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Fargo Season 2 Episode 5 Recap | The Gift Of The Magi

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Podcast Recap of Fargo Season 2, Episode 5, “Gift of the Magi”


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Josh Wigler (@roundhoward), Antonio Mazzaro (@acmazzaro) and Jeremiah Panhorst (@jpanhorst) get together to talk about the big ambush of an episode that was “The Gift of the Magi,” the latest episode of FARGO season two. They’re talking about everything that happened with Ed and Peggy, the war between the Gerhardts and Kansas City, the arrival of Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan, and much more.

Let us know your take in the comments section below.

Links from the Show:

** Alan Sepinwall’s “Gift of the Magi” recap asks the hard questions about Hanzy Dent and the Kitchen Brothers
** Netflix Popularized Binge Watching, So Why Are They Trying To Kill It?

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  • John Davis

    Maybe Hanzee didn’t kill the other Kitchen brother because he wanted the Kansas City mob to know who did the beheading and he wanted someone alive to deliver the box?

    • Antonio Mazzaro

      Maybe, but if you send a squad from KC to kill the Gerhardts, and the squad all ends up dead, I think it is pretty clear who did the killing. I think it might just be sloppy writing. If the remaining Kitchen brother has his own major creative death then we’ll know. I think the way to avoid this without having to have the audience fixate on this is just to have the Kitchen brothers separated or distracted enough that Hanzee is only able to pick off one of them. Staging it the way they did defies logic, and asks the audience to invent outs and explanations not seen on screen. Maybe he wanted a Kitchen brother to deliver the head. Let’s suss that out. So he kills Joe Bulo in the clearing where the cars are there and then, what, he’s got the hatbox with him, cuts the head off right there, and then leaves it hoping the remaining Kitchen brother will find it? Does he bring the box to the Kitchen brother and tell him to deliver the message? My point is I shouldn’t have to be asking these questions and inventing logical explanations on my own to fill logical gaps created by the writing. So either Hanzee is his own man and wanted to leave one Kitchen Brother alive for his own reasons (which would be great to see play out as others here are speculating) or the writing wants one Kitchen Brother alive for another reason that was not shown on screen. My guess is that reason is narrative convenience alone.

      • John Davis

        Once again you nailed it Antonio. Regardless of the lazy writing, the result was the unmistakable connection between the rabbit in the hat and the head in a hat box. The payoff was well worth it.

      • TrentC

        I’d like to give the writing staff more credit than that. Rather than an oversight, I believe that leaving one of the Kitchen Brothers alive was a deliberate move by Hanzee. To deliver the message or maybe for some other nefarious reason they’ll touch upon later. As you guys related in the podcast, the scene was staged so that Hanzee was right there and had every opportunity to kill the guy. Too much of an oversight in my humble opinion.

    • jeremiahp

      Damit! I hate to always agree with Antonio (not really), but I really believe this is lazy writing, and I hate saying that. I have been very impressed with Noah Hawley’s work, but this was a mistake.

  • John Davis

    While this is the first time anyone has “verbally” asked why Rye was standing in the middle of the road the night he disappeared, Peggy is not the only one who has wondered or actively speculated.

    Hanzee asked the question to himself when he went to the diner to investigate Rye’s disappearance. As we saw last episode Hanzee determined that a train headlight created an illusion in the frozen tree branches above the road and Rye was looking up instead of down the road at the approaching the car. Remember Hanzee was not distracted by the magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat when he was in a poor schoolhouse as a boy. He is looking for rational answers. Go back to the scene and you will hear a train horn in the background as he looks up at the tree branches and he looks at a train pocket watch. Hanzee’s visions of the murder scenes include the judge on the table and the waitress lying in the snow which he imagines correctly from the blood splatters and pooling. This theory is confirmed in the first episode when Rye is standing in the middle of the road and a long loud train horn is heard in the background. Anyone who knows about modern locomotives know that they have three very powerful lights one at the top and the other two called ditch lights at the bottom. Rye see’s three lights and a loud train horn but because they reflect off of the frozen tree branches they react in unexpected ways and he believes them to be from a UFO. From here on the UFO theme is a classic MacGuffin. Cinema 101.

