[For Fargo “The Castle” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
The Castle Peggy and Ed agree to follow through with their plan at the Motor Motel.
Fargo’s episode nine title “The Castle” likely refers to the Kafka novel of the same name. Not only is the novel a story about frustrations with bureaucracy but also futile efforts to reach an impossible goal. Both of these themes resonate in “The Castle” episode and who better to symbolize the dark surreal storytelling in Fargo than Franz Kafka? The writers show us that this episode refers to a novel by telling the story of the episode with a literal book, pages turning and all.
Episode nine opens on a bookcase. Our narrator selects and reads to us from the book
- The History of True Crime in the Midwest
. The story begins as Hanzee shoots the gas station clerk who ratted him out before he dresses his wound in the gas station bathroom then takes the cashier’s car in pursuit of Peggy and Ed. Next we see a cadre of cops standing over the tied-to-chairs Blumquists in the cabin. Hank takes note that Peggy did a pretty great job compared to law enforcement thus far dealing with the Gerhardts. Then Ed tells them about his meeting with Mike Milligan at the Motor Motel set for the next morning at eight. The cops pow wow outside on the porch and the South Dakota troopers don’t want to get involved because they’re terrified of the Gerhardts and admit there’s bureaucratic corruption at hand as well. They don’t want to piss off their big house bosses. Why not let the Blumquists do their dirty work? Lou says this is BS and they call him “Gary Cooper,” an apt description for his particular brand of hot hero action. They tell Lou to vamoose and on his way out he advises Peggy and Ed not to take the deal and when they ignore him, leaves in a huff. He’ll see if his boss can handle it “on a bureaucratic level,” Lou says then drives off, leaving Hank to represent the sane side of law enforcement.
Meanwhile back inside the cabin the troopers tell Peggy and Ed if they wear a wire and get Milligan to admit culpability they’ll get a deal with the DA. Then, at the mention of his name, we see Mike talk to his boss on and share a plan to pick up Dodd Gerhardt the next morning in Sioux Falls at the Motor Motel. He pretends the killers his boss sent after his ass never came and offers to bring him Dodd in a sly counter move that’s bold but typical Milligan.
- The History of True Crime in the Midwest
before the next scene and then see Betsy fall to her kitchen linoleum just as Lou enters the gas station phone booth to call her. But the Solverson family phone echoes through an empty house because she’s on her way to the hospital now thanks to Molly’s babysitter. Lou then enters the gas station store to find the dead cashier and Hanzee’s wound care supplies in the bathroom. Lou calls the state troopers but the one who comes isn’t there to help. Instead he escorts Lou out of South Dakota where he won’t be able to meddle anymore with his damn doing-the-right-thing nonsense. Lou can’t catch a break among his own because he’s actually a thinking person and they’re cogs in a corrupt bureaucratic machine – the system of law enforcement. His desire for justice conflicts directly with their desire to go with the bureaucratic flow.
Freshly escorted out of South Dakota, Lou calls Hank with Hanzee’s status and current car (the cashier’s) only to once again be ignored by the troopers. They appreciate Lou’s giddyup and all on this thing but they know what they’re doing. Thank you very much. Then the troopers chide Hank for Lou’s talking out of turn in the Motor Motel parking lot while Hanzee watches from a nearby rooftop, shotgun ready. As usual, he’s way ahead of them.
Hanzee calls Floyd to lie and say Dodd’s still alive. He tells her Milligan has Dodd at the Motor Motel in Sioux Falls and that she should send twelve men to get Dodd out safely. Floyd says she’s done sending men on their own just to witness their failure at the job she needs done. This one Floyd’s going to handle as well. “Yes, ma’am,” says Hanzee. Meanwhile the troopers set the stage at the Motor Motel to prep for Mike Milligan’s arrival. Benjamin, the pathetic Fargo detective, stays in Peggy and Ed’s room while the rest of the cops drink and play cards in two nearby motel rooms. Hank, who has his own room, knocks on the Blumquist’s door a bit later and the Fargo detective keeps him out. The troopers, meanwhile, drink Miller Lite and play poker in their undercover outfits of wranglers and white tees. They turn off the police radio because the chief declares that, “from this point on we’re radio silent,” not the wisest move when awaiting a mafia and Gerhardt ambush. But common practice for these officers.
Just escorted out of South Dakota, Lou parks by the border as he gets a police radio call about Constance Heck, Peggy’s boss. They just found her strangled body in a Sioux Falls motel room. This gives Lou a wild hair that sends him right back into South Dakota. He drives much faster on his way back into the land where he’s most unwelcome. He goes to Constance’s motel room and imagines what might have transpired, all detective-like. Then back outside, Lou sees Lloyd and her caravan drive toward the Motor Motel and once again calls the South Dakota troopers’ radio to warn them… the very same radio they’ve just silenced.
Bear tells Floyd to stay in the car at the motel so she’ll be safe during the battle. When they arrive Hanzee gives the Gerhardt clan a strategic status update then stays behind with Floyd, who’s never looked better in a white turtleneck and bright red jacket against the night sky. The gun at her waist gives Floyd a physical stance of authority that’s only come through up to this point in the tenor of her voice. She’s a beautiful and powerful leader; yet poised for death.
The Gerhardt clan blasts through the Motor Motel and takes out the troopers with ease in a matter of minutes. But Peggy and Hank are prepared simply by virtue of their respective neuroses keeping them on guard. After the forewarned Fargo detective shoots the oncoming Gerhardts Peggy takes him down with a Gerhardt shotgun smacked upside his dumb head. Meanwhile out in the parking lot, Hanzee stabs the unsuspecting Floyd in the gut as Lou joins the fray and entangles with Bear one-on-one. Just as Lou’s about to lose to Bear’s stranglefest, a UFO floats down to the parking lot where they’re tangled on the cement. The bright alien light distracts Bear long enough for Lou to shoot and kill him. It renders the same trance effect on Hanzee who was just about to nail Peggy and Ed, thus freeing them for escape. Having provided this service to Peggy and Lou, the UFO lifts off and leaves.
Then the final Motor Motel showdown it’s just Hanzee and Lou left shooting each other when Lou hears Hank cry out, “Officer down!” and leaves the standoff to help him. Just then Mike drives up to the Motor Motel with the remaining Kitchen Brother and they see the bloodbath battle remains – Floyd flat out and bleeding on the parking lot pavement, etc. Mike says, “OK then,” and they drive away. Through his pained expression, the wounded Hank asks Lou about Peggy and Ed. He answers that they’re on the run now with Hanzee in hot pursuit. At this news Hank says Lou should go after them and that he’ll be OK. So, Lou leaves to join the hunt – once again on his own and fighting the uphill battle for justice.
Another theme throughout Kafka’s,
- The Castle
is the notion of standing at the law’s door unable to enter – a perfect description of Lou’s position in this episode and really the whole of Fargo’s season two. He’s doing everything right as a police officer but it doesn’t matter. The law won’t let Lou inside. One of the controversies in translating
- The Castle
is that the German title works as a homonym meaning both “castle” and “lock.” So, Kafka likely meant both words when he wrote the story. Certainly, Lou needs a key to free him from this fortress of ineptitude and ignorance in South Dakota. The UFO helped him at the critical moment when Lou faced death in the throttling hands of Bear Gerhardt. But what key will come along to finally unlock the justice system and let Lou actually do his job? Hopefully we find out in the upcoming finale. Our one consolation in the meantime – at least we know Lou Solverson survives the Milligan-Blumquist-Hanzee brand tempest that lies ahead. So stay tuned, it’s finally time for the final Solverson showdown.