Showrunner Noah Hawley likes to crib from eclectic sources for his episodes titles on FX's Fargo. Season 1's "The Crocodile's Dilemma" got its name from a famous logical paradox. Season 2's "The Myth Of Sisyphus" was inspired by Greek mythology. And this Monday's "The Gift Of The Magi" was titled after a well-known 1905 short story by American author O. Henry. But what exactly is the "gift of the magi," and how is it important to Fargo Season 2?
The original short story tells of an impoverished couple, James and Della, whose most prized possessions are James' pocket watch and Della's beautiful hair. For Christmas one year, neither can afford to get the other a gift; when Della finds a chain that would be perfect for her husband's pocket watch, she cuts off her hair and sells it so she can use the money to buy the chain. When she returns home, she finds that James has sold his pocket watch so he could buy his wife a gift: an ornate comb for her hair. In a case of extreme irony, they now both had a gift they could no longer use — but they are both happy knowing how much the other is willing to sacrifice for their love.
In this week's episode of Fargo, we witnessed this parable play out in the story of Peggy and Ed Blumquist, the hapless homicidal couple of Luverne, MN. The episode opened with Peggy making a packing list for the fugitive life she assumed they were about to embark on after Lou's warning last week. But Ed was resolute in his desire to stay in Luverne, buy the butcher's shop, and start a family. Unable to convince her husband to flee with her, Peggy packed a suitcase, picked up her car from the auto shop, and was all ready to leave town without him... until something made her change her mind.
Instead, like Della and her precious hair, Peggy sold her car and planned to use the cash to help Ed buy the butcher's shop he so desperately wanted — consequences be damned. Little did she know, circumstances on Ed's end had changed drastically in the meantime. Ed, who was so sure things would go their way if they simply buckled down and ignored the problem hard enough, had a rude awakenings when Charlie Gerhardt burst into the shop, gun in hand. Although the ensuing altercation ended with Charlie wounded and another Gerhardt henchman dead, while Ed and Doreen walked out unharmed, Ed was finally awoken to the truth: if they stayed in Luverne, he and his wife would be killed.
So Peggy returned home, minus one car and plus one check for a butcher's shop. And Ed returned home, minus one butcher's shop (which had burned to the ground) and plus one desire to get the heck out of dodge. They had both come around to the other's way of thinking — and now they're both in a pickle, since they're stranded in Luverne with no car, no prospects, and the police banging down their door. (At least it's not the Gerhardts... yet.)
Should we even have the faintest shred of hope that Peggy and Ed will make it out of this alive? For most of this season, the two spouses have been operating on such different wavelengths that it's been hard to get too emotionally invested in their relationship. But this week was the first time we really saw them act unselfishly, and suddenly I'm rooting for them to emerge from the brewing conflict unscathed. Of course, knowing Fargo, that probably means they'll both drop dead next week. We'll just have to wait and see, I guess.
Images: Chris Large/FX (3)