‘The Massacre at Sioux Falls.” We’ve been hearing about it since season one; it sounds mythical upon retelling, and the looks on the faces of those that reference it typically say more than their words. But in the penultimate season of Fargo’s second season, we see the massacre in all of its horrifying and absurd glory.
If the “True Crime Tales” vibes of the show hadn’t already been obvious, it is by the beginning of “Castle,” the second season’s ninth episode. It starts with Martin Freeman (last season’s Lester Nygaard) narrating the tale from a book titled “The History of True Crime in the Mid West.” As the episode progresses, he reveals some of the motivations that had been unclear to this point, such as a possible motive for Hanzee’s actions. While his Gerhardt betrayal and murder of Dodd is strongly implied to be driven by his exhaustion at servitude of white people who don’t respect him, why he chose to pursue Ed and Peggy so doggedly afterwards is a bit of a mystery. Freeman’s narrator suggests that it was because they “saw his true self” in a moment of vulnerability.
We find that Hanzee indeed murdered Constance (strangled, in fact), though thankfully, his creepy hair petting didn’t lead to anything else (on screen, at least). He returns to the Rushmore shop and kills the owner before he can call the police again, and patches up his stab wound from Peggy in the bathroom. He takes his car and heads to stake out the Motor Motel in Sioux Falls.
But the key theme in this episode is incompetence. In season one, Molly Solverson was beset on all sides by incompetent men who did terrible police work; back in 1979, things weren’t much different for her dad. He encounters a multi-jurisdictional dick swinging contest, with cops from Minnesota and both South and North Dakota converging on Sioux Falls. The local police chief is wholly concerned with raising his profile on an important case, and wants to use Ed and Peggy as bait to ensare the Kansas City mafia. Lou and Hank know this is beyond foolish, and the chief essentially calls Lou a wuss for saying so. When Lou finds Hanzee’s handiwork at the Rushmore shop, he tries to call in the cavalry, but instead gets a junior Keystone cop to escort him over the state line.
At the Motor Motel, Hanzee sees the cops roll up in squad cars, and calls it in to the Gerhardts. Except he plays along with Dodd’s original lie (that “the butcher” was working for Kansas City), and tells Floyd that it’s KC, not the cops, holed up at the motel with Ed & Peggy. He tries to implore Floyd to stay home, but, tired of dealing with incompetence, she decides to see it through herself, arriving in Sioux Falls with Bear and the Gerhardt contingent. The cops are “undercover” in “Wranglers and white Ts,” which would be hilarious for its monumental idiocy, if it wasn’t going to contribute to them all getting massacred. The dick-swinging is embarrassing; the Keystone cops have no idea what they’re in for, but their foolish pride blinds them; as the chief says, he’s anxious to show them “What a Dakota Man Can Do.”
When the assault goes down, the Gerhardts take out most of the cops, who are too busy playing poker or sleeping to notice the approaching shadows. It seems what a “Dakota Man” can do best is die. Of the Minnesota contingent, Hank is on edge, and can’t sleep, and neither can Peggy; their restlessness proves to give them a leg up on their attackers. She and Ed hide in the bathroom, as Ben Schmidt surprisingly takes out two Gerhardt henchmen with two bullets, before letting his guard down and getting a shotgun stock to the back of the head from Peggy. And only then does it starts to truly devolve into the realm of the weird.
After most of the cops are down, one of the dying few calls out “We’re cops!” and Floyd realizes what just happened. Hanzee guts her with a knife, Bear notices and tries to converge on him, but gets shot in the neck by Solverson, now on the scene after visiting Constance Heck’s hotel room. Far from putting him down, it enrages Bear, who runs down Solverson like a mad bull, taking him down and wringing his neck. This gives Hanzee time to pick apart the Gerhardt men with his M-16, and even pop Hank Laarson in the gut for good measure. he makes it to Ed and Peggy’s room, but the couple appear to be the most competent fighters not related to organized crime, first lobbing a shotgun shell, then a pot of hot water, and then a punch to the face at Hanzee, before escaping.
Bear, ready to break Lou Solverson’s neck, is distracted only by the massive UFO that descends on the motel; it proves to be enough for Lou to retrieve his service revolver and take the remainder of Bear’s head off. The UFO also manages to catch Ed’s attention “You seeing this?!?” but Peggy is fully actualized, and unimpressed: “It’s just a flying saucer, Ed, we gotta go.” Mike Milligan arrives on the scene just in time to see everyone dead and police sirens en route. Realizing just how many bullets he just dodged, he escapes with haste, likely to reap the rewards of the obscene bloodbath.