“Before the Law” keeps the plot moving for a strong start to season two of 'Fargo'

TV show: "Fargo"

Network: FX

Grade: B+

The second episode in a season of any good drama series always struggles a little bit for a myriad of reasons. In the case of “Fargo,” it comes down to it being pretty tough to follow up a triple homicide at a Waffle Hut.

While the first episode, “Waiting for Dutch,” featured a shakedown gone horribly wrong, Monday night’s episode focused on the cleanup, the investigation and the Gerhardts hanging on to their criminal empire.

The beginning focuses on the power struggle of the Gerhardts as Dodd (Jeffery Donovan) and Floyd (Jean Smart) argue for control. Floyd promises to give control to Dodd after the crisis. Dodd agrees but is later seen undermining Floyd almost immediately. It’s definitely a plot line that could lead to betrayal.

Donovan’s portrayal of Dodd deserves recognition. Dodd is a brutal yet seemingly simple man and Donovan walks the line perfectly. He first appears in the episode telling a story to a man whose ears he cut off. He tells him repeatedly to wake up before he’s informed that the man is dead. Dodd walks out of the barn like it’s just another typical day in Fargo.

The story slows down when it reaches the sad Ed Blumquist (Jesse Plemons). He sits outside his blood soaked garage, staring off grimly at nothing. He has to deal with cleaning up the mess from “Waiting for Dutch.” He scrubs the blood off the car and garage floor with bleach before standing naked in front of a fire as he coldly burns his bloody clothes.

County police officer Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) is troubled by the case so much that he stops by the Waffle Hut to have a look around. His wife (Cristin Milioti) finds the gun used in the murder in a bush and it troubles Lou greatly that he could miss such a vital clue.

Later on, Lou shows up to the butcher shop where Ed is grinding up the body, a possible homage to the original 1996 film. The scene is one of the most engaging and tension filled in the entire episode, especially when Lou almost sees a stray finger from the body.

Perhaps this is a necessary evil after such a bloody season premiere, but the cleanup and Peggy Blumquist’s (Kirsten Dunst) attempts to return to normalcy are a bit boring. It all goes as expected, with the notable exception of the very last scene between Lou and Ed at the butcher shop. Maybe that’s just what director/writer Noah Hawley wants, for the viewer to feel the sort of uneasy monotony of cleaning up a murder. Either way, it comes off cumbersome and slows the story down just a little too much.

The strength in “Before the Law” comes from the development of the three main plot lines: the Gerhardts trying to maintain their empire, the Blumquists desperately trying to cover up their own murder and the investigation into the triple homicide at the Waffle House.

The Blumquists get maybe too much focus in an episode filled with plot development.

It isn’t that two folksy Minnesota natives trying to dispose of evidence of a murder isn’t entertaining, but nothing is being developed so much as things are just being covered up. We know that they have to clean up the blood, get rid of the body make up excuses for the damaged car and so on.

What we don’t know is how Solverson is going to go about the investigation or how the Gerhardts’ power struggle is going to play out. Sure, that keeps the show entertaining, but a little more exposition on possible theories Solverson has or how the Gerhardts function as a group could have rounded off the episode a bit better.

One strange plot line that hopefully continues as mysteriously as it began is the UFO sighting in “Waiting for Dutch.”

“Before the Law” ended with a few lines from the famous “War of the Worlds” broadcast but it isn’t yet clear what, if anything, aliens have to do with Fargo.

Hopefully, we’ll find out soon.

Dan McKeon is a contributing writer. Arts desk can be reached at arts@ubspectrum.com.