't remember just when S1 is set), though maybe they don't need to. And if there's a "purest evil" character in every season maybe he's Thornton even if he isn't - maybe backwards-inflects that Chigurh-wolf mashup of a character into a more subtle, misunderstanding-born phenomenon? [Ohhh - in attempting to look up the Hanzee actor's age I at once saw an article headline explaining who he was in S1: the head of the Fargo crime syndicate that I guess "Kansas City" becomes (?). Identifying him firmly with the corporate New, the way he never quite overtly was here in S2. Once again my horrible recall of character names fucked me up. I mean, it has been a year, but who could forget a name like Moses Tripoli? So maybe "Palindrome" means we see the end of him and what he represents in S1, but his beginning here, thus they reverse each other? Seems like the reference would need to be more thorough, though - connecting the other characters too. I guess the 2000s family is a lot like the 1970s one that becomes it; rather, the family Tolman gains at the end is a lot like the one she sprang from, but since that mostly gets knit together by the end of that season you'd think it would have fallen apart more back here to complete the point by point reversal a palindrome needs. I suppose her mother's and Danson's sooner-rather-than-later deaths are implied, but still. Maybe something, then, about Danson's picture-language? He's after "words" that can't be understood two different ways by two different people. Perhaps a palindrome is like that: either end you start reading it at the word ends up the same. Is that what Fargo's like? Hmm. How? If you assume people can be evil, the show leads you to question it, while if you assume they can't, you're led to question THAT? Well... again with the "How?" Probably the "home" example is the clue. Non ciswhiteabledmales for a very long time didn't have much of one here. The much-focused-on, and last episode only shown in the distance and benighted, Gerhardt house seems relevant. The suppression of Mike's style by Arkin, too: he thought he'd find a home (thought the G one was his, even), ended up in a Brazil-worthy cubicle complete with electric typewriter (palindromally ending us too where we begun?). Dunst goes from California Dreamin' to Alcatraz (or whichever) Dreamin', I guess - tries to work her dream home back into her likely future. Hanzee after three Vietnam tours still isn't recognized as American. So to speak the same language about home we need to see a picture of what one would really be, one thorough enough for all to notice who isn't yet in it? Maybe that's something this season really does do, in among its oddities and numbing, contractual-feeling, more Tarantino-ish than Coen-y over the top violence.]

[Makes Mike's regarding and then formal, almost gentle turning down of the coddled 1900ish baby picture - white baby, white background - rather moving.

And maybe vaguely justifies the curious and distracting Obama evocation one gets with the black person + Reaganesque mannerisms combo. At last a black king of America, but in a time when the presidency is an office job of cramped scope, occupying a sort of middle management role in between our CEO dictator class and us "drones" on the ground. Sigh.]
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Movies I remember seeing in 2015, in whatever venue:

Real good: Interstellar (2014?), Mad Max, Inside Out, The Martian, It Follows probably

Hazy good: The Babadook, Ex Machina, Nightcrawler, Wolf of Wall Street (2014?)

Unreal good/good unreal: Peanuts Movie, Maze Runner 1, General Tso's Chicken, Lego Movie, X-Men Time Travel One, Croupier (2014?), Unfriended, Grand Budapest Hotel (2014?), Brave, Evil Dead Remake, Silver Linings Playbook, The Book of Life, Gone Girl

Real ungood: Hotel Transylvania 2, Captain America 2 (2014?), Hunger Games 3, Dark Shadows (2014?)

Rereal good: Big Lebowski, Fargo, Miller's Crossing


TV likewise:

Great: Better Call Saul 1, Hannibal 3, Adventure Time 6b

Good: Rick and Morty 2, Mr. Robot 1, Mad Men Last, last couple Jinxes, Black Mirror, Louie 5, Community 6, Walking Dead 5b-6a, Leftovers 1 (2014?), Nathan for You 1-3

Mmmaybe: Fargo 2, Adventure Time 7a

Bad but: Penny Dreadful 1-2, Daredevil 1, Affair 1-2, some Masters of None 1, Broad City 1, some Inside Amy Schumers 2, Game of Thrones 5, With Bob and David alas, Last Man on Earth 1-2a, a couple Orange is New Blacks, a couple Sopranoses, a couple Masters of Sex

But bad: True Detective 2, a few American Horror Story Hotels, a couple Jessica Joneses, some Bloodlines, a Sense8, an Empire, How To Murder 1, a couple Kimmy Schmidts

Regreat: Breaking Bad 4-5, Hannibal 1-2

Regood: Rick and Morty 1, Walking Dead 4-5a
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Fargo 2.9 ("The Castle")







There be spoilings.