    In this episode, I believe that Betsy has been wondering the same thing but it is not until she sees the UFO drawing by Molly that she has her answer.

    You guys once speculated about Checkov’s “tie” when the typewriter salesman gets buried in asphalt. You should be looking out for Checkov’s freight train.

    • TrentC

      Excellent rationale with the train detective work and Hanzee witnessing the magician as a child. His mind is looking for facts. I missed the part with him looking at a train pocket watch and the horn sounding during the scene.

      Hello by the way John, we must be two of the five people watching this show presently lol!

      • John Davis

        Hi Trent,
        This is the best TV show currently on air in my opinion. I am already imagining Season Three, maybe taking us back to the prohibition era? I wish I could have some self control and binge watch it instead of an episode each week. I binge watched Season one again just before this season began and I caught so many things I missed the first time. Plus, I’m an old guy in my 70’s so forgetting stuff has its rewards especially when I can watch a movie I’ve already seen and don’t remember how it ends. Josh, Antonio and Jeremiah are great reviewers but they are all young males so a female voice or an older person could add a broader perspective or an historical context which I think is missing here. Still, they are really smart guys and very clever and entertaining. I don’t think they read these comments so I tried out the Twitter thing but it is hard to say anything substantive in 140 characters.

        • TrentC

          Binge watching is such an easy habit to get into. Now when I watch a series like Fargo once a week as it airs, I forget things as well. That’s why I love these podcasts. The guys often pick up on things I miss and I enjoy hearing their opinions on which direction things may go.

          Minor fun fact – I live in the city where they filmed Fargo, both seasons. During season one when they featured the supermarket king, the store is called Family Foods and it was approximately five blocks from my place of work. You could of knocked me over with a feather when I saw the shot of the strip mall. I would often go to that mall and buy submarine sandwiches for lunch.

          This year Kirsten Dunst said in an interview that it was so cold during filming last winter, that she stayed in her hotel room, ate pizza and watched Friday Night Lights. Strange because we had one of the warmest winters on record last year, barely any snow or really inclement weather. Our 15 minutes I guess and I’m getting to see my hometown in two seasons of this excellent show.

          If I may suggest, try watching The Leftovers. The first season is uneven, but near the end the plot really picks up. Season two is amazing in terms of the acting and the developing events on the show.

          If you’re not aware, the premise is that 2% of the world’s population vanishes one day, and no one knows why. It sounds like sci-fi, but really focuses on the reactions of the people who lose friends and family members. It is definitely dark and a slow burn. While not related to Fargo in any way, I feel that it’s similar in terms of the great writing, the acting and the mysteries it presents.

          • Antonio Mazzaro

            It’s hilarious to me that KD is watching Jesse Plemons on FNL while married to him in the work she was shooting at the time. I don’t think I would be able to compartmentalize. Thankfully she wasn’t watching Breaking Bad!

          • TrentC

            Yeah that’s a few too many close degrees of separation. I haven’t watched FNL but laughed when I realized he was on the show and Kirsten was binge watching him in the off hours of working with him.

            I stared at that first episode of Fargo this season trying to place Ed (without seeing the credits) and it wasn’t until someone referred to him as Meth Damon online. I was in shock. He’s gained what, about 100 lbs? That is method acting.

