Chris Large / FX

Fargo's Floyd Gets Down To Business

Of course she does: Floyd rules.

Even grading on an historical curve, Kirsten Dunst's Peggy has not exactly been doing my sex proud this season on Fargo. It's not that she's a criminal: it's that she's so bad at it. Running a man down was an accident, but everything she did after that was purposeful: driving home with him still poking through her windshield; leaving him there while she went about her normal evening business; counting on him to die so that she wouldn't have to confess anything to her husband. But even if Rye had died from his injuries after the car accident, what then? Eventually, Ed was probably going to go out to the garage to get some meat out of the deep freeze: when he inevitably asked how a dead man found his way onto her car hood and through what used to be a smooth pane of glass, did Peggy have an explanation ready? Or was she just going to keep eyes on Ed and, whenever he seemed to be headed in that direction, distract him with sex? Or did she just take a nefarious action because it seemed not to have consequences in the moment, not bothering to consider what the future would bring or if she'd even have one -- kind of like she did with the toilet paper she stole from work, failing to consider how it might look the next time Constance was in the neighbourhood needing to pee? If Peggy were the only female criminal of Fargo's second season, one would have to raise some tough questions about how the show's producers were portraying women. But that's not the case: we have Floyd. And Floyd is amazing.

We don't know much about the role Floyd played in the Gerhardt family business prior to her husband Otto's debilitating stroke in the season premiere. But based on the ease with which she took over operations when Otto was no longer able, it seems like Joe Bulo's dismissal of her in his presentation on the Gerhardts as "you know, a girl" significantly minimizes her importance. It may be the case that women in midwestern crime families in the late '70s were not expected to be in charge of anything -- Dodd, certainly, seems to assume that as Otto's oldest son he's automatically next in line -- but Floyd does not accept the status quo.

Even in the middle of mourning the loss of her husband not in body but as she has known him, Floyd handles her business. She takes a meeting with Bulo and other representatives of the Kansas City outfit about a buyout offer. When Dodd comes in just as those men are leaving and tries to bully her about the decision facing her, she calmly takes Otto's (literal) place at the table and tells Dodd how it's going to be. She lets Simone, Dodd's overlooked daughter, remain in the room for discussions of the family business even though Dodd underrates Simone as much as Bulo underrated Floyd: when he tells Floyd Simone shouldn't be there because she's a girl, Floyd replies, "And girls grow up to be women. Change boys' diapers." Perhaps that's why, when Simone gets the opportunity to put family business on front street after banging Mike Milligan, she's respectful of her grandmother ("Floyd's smart, she'll probably take the money") but patricidal: "Him you probably gotta kill." It doesn't seem likely that Floyd's long-term plan is to turn the Gerhardt family business into a matriarchy with Simone next in line, but if it is, Simone is certainly more impressive in her deviousness, as displayed in the past two episodes, than Dodd is in his showy displays of brute force.

Simone goes on to theorize to Mike that Floyd has an alternate plan in mind with regard to Kansas City's offer, and she turns out to be right: when Floyd sits down with Bulo, she proposes that the Gerhardts pay Kansas City and that the two work out a partnership agreement to share the territory. Before he can answer, though, she has something to add:

"Now, I don't know. Maybe when you look at me, you see an old woman -- and I am sixty-one. I've borne six children. Had three miscarriages. Two of my sons are here today. Two were stillborn. My first-born, Elron, killed in Korea: gook sniper took off half his head. The point is, don't assume, just because I'm an old woman, that my back is weak and my stomach's not strong. I make this counter because a deal is always better than war. But no mistake: we'll fight to keep what's ours to the last man."
Floyd Gerhardt

Bulo has nothing but respect for Floyd's offer and for the way she presents it. Even though he had shrugged her off as "a girl" in the season premiere, he can see now that, actually, she's "a good woman." What we see, but he doesn't say, is that Floyd isn't just a good woman: she's a good businesswoman. Rather than take the easy payout, offered at one of her life's most vulnerable moments, and retire, she leans in. She also doesn't try, as the only woman present, to out-phallus everyone with stereotypically masculine tough talk; instead, the part of her biography she offers Bulo as proof of her mettle is explicitly feminine. She's measured and calm, but not for a second does she seem submissive to her opponent. Floyd is a force.

Bulo, to his credit, seems to recognize Floyd's stature, and it's clear that she's not the problem: Dodd is. If the Gerhardts and Kansas City get into business together, can she guarantee that she'll be able to keep her boys in line with the new division of authority? Because just that morning he fucked up two of Bulo's henchmen in a donut shop, with no evident provocation. To this point, we've seen Kansas City -- in the person of Mike and the Kitchen brothers -- be forceful and intimidating, but they haven't been reckless, and they haven't done anything a civilian witness could report to any authority. Floyd wants to honour the empire her husband's family started and leave a thriving business for her descendants. Dodd just wants to rough people up and act like a big man. Floyd brings to her position a sense of history and a clarity of purpose. Dodd brings small arms (and, I'm guessing, a small penis).

Floyd tries to reassure Bulo that the boys (really just Dodd) will fall in line, but it's too late: not only is Kansas City going to pass on her counter, but now the original offer presented to her has gone down by $2 million. Dodd knows he's made a huge error, and in the car on the way home from the meeting, he silently seeks reassurance from Floyd that he hasn't lost his mother's love forever. Part of her doesn't want to give it.



But Floyd can't withhold it for long.



Her first-born doesn't have a head for her to stroke, after all. Dodd may be a macho idiot whose short-sighted antics have pushed Floyd into a gang war. But he's still her macho idiot.

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