The season's second episode moves the crime story along at a brisk pace.

Quick transitions between storylines, some of which intersect, create an entertaining follow-up to the phenomenal season premiere, even if by the end you feel as if nothing has changed.

The episode begins with a jazzy intro sequence revealing all of the characters in their ponderous glory. Following the title crawl we are brought back to everyone's favorite crime family continuing their shady business in the wake of the boss's death.


Dodd Gerhardt (Jeffrey Donovan) is fresh off of cutting a man's ears off (he's not a good dude), which kills the man, before being called into a family meeting.

More characters have arrived to mix up the pot in the meantime, confident thugs from Kansas City who are keen on buying out the leaderless Gerhardt crime syndicate. Soulless corporate crime rings are ousting smaller mom and pop crime rings like the Gerhardts.

Typical. It's so tough to be a small business owner in America.

Dodd, in all his misogynistic, ear-removing glory is eager to step up as new boss and tell the Kansas City thugs to "go to hell in the fast lane." Mama Floyd Gerhardt (Jean Smart) quickly tells Dodd what is what (and might have poked fun at the most popular show in America in the process).

"That's what an empire (Wednesdays at 9, only on Fox) is, it's bigger than any son or daughter," Floyd says.

In that single scene Smart establishes Floyd as a strong and intense leader while still being motherly, promising the legacy to Dodd once the storm settles. Dodd is established as a power-hungry scumbag.

Then we witness an exchange between the leader of the (literal) corporate thugs, Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine), and Brad Garrett's business-minded mob boss character introduced at the end of the first episode.

"The first Gerhardt to switch sides gets a shiny red apple," Garrett's character says.

Now we catch up with our good guys.

Our cops are still piecing together our murder and our domestic killers, Ed and Peggy Blomquist (Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst), are still wrestling with theie whole murder and cover-up thing.

Eventually our corporate thugs show up again and Mike Milligan firmly establishes himself as my favorite character of this young season, mostly due to his fondness for correspondence and his use of the written word in fishing information out of slimy businessmen. Mike and his associates are hot on the trail of the late Rye Gerhardt, who is also being chased by Dodd and his associate.

Back we go to Ed Blomquist who is cleaning his gruesome garage as a beautifully frantic song about narrowly escaping a posse plays (the soundtrack continues to kill it).

The episode grinds to a screeching halt when we cut back to good-natured officer Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) and his cancerous wife Betsy Solverson (Cristin Milioti).

While I understand that Betsy is a doomed character (as she is not present in Season 1) but every time she is on screen this darkly comedic show simply becomes dark and ultimately sad. I can not think of another reason for this plot device other than to create sympathy for the pair of cops, one Betsy's husband and the other her dad.


It is a construct that one would be hard-pressed to find in a Coen brothers' film and, to me, the weakest part of an otherwise tremendous show.

But the show speeds up again when the Solverson's happen upon the murder weapon at the scene of the crime. Immediately afterward, Mike Milligan slowly drives past the Waffle Hut, locking eyes with Lou.

Mike and his bearded, silent associates, both named Kitchen (Did they attend the Mr. Wrench Goon's School for the Silent?), run into officer Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) and they all share a tension-filled traffic stop. The scene is reminiscent of Lorne Malvo's initial tense traffic stop with Gus Grimly in the first season.

Later, a sorrowful Hank and Lou share stories of murder victims and war.

"After WWII, we went six years without a murder here. Six years," Hank says. "These days though, I sometimes wonder if you boys did bring that war home with ya."

Lou then makes a visit to the butcher shop where Ed is busy chopping up his dead body and sending him through the meat grinder. The scene, where Ed is trying to keep Lou from seeing those damn fingers he just lobbed off (don't you hate it when that happens?), is classic "Fargo." It is funny, twisted and seeped in tension.

"Wives — always talking even if you're not listening," Ed says.

The episode ends with a reading of "The War of the Worlds" and gleaming lights because the UFO in Episode 1 just was not enough.

While nothing drastic happened in this episode, it did establish the dichotomy between the calm, efficient criminals in Kansas City and the hesitant, rookie criminals Ed and Peggy Blomquist.

All of the scenes with Ed were painstakingly tedious, whether he is cleaning up blood with a rag, grinding a body or hiding some fingers. Mike's scenes, on the other hand, were quick and entertaining. Mike always kept calm and wore his big grin the entire episode, a true professional.

"Before the Law" also established key relationships. The friendly relationship between Ed and Lou is good to see because I am sure it will quickly crumble. And Mike is not making any friends with Hank Larsson and Dodd. Either way, the powder keg is slowly filling up.

Highlights of the episode

Favorite character: It is so hard to find someone who appreciates the written word anymore. It is becoming more necessary to find creative ways to broadcast information through print. It is so refreshing to see a character like Mike Milligan who I can rely on to choose good, old-fashioned correspondence. I also never thought writing could bring the truth out so quickly. Kudos, Mike.

Best quote: "Girls grow up to be women, change boys' diapers." Floyd Gerhardt is shaping up to be a great character, and nothing brings me more joy that to see her emasculate her slimy son Dodd in front of the whole family. She has a good point, too.

Best possible foreshadow: I can already tell Peggy Blomquist is an ambitious, restless person. When she is told not to be a "prisoner of we," a million flags went off in my head regarding the tumultuous future of her relationship with her neutered husband. That "princess" is not going to be a prisoner for long. Also, Peggy stole a crap-load of toilet paper from work. Like I said: shady.

Clunkiest exposition: "I mean, first Watergate and now this? What's the world coming to?" Watergate just happened. Good to know.

Vaguest monologue: "Isn't that a minor miracle? The state of the world today, the level of conflict and misunderstanding, that two men can stand on a lonely road in the middle of winter and talk, calmly and rationally, while all around them people are loosing their minds." -- Mike.

You aren't a "Fargo" bad guy unless you are both vague and menacing as hell. Check and check. Mike … this is going to be fun.