Raff Hanks is a political advisor who's about to run a child for POTUS. Because art imitates life.
Season 1, Episode 9: “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage”
Directed by Matt Shakman
Written by Noah Hawley
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Heap” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “Morton’s Fork” – click here
After jumping a year down the line, Noah Hawley brings us into the penultimate Season 1 episode “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage”.
We begin on the new identity of Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) as a dentist. He talks a patient through things while checking his teeth and finishing off a procedure. This new blonde-haired Malvo, obviously under a new pseudonym, is a slick one. Did he really go to dental school? Or what’s going on here? Either way, I love it. He and Burt Canton (Stephen Root) are friendly, so no matter what’s going on Lorne has carved out a nice little niche for himself in which to lounge.
Lorne still has his recordings, listening to them over and over. The evil in Malvo sits right below the surface. He relives his past transgressions, as if basking in them.
Now, we end up back where we last saw Lorne, a woman next to him and across the table are Burt and his lady. Across the room sits Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) in the blurry periphery of the frame, as Lorne jokes and makes things light. While Burt talks about their upcoming excitement, Lester shows up to talk with Lorne who pretends they’ve never met before. An awkward moment ensues, but before Lorne leaves he tells Lester in a serious tone: “Walk away.”
Not satisfied with this slight, Lester heads into the elevator to confront Malvo. “The old Lester woulda let that slide – not this guy,” he tells Lorne and the others. But then an old Western style situation emerges: “Lester, is this what you want?” asks Lorne. Everyone seems confused. Once Lester replies yes, things change. Drastically. Out comes a silenced, silver pistol, and Lorne kills everyone in the elevator; except for Lester. “That‘s on you,” says Lorne.
Turns out Malvo was looking for $100,000 bounty, working for a whole six months on Burt. Lorne tries to get Lester in on helping to hide the bodies, but Nygaard cracks him one in the back of the head with his Salesman of the Year award, running off into the dark basement of the hotel. Upstairs, he starts to pack things. Time to head back home, you betcha.
FBI Agents Pepper and Budge (Keegan Michael Key & Jordan Peele) are still wasting away in the file room. All of a sudden, someone comes looking for the Syndicate file regarding the Fargo mob. Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) in Bemidji says, naturally, she knows who did the deed.
In Bemidji, Lou Solverson (Keith Carradine) has his daughter, husband Gus (Colin Hanks) and new granddaughter Greta (Joey King) at the diner for a hearty breakfast. Nice to see this big family together: “You‘re the granddaughter I always wanted but was afraid to buy online,” Lou tells Greta after she kisses him on the forehead.
Finishing her meal, Molly gets a call about the elevator murders, and then she asks what the witness’ name is – I’m sure the name must be Mr. Lester Nygaard.
Meanwhile, Lester’s rushing to get home, head on a swivel looking behind him for a car or any vehicle following him. The new Lester doesn’t seem present anymore. We’re back to the jittery, nervous Lester Nygaard, not the Insurance Salesman of the Year. He wants to go on a big vacation to make it up to Linda (Susan Park): immediately. Yet he can’t seem to move a step without looking every which way first. At home getting ready, Lester looks through some of his brother’s things, hunting gear and the like. The box also contains a gun. He picks up his old orange-red winter jacket from off a nearby rack. Molly shows up at the door to throw him off even further.
While out on his mail route, Gus sees a car drive by and the driver inside looks terribly familiar. Though, he shakes it off. In the car was, in fact, Lorne Malvo. He arrives at Lester’s old place where someone new is now living. Getting the new information on his old buddy Nygaard, the evil Lorne drops the history of the house on the new owners, his children. What a rough dude. At the same time, darkly hilarious.
There’s no rest for the wicked, and this certainly applies to Malvo. He is always doing something. Even if it’s making little kids scared, or killing people, there is constantly, consistently a malicious presence in him.
Deputy Molly talks over the night in question with Lester, about his supposed witnessing the elevator murders. Without being prompted, Linda helps Lester out with part of his alibi and their sudden switched flight.