Title reference: The police officer played by Patrick Wilson is summoned to Sioux Falls because the suspect who escaped from his custody was apprehended there, but as soon as he arrives he's told to go away. He nevertheless can't bring himself to, paralleling the troubles of Kafka's K. (This is the second Kafka work used for an episode title.)

Space aliens: Continue to fit my theory, I thhhhhink? Are taken in stride by Dunst and enable her escape, thus maybe associated with her media-saturated self-denied selfishness. For the third time (?) they put a Gerhardt brother into deer-in-headlights mode allowing someone to kill him, which would fit their representing the forces that replace entrenched, old-fashioned assholery. And which they don't see coming until it's too late, at which point their confusion (and ambivalence? The UFO sighters tend to be that) prevents effective action. The racist misogynist Dodd is brought down by a woman and Native American recklessly discovering their newfound power (remember those stabbings?). Do what thou wilt back shall be the whole of the law, I guess? The arrival and withdrawal of the UFO is a bit similar to Milligan and friend's cameo on the scene (speaking of which where was Martin Freeman? One of the cops or something?). Bear's killed by Wilson, though. Meaning what, that corporate capitalism helps the forces of justice to kill off old style cosa-nostric tribalism? Becoming their basically legal replacement?

The wife represents what, then? Just someone in a Camusianly absurd bind? The end of a traditional gender role? Her "police work" is better than her husband's, at the Waffle Hut, so maybe her being cut off from her proper place has something to do with the cancer? The tumor moment where nothing's recognizable anymore except as a member of a broad category could I guess fit that somehow? The sugar pill ... someone else gets the real one. Dunst? Does the sugar have something to do with the coddled and coddling, forced-smile, all's-well aspect of the housewife role? All while the spirit is killed? Can't remember enough of her interactions with her father and husband - various teasing about her cooking, I think? While mostly leaving her out of what they're going through? Maybe a sort of pointed conflation of the gingerly treatment of the very ill with the nearly identical protective/dismissive attitude toward adult women that men of that place and time mostly had? Plemons too, pretty much. It's presented beingnky, but maybe its effects are not - terminal illness for one, for the other deepening psychosis. But Dunst may at least get to live, and in a "realized" way, so maybe did get the right treatment - empowerment. Perhaps of a dubious kind? Or is the show pointing out a BRIGHT side to a phenomenon many of its viewers deplore. But surely not just doing that? What with the Reagan association and all.

"Cheney" was a cheap shot, but a great cheap shot.

So the massacre is pretty much alluding to the, what was it called, incident at Oglala? Positioning it as a sort of revenge for massacres committed by the whites? And suggesting it connects some aspects of '70s feminism, and ... maybe Blaxploitation movies, with that whirling ninja violence against the clean-up assassins and the domination of the young white woman? Resenters becoming too much like what they with justice resent?

Re. previous title refernces: was "Loplop" just about the haircutting scene? I don't rcall other bird or Ernst imagery, but hadn't registered the title while watching that one.

All the titles are (or allude to) existentialist or surrealist/absurdist works, which I guess have in common the notion that the truth about life is best expressed as uncomfortable fantasy, since that's how it seems to us when it shatters our illusions. Like an alien world that we on some level did know was out there - or, in this oddly politicized case, coming? Or is the final point that fascism has not left us, but merely become a fascism of all against all, what with all groups now increasingly empowered?

Gift of the Magi seems like the odd man out, but I suppose one can read the story bleakly - if love is self-sacrifice for someone who love you back, thus is sacrificing back, no one will get what they want. As compared to "it's the thought that counts, and the sincerest thought counts most" or however we usually take it.
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Sooo. Fargo 2.8:












