[For Fargo “Before the Law” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Before the Law The Gerhardts get a surprising offer; two unlikely murderers do their best to clean up their mess.
Dodd Gephardt asks a guy strapped to a chair if he’s listening – seeming to forget that he just cut the guy’s ears off. It’s symbolic, really, of how Dodd’s machismo gets in the way of his ability to see what’s right in front of him. Another good example of what Dodd can’t see is his own mother, Floyd, who tells Dodd what he missed while out in the barn carving body parts. It seems Kansas City just offered to buy the Gephardt organization meaning the family would report to Kansas City but earn about the same or more than ever. Dodd doesn’t like the idea of Floyd being boss, making decisions, etc. and takes a seat at the head of the table where his father, Otto, usually sat. But the unaffected Floyd just lectures in front of shelves stocked with a variety of bread loaves and forces Dodd to eat Challah. Dodd nibbles baby bites in rebellion as she explains that he has to stand by her now and then once this crisis is over she’ll hand him his legacy. His time will come. Then Floyd sends him off to bring Rye back home. Dodd enlists the family’s muscle onto his side, noting that his brother, Bear already has sided with Floyd. They gotta get Rye on their side. But first they have to find him.
Back at the Blomquist’s Ed ponders Rye’s wallet and his daunting cleanup job, dread dripping from every facial movement he makes. Peggy trots off to work, though and covers for him at the butcher shop with a story about bad clams from a can before heading to her job at the hair salon. Then Ed turns on the radio. He scrubs and wipes out the garage before burning Rye’s and his own clothes in the fireplace. Ed stands before the blaze in a dreamy state – his Winnie the Pooh naked belly glows in firelight because he wears just tube socks and tighty whiteys. The camera closes in on the fire to show Rye’s badass metal belt buckle among the logs and flames. Ed gazes into the blaze but remains unaware of this evidence.
Then we’re introduced to Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine), the profound and fearless voice of Kansas City. He shows up with the Kitchen Brothers at the electric typewriter guy’s place looking for Rye Gerhardt. Mike asks him pointed questions before creatively choking him with one of the typewriters. Typewriter guy tells Mike about setting Rye off to meet the judge. So, Milligan leaves him tied into the typewriter ribbon, appearing to know more about what happened between Rye and that judge then his informant does.
Lou’s wife, Betsy and daughter Molly ride along with him in the police car as he stops at the Waffle Hut with a “wild hair.” Betsy and Molly build a snowman outside while Lou investigates the evidence in the diner. He spots the roach killer can the judge sprayed in Rye’s face and picks it up. Meanwhile outside, Betsy finds a gun in the bushes and calls to Lou. Grateful to her for locating the murder weapon, Lou stands next to Betsy clutching the gun as the Kansas City crew drive by in slo mo. Hence that old familiar feeling of Fargo dread arises again. Offscreen Lou calls Hank and tells him to check that ominous car, so Sheriff Hank blocks the street in front of the crew. You shall not pass! But Hank’s authority soon falters, shunted by Mike Milligan’s seemingly fearless nonchalance in the face of law enforcement. He gets a peek at their IDs, shoes sizes, and plate numbers but little else. Since the Sheriff has nothing on them but a hefty handful of suspicion, they drive away unscathed. If anybody is flustered by the interaction, it’s Hank.
That night Ed watches from his truck as Peggy gets a ride home from her boss, the salon owner and conveyer of late 70s personal-achievement-seminar wisdom. Don’t be a prisoner of “We”, she advises. At the drop off Peggy’s infinitely all-knowing boss drops in to the Blomquist’s to use Peggy’s bathroom where she snoops and finds stolen toilet paper that’s been missing from the salon. She’s flirtatiously suspicious of Peggy right to her face then, saying she’s not mad about the TP “Just ask next time,” and calls Peggy a bad girl before catching her in a lie about the cut on her forehead. Who knows what her boss suspects but either way, Peggy is at great disadvantage trying to hide anything from her.
At the butcher shop, Ed eviscerates Rye’s body through the meat grinder in a wretched spectacle of churning red and grey. He then returns to the steel table to chop the fingers from one of Rye’s hands and they scatter across the floor like mice. Before he can retrieve them Lou, who’s apparently got another “wild hair” – for bacon this time – taps on the butcher shop front door. Unbearable tension escalates in the following scene as Ed spies a finger on the floor. Lou drops some change paying for the bacon and then they both scrounge around the nearby finger to pick it up. Luckily the phone rings to save the day and Lou takes his bacon while Ed takes a call from Peggy on the butcher shop phone. She wants him to come home. She misses him. She’ll make oatmeal. She loves him and he loves her too.
This phenomenal episode then concludes with a voiceover and view from above. A sonorous narrator tells us that nobody could have imagined back then that far superior creatures were scrutinizing every human action on Earth while plotting envious plans against us. Thus we find out that Rye wasn’t a dope but rather was a prophet of sorts – seeing the UFO as real before we did. The true prophesy lies, though, in what we already know as we watch this period piece about our human way of life thirty five years ago. The aliens needn’t bother to measure our limits or plot our demise. They aren’t even obliged to think very much about our destruction. We humans will take care of all that. The aliens can just sit back with their version of popcorn and watch as we burn our planet down all on our own, Fargo-style.