A scene at the diner sees Lorne sit down across from Lou for coffee and a bit of pie. Although, Malvo tells him: “No good ever came from a piece of cherry pie.” They get into a talk about Lou’s history as a State Trooper for a couple decades. Malvo also asks about Lester, but Lou isn’t exactly keen on giving out another man’s home address and so on. The ever vigilant Lorne spies the Gus-Molly wedding picture, asking about them, making more observations as he so often does. There’s a bit of an ominous feel to the scene as it goes on, cutting occasionally to Molly, then back to Lorne across from Lou in a very stand-off-type way. Lou talks about a case “back in ’79” most likely the infamous Sioux Falls Massacre: “I‘d call it animal except animals only kill for food. This was… Sioux Falls – ever been?” Right as Deputy Molly comes into the diner, Lorne is leaving after making a wonderfully snaky comment. Perfect scene.
Molly meets Agents Pepper and Budge, who are more than excited to see her and hear about what she’s got to say re: the Syndicate shooting. She shows them the big whiteboard full of connections, faces, events and so on. Late to the meeting, Chief Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk) arrives and tries to apologize for Molly, as if there’s something for which to be sorry. Clearly there’s no sense in Bill, whose intelligence doesn’t exactly rival that of her own deputy. Nevertheless, Pepper and Budge want to stay in town, they’re impressed with Molly’s “tremendous work” and plan on moving ahead with questioning Lester some more.
Lorne: “I haven‘t had pie like that since the Garden of Eden”
At their home, Gus stares into the board of connections Molly made concerning the Nygaard case. We cut to the red car coming down the road, the BMW driven by Lorne, as Gus sees him from the mail truck. Poor Grimly is just constantly driven nuts by the entire situation, starting from his first mistake right to the present.
In other news, Lester is getting things ready to fly off and leave his problems behind. The tickets are ready, Acapulco apparently, and Lester is rushing Linda off into the car, whisking her towards the airport. Only there’s more trouble ahead.
Stopping in at Nygaard Insurance, inside the office Lester looks long and hard, wondering if Malvo might be lurking. He further gives Linda his distinctive winter jacket to put on. Is Lester sending her in there to die, possibly? Seems so, don’t ya think? He even asks her to put the hood up.
And when Linda goes inside, after a moment appears Lorne to make the kill with one silenced shot to her head. Lester watches on in semi-horror, semi-relief. Obviously, Lorne checks to see who it is and looks out the window, almost as if right at Lester.
Has everything come to bear finally on Lester Nygaard? The murder coming full circle? You can be sure.
Excited to review the final episode of Season 1, “Morton’s Fork”. Stay tuned and I’ll have another review/recap finished soon enough. Cheers.
Season 1, Episode 8: “The Heap”
Directed by Scott Winant
Written by Noah Hawley
* For a review of the previous episode, “Who Shaves the Barber?” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage” – click here
This episode starts with Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) receiving a new improved washing machine. Might as well get rid of that old reminder, yah? The look on Lester’s face begins to make me wonder what sort of person he is truly. While he watches the machine wash away, the look just lingers.
Then he goes to see his sister-in-law Kitty (Rachel Blanchard). She’s ready to leave Chaz (Joshua Close) behind now, believing him to be a horrible man, an adulterer and a murderer. Poor little Gordo is having night terrors. Even some information that normally wouldn’t be suspicious about Chaz starts to slip out, such as his purchase of a timeshare and a boat – likely things his family would’ve used – and it makes the entire situation look all the worse for it.
At home, Lester begins to take down all his wife’s nonsense motivational posters, her commemorative spoon collection, her sewing station and clothes and everything possible. All the while, a steel drum version of “Ode to Joy” plays. Sort of oddly fitting.
Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) heads to see her father Lou (Keith Carradine) at the diner. She gets a coffee fill-up, as well as flowers sent from Duluth; obviously care of Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks). “A smarter man would say you‘re bein‘ wooed,” Lou says on the sly.
Meanwhile, Chief Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk) just ate an omelette and doesn’t want to be disturbed before it digests. Only Deputy Knudsen (Gary Valentine) calls on him, saying Molly requests his presence in the boardroom. There, she has a whiteboard littered with different connections in the Nygaard case. Still, rightfully so, she’s convinced Bill and everyone else is wrong on pinning the thing on Chaz. But Oswalt is only concerned with cluing things up, moving on.
Bill: “That‘s just how it is sometimes. Life. Ya go to bed unsatisfied.”
At work, Lester is having troubles with Gina Hess (Kate Walsh). Finally, she’s discovered her insurance claim is denied; there will be no money. “I‘ll make some calls,” says Lester. Except she suspects he knew the entire time, which of course… he did. She says at the end of the day he’s got to have $2-million. Or else. Then in a confrontation, he staples the two young Hess boys in their foreheads, telling Gina how things are going to go.
