Fargo – Season 1, Episode 2: “The Rooster Prince”

FX’s Fargo
Season 1, Episode 2: “The Rooster Prince”
Directed by Adam Bernstein
Written by Noah Hawley

* For a review of the Season 1 premiere, “The Crocodile’s Dilemma” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “A Muddy Road” – click here
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After the raucous events of the premiere, “The Rooster Prince” takes us into the aftermath of a lethal, albeit unintended, union between Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) and the wandering evil that is Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton).
An original piece from Jeff Russo introduces us to Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard) and Mr. Numbers (Adam Goldberg). At a garage, they meet with a man about “what happened to Hess“. Numbers and Wrench speak together through sign language, as Mr. Wrench is obviously deaf. But don’t let that fool you, he is a pretty big man, physically intimidating. Mr. Numbers isn’t so much intimidating as he is ominous. Either way, they’re in town on word from the Fargo mob. The guy Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers talk with gives them a description of none other than Malvo.
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Meanwhile, Lester is recovering from the incident that took his wife Pearl. Or well, the supposed incident. His brother Chaz (Joshua Close) says Lester should move in with them, until the house is cleaned and maybe even ready to be sold. You can see the heaviness of what’s happened in Lester, right in his eyes. Though, nobody else would ever suspect a guy like him to have done what he did to his wife. Perhaps it’d be the setup for a perfect crime. If only Lester weren’t so nebbish and unwilling to take life by the horns. You just know because of his attitude already, who he is, Lester won’t be able to take this to the best conclusion for himself.
Over at the grave of Chief Thurman, killed by Malvo in the same incident, Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) is also heavy with thought. Cut to Thurman’s place, where his pregnant wife Ida (Julie Ann Emery) is entertaining all the guests. The two of them each cared for Vern, although clearly in different ways. But there is a bond, for sure. Molly talks about when her father Lou (Keith Carradine) was shot years ago, and then Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk) strolls in to break the mood. Molly wants to talk with Lester, obviously. Oswalt sees him as we all do, nebbish, even bringing up a couple times where Lester fainted in high school: from a frog dissection to a girl’s “monthlies“. The blindness of Oswalt is clear, as he passes everything off as coincidence, whereas Molly can so easily see there’s something more there other than just time and place.


At home, Lester weeps into the closet, crying on his wife’s clothes. Then Chief Bill Oswalt and Deputy Solverson show up at his place. To anyone outside of the small town in Minnesota, Lester is guilty. Of something. He’s such a jittery, skittish man. But then again, Bill is more interested in figuring out the name of some grape gum from when they were kids. Such darkly hilarious conversation at points. Then awkwardness on Lester’s part trying to describe the events of his wife’s death. Molly keeps on pushing about the guy he talked to in the hospital, clearly making Lester more and more nervous. Bill brings up Sam picking on Lester in high school, making Molly suspicious. Yet she keeps getting squashed, by both Bill and Lester respectively.


Finally, though… more Malvo. We find him at a mail pick-up. He and the attendant have an awkward Coen-esque conversation about receiving mail. Lorne won’t give his name, saying the package is addressed to Duluth. The attendant, of course, is troubled because they’re in Duluth, so naturally we understand his confusion. After awhile, the darkness in Malvo – including a quip about finding a “foot in a toaster oven” – soon gets him the package, without any further fuss. Inside is a book called American Phoenix by Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt), as well as a new I.D. making him “a minister apparently“. Great little odd scene, adding intrigue and suspense in equal measures.
At a supermarket, up in an office, Stavros is telling Lorne all about his incredible grocery stores; “Ive got mangoes in god damn January,” he says. The head of security for Stavros, Wally Semenchko (Barry Flatman), is a former Oilers farm league goon. But to the point: Stavros is being blackmailed via letter for a bunch of money. Again there’s more excellent dialogue from Noah Hawley, who does draw off the Coens, yet creates his own quirky brand of Minnesota life for the series. The quirk isn’t there for quirk’s sake. Simply put, the characters are all interesting in their very own way.
On top of that, Jeff Russo’s score is consistently perfect. I can’t say any more, and certainly couldn’t say any less.


Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) discovers there’s more to the man he pulled over at the end of the first episode. He looks at the ticket he’d begun writing up, listening to the Captain give out orders, and remembering Malvo’s face, the license plate. I can already see how his guilty conscience will somehow or another come into play later on down the road. For now, he and his daughter Greta (Joey King) have nuggets and get along together by themselves as best they can. Gus is a bit of an awkward man himself, spying a neighbour in her window taking her clothes off, then heading back out to have dinner with his daughter. While the woman across the way does the same. Gus has a talk with Greta about how sometimes “theres more than one right thing“, trying to impart the grey line between right and wrong. Now his guilt is clear, though, it isn’t eating him up. Yet.
Along the dark highway, Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers are still out looking for answers on Hess. They meet with the stripper who was having sex with Sam at the time of his murder, as well as the club manager. Only they end up giving Wrench and Numbers the wrong guy. Funny enough, he looks slightly like Lorne, even with a bandage on his forehead. They talk a little with the man before he brandishes a knife in his jacket, a big one.
Cut to the highway out around Bemidji. The wrong man’s brought back to the Hess truck garage in the trunk of a car by Numbers and Wrench. But the Hess associate confirms it’s not the right man. And so the hunt is still on.
Lorne is in another part of town, calling himself Frank Robertson. He claims to be looking through Stavros’ assets, to get his now ex-wife the best divorce settlement possible. Or more likely, Malvo is playing both sides. He finds out more on Stavros and the source of his fortune.
In other news, Lorne tapes everything, his phone calls specifically. At a motel he continually listens to the tape of Lester calling for help. Simultaneously, he discovers the source of the Stavros blackmail note: the ex-wife’s new fling, Don Chumph (Glenn Howerton). From nowhere, Wally shows up to threaten Lorne, saying he ought to leave because of his “big city connections“. Instead of saying anything or fighting, Malvo goes into the bathroom, drops his pants, then starts taking a shit. Right in front of Wally, as he reads Stavros’ book. Amazing.
Chief Oswalt keeps trying to pound away at his own theories on the Nygaard murder, and the Thurman’s death. He wants Molly to keep digging on the angle of a robbery, possibly drug related. She finds it hard watching Vern’s name being erased off the door, Oswalt moving in. Especially seeing as how Bill isn’t half the cop Vern was, for all Vern’s dope-ish nature he was perceptive.


Back at his place, Lester finds the hammer he killed Pearl with right where he stashed it: in back of the washing machine. Then we cut to him moving in temporarily at brother Chaz’s place. If he weren’t already infantilized by his younger brother, now he’s even staying in Gordo’s room, equipped with Mason jars full of pee in the closet. The Nygaard brothers, along with son Gordo, sit in front of the television and eat like normal folk. Lester even admits he may sell his house, “get a fresh start“.
Things get tense for Lester while he’s at the pharmacist. He runs into Deputy Molly Solverson, she has more questions. Instead of waiting to get his medication Lester leaves the store, telling Molly he feels “harassed“. She knows there’s something more behind what went on, all the victims piling up so fast in a tiny town that never sees much excitement. The nervousness of Lester is evident, but Molly can’t stop pushing; she is a good soul.
More of Lou and Molly here, which I love. Keith Carradine is a classic; plus, it’s fun to watch him again after seeing Season 2 and Patrick Wilson as the younger version. They connect well. Here, Allison Tolman and Carradine work great as father and daughter, two police, one active and the other retired. It’s an excellent pairing for the cast. Lou tells his daughter about “savagery” and all the awfulness of police work, which he has seen clearly but manages to stave off in his mind.


The finale sees Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers drag their wrong man out to a frozen lake, auger in tow. They drill a nice hole in the ice, tying the man’s hands and feet, before dropping him head first into the icy waters. Brutal, yet effective, I suppose.
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Love this season so much. Stay tuned soon for another review of the next episode, “A Muddy Road”.

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