In March 1979, the Gerhardt family is the most powerful crime syndicate in Fargo, North Dakota. Their power is threatened by two near-simultaneous incidents. A debilitating stroke leaves patriarch Otto (Michael Hogan) incapacitated, potentially jeopardizing the dynasty's leadership. Two of his sons, Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan) and Bear (Angus Sampson), begin competing for control.
At a Waffle Hut near Luverne, an attempt by the third Gerhardt son Rye (Kieran Culkin) to extort Judge Mundt (Ann Cusack) into unfreezing his business partner's assets turns deadly. Rye kills Mundt and two Waffle Hut employees. Wounded, he sees what appears to be a UFO and stumbles into the road, where he is struck by a passing car. The driver, beautician Peggy Blumquist (Kirsten Dunst), assumes Rye is dead and hides him in the garage. Her husband Ed (Jesse Plemons), a butcher, discovers him alive but manic, and stabs him to death after being attacked. Peggy convinces a visibly shaken Ed to keep the incident a secret, and they hide the corpse in their meat freezer.
Officer Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) and Sheriff Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) begin investigating the diner shooting. At home, Lou deals with his wife Betsy's (Cristin Milioti) progressing cancer.
Meanwhile, in light of Otto's stroke, members of a Kansas City-based syndicate make plans to move on Fargo.
- Accidental Murder: Peggy hits Rye with her car by accident, but he survives. When she takes his body back to her home, Ed kills him in self-defense when Rye jumps him with a knife.
- Black Dude Dies First: The black cook dies first if you consider the judge being Not Quite Dead.
- Blood Is Squicker in Water: The judge's blood dissolving in milk.
- The Cloud Cuckoo Lander Was Right: While the government was not responsible for the Waffle Hut shootings, Lou was wrong to assume that it was just a freak occurrence, making Karl's claims that the whole incident was going to snowball out of control all the more truthful.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Lou's friend Karl Weathers.
- Decoy Protagonist: The first half of the episode seems to be setting up Rye as the primary Villain Protagonist of the Gerhardt family due to his ramblings about his own personal ambitions. Unfortunately for him, his chance encounter with the Blumquists proves to be his undoing.
- Diner Brawl: The Waffle Hut killings
- The Easy Way or the Hard Way: Lampshaded in the dialog between Rye and the judge at the diner.Rye: There's two ways this can go...Judge: Is one of them the hard way?
- Expy: Rye is probably the closest character to Carl Showalter that the series has to offer, what with whining about his own ambitions and finding himself in way over his head. The two even have similar facial hair.
- Famous Last Words: After Mundt sprays Rye in the eyes with bug repellent, he gets pissed off and pulls out his gun.Mundt: Ah crap.
- First-Episode Spoiler: Rye Gerhardt dies at the hands of Peggy and Ed Blumquist after killing three people at the Waffle Hut.
- Frying Pan of Doom: Subverted. The cook comes running with the pan but gets shot by Rye before he could do any damage.
- Lady Macbeth: Peggy convinces her husband to cover up Rye's death, using the possibility of going to the authorities destroying his family plans as an excuse to strong him along.
- Lethal Chef: Lou and Hank joke about Betsy's cooking after she lights a soufflé on fire.
- Literary Allusion Title: "Waiting For Dutch" is a reference to Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett.
- Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: When Peggy hits him with her car, one of Rye's shoes flies off and ends up caught on a tree branch. Since Peggy drives off with him lodged in her windshield, the presence of the phantom shoe initially confuses Lou and Hank.
- Made of Iron: Rye was beaten, stabbed, run over by a car, bled out for several hours, and still had enough strength left in him to attack Ed before finally being put down via yet another stabbing.
- Meaningful Echo: When Rye threatened the judge in the Waffle Hut, he told her it wasn't "one of those optional, check-A-or-B scenarios." Later, when Hank asks Peggy to explain why she continued driving after hitting Rye, she replied that it wasn't a test where you could check A or B.
- Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Karl Weathers calls this one on the diner murders.Lou: It's a diner robbery in Minnesota, Karl, not a presidential assassination.Karl: Oh sure, that's how it starts—with something small, like a break-in at the Watergate Hotel. But just watch. This thing's only getting bigger.
- Not Quite Dead: After being shot by Rye the judge comes back at him with a knife.
- Oh, Crap!: Spoken verbatim by Judge Mundt when Rye pulls out his gun.
- Pants-Positive Safety: Rye putting his gun in his pans.
- Sexless Marriage: Due to Peggy's not-so-subtle desire not to have children, Ed is lucky to get into bed with his wife at all, especially without her telling him to pullout.
- A Simple Plan: Rye just wanted to extort the judge to get a few more bucks. What could possibly go wrong?
- Small Role, Big Impact: Typical to Fargo season premieres, this episode focuses primarily on characters that step out of the spotlight once they've set things in motion for the real main characters.
- Judge Mundt's stubbornness and mere presence at the Waffle Hut leads to the beginning crime scene.
- Rye is also the most unimportant Gerhardt, but he puts the plot into action by creating the aforementioned crime scene and then accidentally dragging the Blumquists into the plot by walking into the middle of the road.
- Otto's stroke in this, the very first episode, rendering him out of action. It's also the Kansas City Mafia's primary reason for moving onto the Fargo territory in an attempt to expand their operation.
- The Sociopath: Peggy is very unfazed from hitting Rye with her car and driving home with a half-dead man hanging out her windshield. She has no problem going through with her everyday routine once she gets home.
- Unreliable Voiceover: As Peggy is describing to Ed how she panicked after hitting Rye with her car, the audience sees her nonchalantly park in her garage and go about her business as usual earlier that day.
- Verbal Tic: Lou says "Yup" when he spots a clue.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: Rye Gerhardt and Judge Mundt.