In Fargo, FBI Agents Pepper and Budge (Keegan Michael Key & Jordan Peele) are awaiting what will no doubt be a serious talking to, after the debacle which happened right under their noses. They don’t get yelled at. They’re escorted down floors and floors into a room full of files, as their boss closes the door on them explaining: “This is where you work now.” A punishment. Dull, but a punishment nonetheless. On the wall, though, Budge tapes a picture off the security camera of Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) from side-on.
When a police officer takes his break for a leak at the hospital, Malvo shows up and strangles the man over his back. Cut to Lorne sitting next to Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard) who wakes up soon enough. They have a casual, no nonsense sort of chat. The type Lorne traffics in regularly. Part of why I love Lorne as a character is because of his non-chalant nature, he talks to everyone in the same way. He isn’t indestructible, either. Just lucky. And regardless of how you feel about him, Billy Bob Thornton plays Malvo wonderfully, with an understated, subtle performance. Even better – Lorne leaves Wrench with a key to his handcuffs before walking out.
Lorne (to Mr. Wrench): “I watched a bear once. His leg was in a steel trap. It chewed through bloody bone to get free. It was in Alaska. Died about an hour later facedown in a stream. But it was on his own terms, you know? You got close. Closer than anybody else. I don‘t know if it was you or your partner, but look – if you still feel raw about things when you heal up, come see me.”
Molly won’t ever be able to let the Nygaard case and everything wrapped up in it go. Never. Not until things are settled and the whole case is laid to rest. If not, she’ll only circle around it until something breaks; either her job, her mind, or who knows. On the way home from their office party, Molly stops and sees Lester with his co-workers at Munk Insurance. The look on her face, watching him act normal as if nothing had ever happened – she knows something wrong went on, she just can’t connect all the dots quite yet. Soon.
Back to Gus Grimly, who can never seem to keep a drink from spilling. In his squad car having a cup of coffee, he checks the speeds of cars coming down the road; few and far between. So, he calls Deputy Molly for a chat. They both really like each other, it’s easy to tell. Even her eyes perk up a little when he talks, and Gus often rambles or stumbles over words worse than usual when they’re talking together. Furthermore, a date is setup, again awkwardly. But it’s cute, the two of them.
A time jump: one year later.
Gus has obviously given up his job as a cop. Now doing what he always wanted to do – deliver mail. An interesting change of pace, but I dig it. With his new job it’s clearly better for him and daughter Greta (Joey King), so he can walkie talkie with her whenever and not worry about missing criminals, or anything similar. More than just that. At home, a new place, Gus and Molly have a beautiful place, and a beautiful family with a bun in the oven. How things have progressed! I love to see this, though, as it also shows how Molly has slowed down and fell off the Nygaard incident. If only for the fact she hasn’t slowed down one bit. She keeps a room full of clippings, pictures, red string connecting points of interest and so on. There is never any giving up; not when you’re a Solverson.
So, let’s see where everyone else has ended up in 12 months. The time jump is also fun because it’s a year, and with that comes emotions/situations pertaining to the anniversary of all the big incidents in Bemidji, Duluth, and even Fargo.
Agents Budge and Pepper are now long broken down by the file room. Their relentlessly nonsensical banter is actually a great crack-up. I love Key and Peele anyways. Here with Noah Hawley’s writing, they’re so perfect for their parts. As Pepper tosses a ball over and over at the wall, eventually a bulletin board falls revealing the picture of Malvo, which Budge had taped there a long year before. Will this re-whet their appetite?
Then there’s Bill Oswalt. He’s taken in a young African refugee, bless his heart. Just such a strange place to find him. Yet shows that he’s a good man. A stupid, figuratively blind man, but good in his soul. The whole scene with Bill, Molly and the young man is a whole lot of fun, as well as a little intriguing, sussing out the message of why this has been included; the right under your nose aspect of everything comes forward quickly.
Best of all is Lester Nygaard. He’s living it up in new found freedom. He and Linda Park (Susan Park) are together now. No longer does Lester have a terrible wife, but a woman who actually respects him. Moreover, he’s won a big award as Insurance Salesman of the Year. As Lester and Linda party it up in a hotel for the evening, a familiar face pushes out of the crowd. While Lester heads to the bar, and Linda goes upstairs, there comes the old memory of a man. And though he doesn’t look the same, use the same name, and he’s sporting a different style of dress entirely, different hair colour and all that, you can tell: it’s Lorne Malvo.
