It’s time for some action. After weeks of setup, the pieces in play in the Fargo universe are finally moving into place: The Gerhardts make their first real move against the Kansas City family, Peggy makes a rash decision about her and Ed’s future, and the Solversons are just trying to clean up the mess.
It’s not quite clear why, but Hanzee, the Native American in the employ of the Gerhardts, has a staunch loyalty to Dodd in particular. At his behest, he deceives the rest of the Gerhardts (though Bear is suspicious), which sends them barreling into war a bit faster than mama Floyd would have liked. It’s Hanzee who takes out Joe Bulo and one of the Kitchen brothers in the first battle, and it stands to reason that the remaining brother, Mike Milligan (who was absent), and Hanzee himself will figure in the fate of the family in not a small way. It may even have to do with Simone, the traitorous Gerhardt that no one seems to see tearing them apart from the inside.
Back in Luverne, Peggy and Ed are still spinning their wheels. Peggy seems to understand the urgency of the situation, and is ready to flee, but not before deciding which of the thousands of magazines she’s hoarded in the basement that she’s going to bring with her. But Ed still doesn’t get it. He thinks they have a future in Luverne, still dreams of his life with the butcher shop and kids and their bigger house. Everything Peggy has done so far has led us to believe her heart just isn’t in it, from the $500 for the shop’s down payment that she spent on her seminar, to the birth control pills she’s been taking to prevent the kids that Ed wants so bad from being conceived, to the fact that she’s packing up her shit to get in her car and go. But she has a moment, by herself in her packed up car, ready to hit the road and leave it all behind…in that moment, she chooses Ed. It doesn’t really make sense, but it’s the first time that Peggy hasn’t been an odious human, and it’s endearing. Whatever her fate, it’s comforting that she’ll meet it at Ed’s side.
That fate seems more and more likely to be grisly. They catch a break when crippled Charlie, desperate to prove himself, volunteers to go with Gerhardt henchman Virgil to kill “the butcher.” At the butcher shop, Noreen, the mousey girl with her nose buried in a book, finally speaks, sharing the morose perspective on death that she learned from Camus: life is a joke, and we’re all going to die. This is not a coincidence.
Amidst the machinations of the Gerhardt war and revenge plot, Ronald Reagan (Bruce Campbell) blows through town. His stirring speech gets tears out of a normally sour and stoic Karl Weathers (Nick Offerman), but when Lou Solverson finds himself in a quiet moment at a neighboring urinal with the actor and presidential candidate, he’s less impressed. Reagan sees his POW/MIA button, asks about his service, clumsily starts recalling his own “war stories” from the films he’s made. When Lou tries to relate his own existential crisis (“Do you really think we’ll get out of this mess we’re in?”), Reagan’s platitudes ring hollow. He literally has no answer for him, and walks away.
By the time we get to the gunfight at the butcher shop (in which only two shots are fired), things have already careened out of control. It’s a miracle that Charlie, Noreen and Ed survive, but the butcher shop does not, burning down in a freak accident from one of the ricocheting bullets. Ed only has a moment to watch his future go up in flames, but he feels the weight. When he rushes home to get Peggy, she can’t wait to share the news of her revelation. As usual, her timing sucks. But as they stand there in their home, framed by the door, listening to the police sirens bearing down on them, they’re together. It’s almost sweet.