        • Antonio Mazzaro


          While I am less than convinced about the train issue (not so much by your reasoning, but by how the show pulled if off if that is the explanation) you are adding a ton to this discussion here and it is very much appreciated. I actually texted Josh earlier this week saying what I don’t really know about this season is how well they are capturing the zeitgeist, mores, angst, ennui etc. of that era, and how I would really love to know how this season is playing to people who WOULD know. I was basically born shortly before the events in this season take place, same for Jeremiah. As such, while I can tell it is a powerful statement on time as much as the general success of Fargo relates to capturing a clear sense of place, what I can’t tell is how successful it is being at nailing that sense of the time. There was actually an anachronistic song used in this past episode that I immediately recognized as being from a modern performer and it threw me off a lot because I am trying to fully situate myself into the era the show depicts.

          It strikes me as odd that nearly 5 years later people are still just solely focused on Vietnam and service seems to be all anyone talks about even with strangers. What I am unsure of is how common this was or was not for the time, or if this show is really beating us over the head with it. Any thoughts on that aspect of the show? I know plenty of people who served in Vietnam and whose lives were fundamentally altered by their service. But I never realized it was ever shorthand for strangers even five years after.

          And I am a huge Hitchcock fan so I am well versed in the MacGuffin and it’s most famous origins and uses. Almost exclusively, though, Hitchcock did not situate his worlds where paranormal activity and regular activity existed side by side. Even “ghosts” in his films (like Rebecca for example) were purely psychological and did not distract from the main plot enough that you were lost in the mix. Hitchcock left the ghosts and aliens to the William Castles of the world. Hitch was more delicate with his hand (my favorite is Vertigo, itself both a “ghost” story and a purely-real psychological thriller) and rarely if ever was so blatant. But this is a Coen Brothers-inspired show, not a Hitchcock one. Hitch was just so much the purveyor of the MacGuffin that when you say Cinema 101 that is where we go. We don’t go to the supernatural or paranormal.

          The MacGuffin is usually a mere plot device or object to motivate the characters and advance the story, ultimately it is usually meaningless as I am sure you know. This is more an audience-focused MacGuffin (literally no characters are actively wondering about whether Rye really saw a UFO or what the War of the Worlds ending was in episode 2, or why Hanzee lost two hours on his watch and also saw lights in the sky.) The UFO activity is not driving the characters actions or motivations at all. So I am not sure I am comfortable calling it a MacGuffin in that sense.

          Regardless, while I feel there is evidence there of the train possibly being the source (I definitely hear the train horn in the Hanzee scene and before Rye sees the lights) I disagree with you vehemently (but in a friendly way) that this is “confirmed” by what we have seen on screen. I rewatched both scenes you mention multiple times. I live literally 100 feet from train tracks that see almost a dozen cargo and passenger trains a day. The way the scenes are presented are, to me, very over the top and designed to make it seem there is something extra terrestrial going on. For example, the horn is only heard in Rye’s scene once. Living where I live I can tell you when a train is approaching you never just hear one horn and then nothing else (trains make a ton of non-horn noise, and don’t just blow horns once as they approach more populated areas.) Additionally, the way the lights appear in Rye’s scene are clearly presented as seeming like more than a weird reflection. It is clearly presented as seeming like a UFO to the audience. We see what Rye sees but we also see him seeing it. That, more than anything, is my issue with it’s presence on the show. While I think your point about Hanzee and the rabbit and looking for rational answers is a fantastic one, and while a train light reflection would absolutely be a rational answer for what some might think was weird lights, I think the way the show presents the Hanzee and Rye UFO encounter scenes is anything but rational. In this way, the supernatural stuff is distracting the audience (and me) more than the characters to be sure. It’s probably a red herring more than anything. It just rubs me the wrong way for the reasons stated above. There are dozens of ways to shoot that Rye scene that aren’t so overtly UFO-based but still could leave an out. This is rather like if Madeline spun her head around in Vertigo like she was in The Exorcist, instead of just appearing into eerie light from the hotel sign outdoors and looking like a ghost to Scotty.