From out of his new attitude and new life Lester is rattled. Just seeing Malvo there across the room, it shakes him to his core. Perhaps Lester imagined never seeing him again. Though, that’d be too perfect. No, a story like that of Season 1 on Fargo wouldn’t be enough without old wounds coming to bear on the present.
Excited to get into the last two episodes of the first season. Amazing show and I could watch every episode once a week, honestly. Next up is the penultimate finisher, “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage”. Stay tuned for more, my fellow fans and friends.
Season 1, Episode 6: “Buridan’s Ass”
Directed by Colin Bucksey
Written by Noah Hawley
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Six Ungraspables” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Who Shaves the Barber?” – click here
More of the strangeness in Minnesota, between the problems of Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) and the wandering evil that is Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton), things have gotten pretty darn interesting around Bemidji and Duluth. You betcha.
A nice Japanese music opening, as we peer into the kitchen of a Japanese restaurant. A beautiful meal of fish and other assorted items is prepared, then brought out to a waiting table. At that table sits Moses Tripoli and other members of the Fargo mob. Love to watch this around again, now knowing what we know from the Season 2 finale this year. Moses asks what’s going on with the Sam hess situation. He’s told about Mrs. Wrench and Numbers (Russell Harvard/Adam Goldberg) in terms of their mileage, et cetera, on the little roadtrip they’ve taken. “Kill and be killed,” says Moses – a line again familiar to anyone who’s seen the second season.
Back at at the home of Don Chumph (Glenn Howerton), Lorne lets him out of the pantry where he’d been placed. Time for another phone call to Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt). Instead, Don chooses to rattle off a Star Wars quote and fuck with Malvo. Dummy. He also wonders why there’s “newspaper on the windows“, not paying enough attention to anything the evil in front of him is doing.
Probably still sweating out the amphetamines Lorne slipped into his regular pill bottle, Stavros is flashing back to the late ’80s when he found the roadside money. Then the call comes through, with Don reading a cryptic parable to Stavros in the disguised voice. A meeting is set. Clueless Don is then knocked out by Lorne wielding a pot off the stove.
In Duluth, Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) is meeting with Officer Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks). Though they’re both focused on the case, it’s obvious a romance is brewing, which is fun because they each are awesome people yet slightly awkward at times. Gus heard from his neighbour about the confrontation with Malvo, though obviously he didn’t know it was him. He’s afraid if he called it all in himself, the others wouldn’t believe him.
Sitting up in bed looking perky, Lester is feeling better apparently. They’ve got his hand all fixed up. But he’s more concerned with why Deputy Knudsen (Gary Valentine) is posted outside the door. Clearly, he knows the gig is almost up. Or least the figurative noose around his guilt-ridden neck has started to tighten up real nice. Then Chaz (Joshua Close) shows up asking: “What did you do?” Of course, Lester dances his way lazily around the conversation trying to say he’s “the victim“. Yet Chaz is sceptical, as one might be in that situation. Especially after Lester’s so-called prank, calling from the trunk of the car in which Numbers/Wrench had him kidnapped. His younger brother insists something needs to be done, calling him a burden: “There‘s something wrong with you, Lester. There‘s something missing. You‘re not right in the world.” Left alone again, the crafty Lester starts trying to figure out a way to make an escape for himself, starting with the heavily bandaged man in the bed next to him. Then with some bandages of his own, the slippery older Nygaard brother enacts his plan.
A nurse soon comes to take Lester, assuming him to be the other patient. Slipping free, he takes the bandages off, throws on a bit of his clothes, and runs out into the lightly falling snow.
Gus and Molly chat about Lester driving in Grimly’s car. Molly knows, obviously, Lester wasn’t in the basement when Chief Thurman was shot. Lie number one right there. The two cops make their way over to the grocery store run by Milos. Love the hilariously uncomfortable wait while Gus and Molly stand next to the cashier; the Minnesota accents with the incredibly politeness and pleasantries, it’s all so funny and excellent. Part of the charm of the series overall.
In other news, Milos is off to the parking garage for the meet. Alone. More and more he flashes back to finding the money in the snow, as if it’s all he can think of anymore. All of a sudden, Stavros has an epiphany about what to do while on the phone with Wally (Barry Flatman).
