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'Fargo' Season Two a Triumph and a Mystery
December 14, 2015  | By David Hinckley

The best new drama of the fall season, year two of FX’s Fargo, wraps up Monday (10 p.m. ET) with many fates still on the table.

But while the show deserves the avalanche of praise it has received, even a very good show sometimes lands a step or two over the line.

Fargo has done nothing fatal. Nothing that compromises its greater quality. There have just been a couple of things that felt a little distracting in a show that’s otherwise been so sure-footed.

[Warning: Spoilers ahead from earlier in the season.]

Last Monday’s penultimate episode, like all good penultimate episodes, built to a climatic event, the “Sioux Falls Massacre.” The loathsome Gerhardt gang and a bunch of foolishly overconfident local law enforcement personnel were mowed down in an ambush/shootout orchestrated by Ohanzee Dent (Zahn McClarnon).

Ohanzee, a Native American, had long been a loyal Gerhardt soldier. He saw himself as family. But when the late Dodd Gerhardt called him a “mongrel” in front of Ed and Peggy Blumquist (Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst, left), that apparently made Ohanzee realize, after years as a hands-on accomplice in the Gerhardts’ ruthless, cold-blooded crime empire, that the Gerhardts were not good people.

Hmmm. Imagine that.

So Ohanzee plugged Dodd and slipped away plotting how to eliminate the other Gerhardts, which eventually involved luring them to the motel. The premise was complex, but suffice it to say the unsuspecting local Keystone Kops were already holed up there, primed to nail some Kansas City mobsters. Once the shooting started, it didn’t stop until nothing moved.

That included Floyd Gerhardt (Jean Smart), the clan matriarch, who avoided the shootout only to have Ohanzee gut her with a knife. Bummer.

Ohanzee (McClarnon, right) also wanted to kill Ed and Peggy – he’s just that kind of guy – but conveniently for Monday’s final episode, they escaped. So did State Trooper Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson, top photo). Sheriff Hank Larson (Ted Danson) is on the “unclear” list, having been wounded by Ohanzee. Whether he survives is one of those fate questions that should get answered Monday.

Rooting for Hank to survive is just one of many reasons to watch Monday’s finale. Others include finding out what happens to a half dozen other engaging characters, as well as miscellaneous matters of justice, karma and wry humor.

The show’s level of quality has fittingly earned creator Noah Hawley a blizzard of critical acclaim, a gratifyingly large audience, a third season from FX (Yes!) and a long-term deal under which he will develop several other shows for FX.

Against that triumphant backdrop, it feels rather petty to take issue with a couple of small points from the buildup episodes. But perhaps they stood out simply because that has happened so rarely.

At the beginning of last Monday’s episode, where ordinarily we see a screen tag about events being retold “exactly as they occurred,” we saw a stately old book in which those events were apparently written down.

An unseen voice-of-God historian – who, in a nice touch, was Martin Freeman from Fargo season 1 – dropped in throughout the episode to offer solemn commentary about Ohanzee and the Sioux Falls Massacre.

It didn’t ruin the show. It just wasn’t telling us anything we couldn’t figure out from the screen. All it did was make us wonder why it had suddenly shown up so late in the game.

This being Fargo, of course, it could have been simply a goof, a way to impart mock-stateliness to this down-and-dirty story. But the episode had enough going on that it didn’t need this unannounced visitor.

The bigger “Huh?” moments lately, however, revolved around the emergence of Peggy as action TV’s unlikeliest superhero.

Over the past couple of weeks, Peggy has immobilized what are arguably the two deadliest killers on the show, Dodd and Ohanzee.

She hasn’t killed either one of them. But she has stopped both of them from killing her, and killing Ed, by using only common household items.

This is something that trained, armed law enforcement people, not to mention key players from the Kansas City mob, have never been able to do. Yet Peggy, who has seemed to care much more about actualizing herself than self-defense training, has found a way.

First Dodd was stalking her in her Collyer Brothers-style basement (left). She got the drop on him and felled him with a cattle prod.

Then he caught up with her again, strung Ed from the rafters and announced he was going to kill her slowly.

She grabbed a knife and stabbed it through his foot, with sufficient force that it pinned his foot to the floor. This enabled her to cut Ed loose and delayed matters long enough for Ohanzee to show up and obligingly shoot Dodd for her.

Ohanzee clearly wasn’t finished. But before he could get to Ed and Peggy, she stabbed him with a pair of scissors and they fled. Okay, by now some law enforcement people were also involved and that provided a distraction.

Still, Peggy had gone 3-0 to this point in lethal showdowns with deadly killers – and even by the admirable standards of Fargo, that feels a little off.

Although, in a universe where Lou got to shoot Bear Gerhardt (Angus Sampson) after Bear was distracted by the arrival of an alien spaceship, maybe not completely off.

What we can credibly conclude is this: Even aliens from other planets are flying in to see how this Fargo series turns out.

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