The title Fargo was chosen because of far-going - leaving the safe and ordinary moral locale you're from, instead getting in too deep. In the film it's where Macy finds the kidnappers who end up killing his wife. That it's just past the state line, and that the state it's in is the nowhere-est state, these are also relevant. Your condition is no longer in condition if your state's in that state, basically. Both tv seasons keep Fargo as where the criminals come from, though both also suggest even worse ones come from farther afield. The devil you know gets replaced by a stranger and worse, is the idea? Something justifying a sequel. Thornton is malice, Woodbine is greed - or thereabouts. Freeman, Dunst and Plemons are the Macys, whose doubling down on their small sins makes everything go to hell; Freeman's selfishness is vindictive, Dunst's is omitting to help others when it would involve sacrificing personal comfort. Both slip downslope fast, asymptotically approaching the devils sponsoring them. Woodbine's relation to Dunst is unclear - Kansas City people never even hear about her, do they? Till the end of this last episode, anyway. She and her husband instead repeatedly tangle with non-hypocritical, family business selfishness. Corporate capitalist evil doesn't have to be racist, patriarchal, nationalist, nepotistic/traditionalist, even recognizably conservative, is I assume what they're going for with the Reagan association and having a black male and white female be its purest representatives. Representatives at the production and consumer ends, one assumes? Though if they sell Woodbine Dodd that may end up going the other way, but you can see how that metaphor would fly: by buying this crap Americans sold their country to corporations (or rather what they were instrumental in unleashing - complicity in crimes spread thin enough to be deniable, leading to much worse sorts of crimes, direct or via fraying social fabric). Kansas City seems like an odd choice, but I guess the choice is about its being a) a bit further out from Minnesota, to fit itd worseness, b) a bigger city, to fit its late capitalismicity, c) made of lies, since it claims it's Kansas but is in fact in Missouri. Maybe even d) playing on the "Not in Kansas anymore, Toto" Oz line, since rural traditional America is being replaced by something offering trwnsformed versions of the people one thought one knew, and e) the "misery" that is the true state Reagan's America finds itself in/as?

Not a big fan of the reups of the trueness of the story, but I guess the point there is that the principle holds - the crimes in the movie were damn near any major crimes, the phenomenon sketched out in season 2 is the one that happened and continues to. Names have been changed, as it were. I guess the highlighting of "true" is to both make us consider this and also how the corporate-media tack of finding ways to couch lies in plausible deniability is being used against it BY what's technically a corporate media product, and a Fox product at that. I can't remember if "truthiness" was originally aimed at Fox, but it soon was if not, and of course Colbert himself was aimed squarely at Fox.

Even less of a fan of gratuitous reminders of Coen films. I guess the Mikler's Crossing steal fits the theme, since family feeling is exploited by and pretended to by the New Selfy-ness but not really shared by it. Bear et al. are about bloodlines, dynasties, history, so can't destroy the enemy when it crops up in their ranks. Can the forces of good? They're a little too good, so far. Is there a mistake they too have made? Patrick Wilson doesn't see Reagan for what he is, and seems slow to recognize the Fargo cop is shitty. Taking people at face value until forced not to, maybe? But that vice is all virtue.

The deceit thing is big: Reagan was not a soldier, hero, sacrificer, but played one.

Dodd/Dad is an example of that lack of family feeling. A vowel shift. The handling of feminism is curious - women's newfound right to choose is at once swallowed by consumer choice? So Bear's niece repeatedly speaks of getting weed as busting a nut, the term for male opportunistic, consequnce-evading pleasure. Yet she's also been beaten and molested by her father, and Dunst speaks bitterly of how her house is like a museum to her husband's family - i.e. she feels pressured to be a traditional wife because Plemons' mother was. The grievances are real, the offered solutions spurious and narcotizing.

The space aliens fit because they're stereotypically seen by rural whites, who trend conservative, or now that we're all talking about fascism again, homegrown fascist. Traditional America gets that something is the matter, but it comes from too far away for them to put their finger on what before it runs them down like Dunst Culkin. Trumps are Romneys dressed as Huckabees, after all.

I guess a lot of the Reagan Democrats came from the (vast numbers) of the historically aggrieved. Goes against the grain of the usual stereotype: ex-radical yuppies. But maybe more accurate?

Bear withdrawing from attacking the police station was relevant hecause it showed the previous evil was self-limiting because of that family feeling - the stake in the country and its laws, at last through connection to progeny and ancestors. Whereas living only for new personal thrills or empowerments means there are no ties on you at all. Is Bear named that because he's an animal, not a monster?

Th special deal on the new typewriter, the killing of the principled judge. The stuff that started this must fit it. Culkin was acting against his family's interests by pardoning the debt the typewriter guy owed them (if extortion constituts owing) in exchange for the investment opp. And we're told his niece associated with him. What was on his belt? I kept ignoring it.

Not sure quite what the murdered judge could suggest, more specific than a principled understanding of the legal system, as compared to lobbying and whatever Roberts is and whatnot. The cook who's killed attacking Culkin puts himself in danger for the good of others - I forget whether the waitress did. Is it meaningful that old style evil starts the process, or are we to understand by Dunst's hitting him that she's replacing the old way of being horrible with a new one involving hypocrisy and diffusion of responsibility (isn't auite a murderer, nor is her husband).

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