Back to Don – he’s duct taped and setup in a terrible situation. Lorne has him positioned near the door. An assault rifle is taped and aimed out the window. Things are looking pretty darn awful for ole Don Chumph. In Don’s hands, he places a twice-cocked shotgun, again aimed at the front door. Lorne wants the police real busy if Stavros does actually call them – “Part one,” he tells Don. He fires a couple shots out the window, checks on the scanner to make sure police are responding, then off goes Lorne to leave Don all alone.
Lorne: “Part two – have you ever had Turkish Delight? It‘s disgusting.”
On the lam and back at his house, Lester notices the washer pulled out from the wall. Then, he looks behind the bloody poster on the wall; inside the hole, there rests the evidence. Lester pulls out a box from under the stairs with a few cheesecake Polaroids of his deceased wife Pearl, as well as fishes out a pair of her underwear from the laundry. Where’s he taking it all? I have a hunch. Meanwhile, at the hospital it’s discovered Mr. Nygaard is no longer in his bed.
At the home of his brother, Lester plants the evidenced needed to frame Chaz for the murder of Pearl. Looking at the picture of his brother’s apparently perfect family, another idea strikes. Taking a handgun from the cabinet of death Chaz has in the garage, Lester stashes it in his nephew Gordo’s bookbag. Wow! Rough stuff, mister. No bullets it seems, but still. Vindictive, hateful things coming out of the older Nygaard brother. Perhaps Chaz should’ve curbed his attitude at the hospital for fear of what might have come. Then, Gordo and his mom come home. Lester sneaks down the stairs, spied by the boy who doesn’t seem to care much – luckily, he’s on the spectrum and has no time for uncle Lester.
Gus and Molly are having a bite to eat. She’s still pressing on finding out more information, even with the roads soon closing from the snowfall. Gus tells her about how he “never wanted to be a cop“, and that his true aspiration was to be a mailman; the familiarity, bringing people their cheques, their presents, “being a part of their community“. We learn about Greta’s mother, his wife, passing, and how he needed the money – therefore, a policeman he is and will be.
Afterwards, a ton of police sirens fly by the window, as Gus and Molly watch on. They’re all headed over to Chumph’s place, where Don sits taped to his chair, trying his best to scream. The police move in on the door. Lorne has the lawn booby trapped to fire more bullets, which prompts the cops and the SWAT members to pump the house full of ammunition. With Malvo driving far away, mayhem breaks out. The house shines through with bullet holes. Don gets blown away by the police, unable to see anything except his gun. A vicious death – the duct tape keeping him steady upright while bullets rock his body back and forth.
On his police scanner, Lorne hears the news and moves on into the snowy horizon. Only all of a sudden, Numbers and Wrench show up with fire power. They begin to blast away. But the slippery eel Malvo sneaks off into the blizzard. AMAZING SEQUENCE shot in the blowing snow. It’s a really incredible bit, one of my favourites out of Season 1. Especially because we see now exactly how much of a hunter Lorne is. He’s both hunter and survivor. Here, he leads his prey to where he wants. The prey, naturally, fall into his trap. Using a trail of his own blood, Malvo lures Mr. Numbers in and stabs him between the ribs, twisting, turning the blade. Before slitting his throat. Assault rifle in tow, Lorne heads back into the blizzard leaving Gus and Molly to find the dead Mr. Numbers bled out in the snow.
Only this puts everyone in the way of more harm. In the distance gunshots go off. Grimly fires into the snow, but comes to find it was Molly he shot. This whole sequence is perfect. It also reminds me of the original and remake Insomnia, but not in a ripped off sense. In a great way.
Out in the snow, Stavros is trying to appease God. He buries the case again, now filled with money. On top of the snowy mound he places the red windshield scraper. Everything is right once more. Or, probably not. Wouldn’t that be peachy?
When the blizzard starts clearing a little, out on the road where Wally drives Stavros’ sun back home, fish start raining out of the sky. Likewise, Stavros finds them all over the road. Everywhere. Stopping at the side of the road, he’s amazed. And then discovers Wally, his son, both crashed, each dead. As if more Plagues of Egypt have come down on his head. Part of why I love Fargo so much over the course of Season 1 and Season 2 now is because Noah Hawley throws in wonderfully weird pieces like this, which somehow work and fit into the universe he’s created.