          • TrentC

            If I may interject until John shows up 🙂

            I was 13 in 1979 and grew up in Canada. Of course our Vietnam experience was completely different. I do recall that there was a sort of slow denouement to the war, rather than an abrupt end date. I do recall discussions about people still being in country, POW’s and mercenaries that may have still been fighting or imprisoned as late as 76 or 77. The subject of Vietnam was very much still on the minds of the public during the late 70’s. I’m not sure about the vets having an instant talking point five years later though.

            I worked in a mountain resort town called Banff in 1985 and there was a rail line near our hotel. It was a world of snow and ice and to confirm what John mentioned, the lights from the trains were thrown everywhere at night. Especially near ice filled trees or snow covered rocky outcroppings near the track. Not saying that was what Rye witnessed, but the alternative would be to have at least three distinct unexplained UFO references in the show. The reflection of the lights in the town shop windows is the one that makes me curious. I’m going with a helicopter or government craft.

          • John Davis

            Really brilliant analysis Antonio. I was also thinking of the red herring aspect of the UFO’s and you may be right about it. I am just trying to wrap my head around the scene of the magician and the hat and how it sets us up as an audience to be subjects of a meta illusion. Hanzee is not buying it but maybe we are? Sort of like Joel and Ethan masquerading as Penn and Teller? Is the theme illusion vs reality vs delusion? You certainly have a better handle on it than I do.

            As far as people asking each other about their Vietnam service 5 years after the event I don’t recall that as being common but because it was the last war we fought with a conscripted army it is important in establishing the characters. Our protagonist was in the Navy and most likely enlisted and volunteered for his job. He fought in the rivers in swift boats, a very dangerous job (John Kerry). Hanzee was a “Tunnel Rat” in the army and was probably drafted. A crazy scary job to ask of a draftee and the experience had a profound effect on him. And remember the Sheriff who goes out to the ranch and gives up his gun? He was in the army at Da Nang 85 miles south of the DMZ. He was probably also drafted but I imagine he spent most of his time hunkered down in a deep hole counting the days until he rotated out. The jobs these veterans did and where they were stationed are important to understanding how they will deal with what is to come.

            Your knowledge of film and analysis of this show is first rate. Love the podcasts!

          • TrentC

            Reagan was just schmoozing in the washroom scene and probably recognized the pin because it was similar to his wardrobe from one of his war movies. One has to think that actual vets would recognize unit names and numbers from the conflict, even 20 or 30 years later. Band of brothers so to speak and I make that comment with all due respect.

            And yes John you’re bang on regarding the flashback scene with the rabbit and the hat. Hanzee will not be fooled by any extraneous mysteries at the scene of the accident. And to go one step further, he won’t be fooled by any idiots named Dodd…

          • John Davis

            One final note about the Vietnam War. As a veteran of that war, times were not good for us for a long time after it was over. The public hated the war to begin with and hated the armed services even more for losing it. There was no fawning respect for members of the armed services back then like there is today. The mood in the country was one of shame and anger and uncertainty and bleak futures. This show captures the time perfectly in my opinion.

    • jeremiahp

      There is not much more I can add that has not already been said brilliantly by TrentC and Antonio. My opinion has not changed on the UFO matter. I still think the whole “UFO angle” is more a metaphor than anything tangible or real. It’s shining a light on the uncertainty of the external forces that are coming in and upsetting the status quo.

      • TrentC

        The three podcasters here do a great job with the analysis. I find
        myself thinking about what I’ve just watched for a day or so and conclude that I’ve caught every pertinent bit.

        Then I listen to Josh, Antonio and yourself (?) to find out that I’ve completely missed the point on half of it lol!

        I agree with you and Antonio. The UFO angle will likely (and should) be nothing more than a metaphor. It would be too heavy handed for this show to make it into a physical development.

  • TrentC

    Great dissection/unpacking as usual, thanks guys. I was thinking that Hanzee will make some sort of moral choice and in doing so, he’ll save a life. Whether it’s Dodd attacking Ed, or possibly Dodd fighting against someone in his own family, Hanzee may be there to make a different sort of pragmatic choice.

