The climax of the third episode of Fargo Season 2, "The Myth Of Sisyphus," is a tense confrontation on the Gerhardt farm. Lou Solverson's investigation into the Waffle Hut murders has led him there, after he identified a fingerprint on the murder weapon as belonging to Rye Gerhardt, the youngest scion of the notorious North Dakota crime family. Naturally, these Midwestern gangsters are none too happy to see law enforcement show up on their doorstep; honestly, it's a miracle that everyone walked away alive. (Although I suppose this season is saving most of the bloodshed for the impending Sioux Falls Massacre.) But the Gerhardt family is so sprawling, with its plethora of brothers and cousins and henchmen, that perhaps now is the perfect time for a brief refresher, before we get too in over our heads with their brewing war against the Kansas City mafia.
First there's Otto Gerhardt, the patriarch of the family played by Battlestar Galactica's Michael Hogan. But he was debilitated by a stroke in the season premiere, so his wife Floyd (Jean Smart) is currently running the business. Otto and Floyd have three sons: Dodd, Bear, and Rye, in order. Or had, technically: Rye (Kieran Culkin), the youngest, was hit by Peggy Blomquist's car in the season premiere, shortly after he'd shot three people in the Waffle Hut, and was later finished off by Peggy's husband Ed.
Of Rye's two brothers, Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan) — the eldest — is unhappy with his mother's decision to run the business herself rather than handing it over to him. He and his henchman, Ohanzee Dent (Zahn McClarnon) are hatching a plan to wrest control of the operations from Floyd; because a woman can't run a crime syndicate, obvi. The middle brother, Bear (Angus Sampson) is firmly on Floyd's side of the conflict. Something of a mama's boy, Bear always backs up Floyd whether she's clashing with Dodd or negotiating with their partners in crime.
Then there's the youngest generation of Gerhardts. Dodd has four daughters (a fact which constantly enrages the misogynistic hothead) but we've only met his eldest, Simone (Rachel Keller). She's actually a lot like her dad — we even see her help Ohanzee entrap Rye's business partner, Skip, and she wants to watch as the man is tortured for information on her uncle's whereabouts — but Dodd is too clouded by his contempt for women to notice her aptitude. Simone has one cousin: her uncle Bear's son, Charlie (Allan Dobrescu), who has cerebral palsy. Raising his son by himself (Charlie's mother is not in the picture), Bear is overprotective of his only offspring.
None of these characters are to be confused with the similarly eclectic agents of the Kansas City mafia who have recently come to North Dakota seeking to absorb the Gerhardt family's operation. In that corner, you have mid-level manager Joe Bulo (Brad Garrett), an unassuming man who prefers negotiation to violence; enforcer Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine), a soft-spoken but menacing whose smile masks a ruthless heart; and henchmen Gale and Wayne Kitchen (Brad and Todd Mann), identical twin brothers who never speak a word.
Given that we know from Season 1 that the conflict between these two factions is leading towards an event referred to as the "Sioux Falls Massacre" — which was supposedly bad enough to make Lou Solverson retire from the force and buy a diner instead — it's unlikely that any of these dozen or so characters will make it out of Season 2 alive. But maybe, just maybe, we can get all their names straight before they shuffle off this mortal coil.
Images: Chris Large (4), Mathias Clamer/FX