But the finale is the real kicker. At the hospital, Lester has sneaked in again. The bandaged man is back in his bed. A place for everything and every thing in its place. Sitting quietly, a strange smile pulls across Lester’s face, as if he is finally finding some happiness.
Great episode. Look forward to reviewing the next, “Who Shaves the Barber?”, so stay tuned for more here, fellow fans!
Season 1, Episode 5: “The Six Ungraspables”
Directed by Colin Bucksey
Written by Noah Hawley
* For a review of the previous episode, “Eating the Blame” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Buridan’s Ass” – click here
With the story chugging along in between Bemidji and Duluth, our Minnesota stories of mischief and mayhem continue.
We cue up on Lester Nygaard (Martin Freem) looking for new socks, buying a bag of “irregular socks“. We get a funny yet revealing moment about Lester, who asks “What‘s fair?” when a clerk at the store explains the stock is for best offer. We watch Lester struggle to haggle. Then, the clerk offers him the socks and a long gun for $55. Cut to Pearl berating Lester for his purchase, imaging he’ll “blow his face off“. So now, we have a wonderful little explanation for how the gun ended up at Lester’s home. We revisit the night Pearl died, Lester practicing to set Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) up as the culprit. I like how Noah Hawley cuts us back to these moments, giving us different views of how things happened and what went on. Now, we see Lorne slip in as Lester is confronted by Chief Thurman (Shawn Doyle), we watch the death again.
Only now it ends with the buckshot in Lester, sinking into his hand. A great edit takes us to the current moment in that jail cell, the festering wound in his hand. Lester sits wedged between Mrs. Wrench and Numbers (Russell Harvard & Adam Goldberg). He’s sweating it out, literally. The two men are heavily intimidating as a pair. While they both give him a silent treatment, Lester attempts to talk his way out of things. They’ve got an inkling that someone else is involved in the murder of Hess, though, Nygaard won’t give anything up. Pressing into his wound, Numbers puts Lester in a world of hurt, as Wrench stuffs his dirty sock in the poor guy’s mouth. Eventually, out slips one word: “Malvo“.
Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) is troubled. The entire situation is spiraling quickly out of control. “No way around it,” Molly tells herself before heading in to see Chief Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk). He still has no time for it all, rather he’s more concerned with a snowfall warning coming up. Still, Molly gives Bill the name Lorne Malvo and other information she discovered about his stay at the motel. After a bit of chat, it almost looks as if Bill is ready to give in and hear Molly out completely. Molly believes it was “murder for hire” that later went sour. How close she is, truly.
The easily lovable Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) is technologically inept, and so he enlists his daughter Greta (Joey King) to help delve into the life of Frank Robertson, a.k.a Lorne. Up on a website pops a picture of Pastor Robertson standing in a church and everything, but only one single website. Then, they search Lorne Malvo, which brings up absolutely nothing. I love how Gus and his daughter are sort of sleuthing together, always find those unorthodox police relationships in film/television intriguing. Here it’s even better because they’re father and daughter.
Lorne goes to the same guy from whom he procured the amphetamines, tracking down a police scanner. “Do I look like I want a pink police scanner?” Malvo asks the man with a stone face. Moreover, he also gets himself some walkie talkies.
At the home of Don Chumph (Glenn Howerton), up shows Lorne, as always like the wandering evil in the night, or middle of the day. The master criminal rigs up the phone, then makes a call to Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt) who is still strung out hard on the amphetamine. Worse than that, the semi-Biblical plagues are coming down on his head hard. Stavros thinks he didn’t repay his promise to God, and that’s why all these things are happening. Now he’s terrified of the “death of the firstborn son“. With a big payday headed their way, Don wants to happily celebrate with his new buddy Lorne; who for his part is only concerned whether Don has a pantry. Then he requests a drill. Slowly, we can imagine where this is headed. “I need screws,” Lorne says and checks the pantry doorway. Eagerly, Don helps, not wondering at all what Lorne is up to. Yet. Once Chumph goes into the closet upon being asked, Lorne screws the door closed: “I don‘t want you gettin‘ cold feet, he tells Don, “-see ya in the morning.”
Flashes of the murderous night at the Nygaard residence. Lester wakes up in the jail eventually, as Chefi Oswalt and Deputy Solverson stand over him. It seems that puncture in his hand is giving him troubles, so he’s in the back of an ambulance. His words are jumbled, he rambles on about a shotgun and such. “I didn‘t pay him,” Lester says over and over.