    I liked Antonio’s comment about things representing the death of The American Dream. From Peggy’s magazines and Ed’s dream of owning the butcher shop, to Noreen’s comments about life in general, to Lou asking the presidential candidate Reagan a somewhat metaphysical question in the bathroom… it all seems to congeal down to maybe not looking forward to the future, but how should they look to the future.

    Close Encounters the movie came out in 1977 when I was just a young lad and I recall the entire world being enthralled with aliens and possibly a better life somewhere else. Perhaps the constant UFO references are more than just an initial plot device to get Rye killed? To me it feels like almost every scene in the show references change and new beginnings as they enter the 80’s.

    Recalling Ed instructing Noreen step by step about what happened after the butcher shop incident, it seems he may get away from jail and Lou. I hope he and Peggy also get away from the Gerharts. Hanzee’s detective skills may give them an out when they need it most, as he probably realizes it was a car accident that killed Rye.

    • Antonio Mazzaro

      I have zero doubt Ed will escape jail here. Noreen witnessed it all and it legit was all self defense AND he saved a life by dragging Charlie out. He did everything right except flee the scene, and that’s understandable given that he can just say he was worried about Peggy. No cell phones = better excuses!

      I agree that most scenes in this show are about the times as much or more as so much of Fargo is about place for sure.

      • TrentC

        It’s probably simplistic of me to note that in both seasons of Fargo, innocent parties get thrown into darker worlds and become unwillingly catalysts to the subsequent horrible events.

        I find myself rooting for Peggy and Ed despite any actions they commit, much like Lester in season one. I also will likely get the Durrrrh award as the original movie has the same overall theme.

        Real curious to see the next Ed and Lou encounter. As you mention, he can use Peggy as an excuse for leaving the scene. I can hardly wait for Ed’s explanation for the fire, bullets and dead criminal in the butcher shop.

        • Antonio Mazzaro

          I think you are right about the base nature of the story. At one point (maybe on the bus coming back from crashing the car in the earlier ep) I noted to myself that I really wanted it to work out for Ed and Peggy. While I think the innocent parties getting thrown into darker worlds and becoming unwilling catalysts point is good, I think where I have struggled (as mentioned on this podcast this week) is in seeing Peggy as “innocent”. The show has been playing at a weird game with her, making her seem less than innocent in her ways (she stole that TP before she ran Rye down or was ever in shock). And yeah, Lester doesn’t kill his wife until AFTER he’s basically danced with the devil in his scene with Malvo at the hospital, but he DOES kill his wife through no intervention of anyone else.

          • TrentC

            You caught the tune while Peggy was on the bus? Shambala by Three Dog Night. One of my faves and should be familiar to any Lost fans.

            She had just sold the car so Ed could buy the butcher shop. The song speaks about a better life or better place, once again confirming the idea of moving to something better.

            I think Peggy is a bit of a sociopath. I can understand the immediate shock the night she hit Rye. As you mention, she has some strange actions before and after the accident that imply she’s got a hardcore edge hiding in there. I hope to see that aspect come to the forefront if she encounters someone from the Gerhart family.

          • Antonio Mazzaro

            The song I am talking about is a Jeff Tweedy cover of a song Jose Feliciano performed for Fargo the movie.


  • Gal Baum

    [Season 1 spoiler]
    I’m happy I watched one episode each week, because I had a week to think about it, and to really get excited before each episode. I remember the week between episode 6 and 7, when I wasn’t sure if Molly died – I had a very tense week. 🙂

    • Antonio Mazzaro

      That’s a great point. We haven’t had THAT kind of moment yet in this season, and with knowing Lou will survive I’m not sure we will (maybe with Hank?).

    • jeremiahp

      That is a great point Gal! You can make that agrument with any show. I recently re-watched season one and the intensity was not there like it was when watching it last year.