From a man with a badge, Mrs. Numbers and Wrench receive a file with the picture of Malvo dragging a man from an elevator, in a dark and snowy alley.
Cutting back to Gus, he sits with a glass of milk and spies the man living across from him in the next building, also sitting at his table with a glass of milk. The man goes to his window, prompting Gus to do the same. Their talk is about “the time I get” and then they end up at the same table for a further conversation. Each man has their own weighty burden. Gus asks the man about his situation with Malvo, knowing a man is guilty but not having proof; the man soon enough says “only a fool thinks he can solve the world‘s problems“. Through a parable, the man relays a story about the man “who gave everything” in order to try just that, unable in the end to actually fix everything. “But you gotta try, don‘t ya?” Gus asks.
Out in the night, Gus drives aimlessly. Passing him unknowingly on the road are Stavros and Lorne, headed down to the grocery store. Milos fills up the old briefcase with a ton of cash inside.
Back at the hospital, Molly talks with the doctor who fixed Lester up. His hand was bad, full of necrotic flesh and nasty fluids. Almost lost the darned thing. Champing at the bit, she wants to question Nygaard and get to the bottom of things. Meanwhile on another floor, Ida Thurman (Julie Ann Emery) has finally had her baby: a drop of good news in an ocean of chaos.
Sneaky sneaky – Deputy Molly goes to the Nygaard house. Underneath the doormat, like so many small towns, a key lies waiting. She heads in, politely wiping her boots before doing so. There she retraces the steps of that fateful night. Coming to the washing machine and noticing it out from the wall a tad, Molly has a look at the back after unscrewing the paneling. Inside, she doesn’t find the ball peen hammer Lester used to kill Pearl. Where has he hidden the thing?
More of Stavros, as Lorne drives him quietly. They come to have a conversation about saints and the Romans. Very intriguing point of dialogue between these two. And once Stavros is home, they part ways. For the time being.
Lorne: “Well I‘m saying that the Romans raised by wolves, they see a guy turning water into wine, what do they do. They eat him. Cause there are no saints in the animal kingdom. Only breakfast and dinner.”
With Grimly heading home and talking on his cell with Molly, lurking not far behind is Malvo. He stays out in his vehicle, monitoring things with his new walkie talkie and setting up his scanner. Except the plan is slightly foiled when Gus’ friendly neighbour from the earlier chat knocks at Malvo’s window saying: “You‘re not supposed to be here.” It’s almost as if the man can sense an evil in Malvo, as if it seeps from his pores and into the world. Maybe it does. Ominous conversation on Lorne’s part prompts the Jewish man to call him a demon, in what I presume is Yiddish.
At the hospital, Molly is in the midst of the old boys club until Chief Oswalt and the others clear out. She heads in to be with Ida and the fresh new baby: “That‘s what a new one smells like,” says Molly with glee. Ida doesn’t want details about the case, only to know Molly is taking care of things.
The episode finishes with Molly spying in on Lester, who looks asleep. Only we see he isn’t, just pretending for the moment. His eyes and entire face speak of a deep worry.
Can’t wait to review the next episode, titled “Buridan’s Ass”. Lots more Minnesota mayhem to come, my fellow Fargo-ites.
Season 1, Episode 4: “Eating the Blame”
Directed by Randall Einhorn
Written by Noah Hawley
* For a review of the previous episode, “A Muddy Road” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Six Ungraspables” – click here
After Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) stepped up the mischief, bringing it bloody and tough to Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt), and Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) has begun leaning even further towards something fishy surrounding Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), we’re back in Minnesota, between Duluth and Bemidji. Let’s see what “Eating the Blame” and Noah Hawley have in store for us, shall we? Well all righty.
This episode opens with more beautifully captured Minnesotan landscapes, snow lining the roads. We watch a station wagon hauling a small trailer. Eventually, we discover it’s 1987. Inside the car, a young Stavros (Carlos Diaz) drives his wife and child in the desperate cold. Things are rough for them, it seems. But what’s at work here isn’t merely flashback. Once Stavros and his little family break down at the roadside, Hawley takes us into crossover territory with the Coen Brothers and their original film Fargo. Desperate and at his wits’ end, Milos prays to God, hoping for “gas, a warm bed” and that if things change he’ll but his “humble servant” forever. Then, out in the snow he spies the windshield scraper. Yes, that one. Same one that’s now, in the 2006 timeline, hanging in a frame on the wall in Stavros’ office. In ’87, he dug up the infamous bag of money left out in the snow buried at the finish of the Coen Brothers film. The lucky Stavros got his fortune out of pure lucky, then misguidedly tried to lightly keep in touch with God due to this afterwards; and I use the word lightly very lightly. But I love how this connects things without having to use the same characters as the movie, Hawley creates his own Minnesotan plots and webs them into that of the Coens original work.
Cut back to Stavros, who has Don Chumph (Glenn Howerton) checking out his house after the bloody shower incident. They want to know about tampering, though, naturally Don plays the fool. Not that it’s hard. A little talk of the Bible, Moses and the Plagues comes out, which spurs Stavros into an amphetamine-fueled rage. He is in one bad state. When Don leaves, he spots Malvo off against the treeline, standing ominously like the wandering evil that he is.
Back with Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks). He’s out looking after Animal Control business. Gus makes a terribly timed joke about an Animal Control worker who’s always sick, which I laughed aloud at. Too funny, especially his reaction. Then, he finds himself headed out to look after the claim of a dead dog, obviously at the Milos residence. Perfect timing, right? He finds Malvo standing silently on the side of the road. Slicking back his hair, Lorne gets ready to make up some stories and, maybe, likely, talk himself out of whatever’s coming. But Officer Grimly definitely wants to make good on his big blunder, not picking Malvo up the first time. Will the greasy criminal slip his way out of this one?
At the police station, Lorne falls into his latest identity: Father Frank Peterson. He even slips on a pair of glasses quickly to convince everyone, plus beefs up a Midwestern accent.
At Deputy Solverson’s office, she receives a call from Grimly. He advises about Malvo being in custody and then she’s headed out his way to see what’s happening. Meanwhile, Chief Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk) isn’t interested as much as he ought to be, only because he didn’t get the call and Molly did. “Well that‘s irregular,” Bill complains. Taking things over Oswalt heads up to Duluth himself leaving Molly behind to fume rightfully.
Lester is headed over to his house with brother Chaz (Joshua Close), the latter of which finds himself disgusted and creeped out after discovering a big stain of blood still all over the floor. Upstairs, Lester gets some of his things but has a bit of a problem with his hand. Ah, the buckshot wound – always there, like the guilt behind Lester’s shiny facade. It’s the physical symbol of his guilty conscience, as if he can’t seem to ever manage to fully put it behind him, in the back of his mind. It’s always at the fore, continually and consistently dragging him back to that dangerous night.
Mr. Numbers (Adam Goldberg) makes a call to Lester. He’s surprised to hear from Numbers.
Mr. Numbers: “But I think you need to ask yourself – was it worth it?”
Lester: “Worth what?”
Mr. Numbers: “Your life”
At a diner, Mr. Numbers sits down after his call with Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard). I love their conversation, as it comes with subtitles for the sign language while they chat. Great, quirky dialogue, but not for the sake of it. These two characters are inherently idiosyncratic, right from the name on down, and here with a slight interaction involving Lou Solverson (Keith Carradine), we get lots of their attitudes, their style, all in one fun scene. Better yet, if you’re caught up to current day like I am you may have noticed we’re introduced to Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers as kids right at the end of Season 2.
More of Lorne Malvo a.k.a Frank Robertson. He’s dealing with the idiotic Don Chumph, and not too worried about being in jail, saying he’ll be out in “two hours” to be exact. Pretty confident. At the same time, Chief Oswalt shows up in Duluth. Gus again has to endure more bathroom time while Oswalt and Schmidt (Peter Breitmayer) take a leak as he runs down everything for Bill. Basically here we’re seeing a good man trying to do right while other officers of the law around him are clearly and brutally incompetent. Particularly Oswalt, played to perfection by Bob Odenkirk of whom I’ve been a longtime fan since his days as mostly a writer.
Lorne goes head-to-head with Oswalt and Schmidt in an interrogation room, playing up his meek and mild demeanour along with that stressed Minnesota accent. He claims to not have been in Bemidji and jokes around trying to make light of the situation. And tragically, or tragicomically, he manages to sly talk his way out of things. The story gets thicker once Oswalt and Schmidt check on Frank’s background… and it all checks out. All the while, Lorne behind the facade of Frank smiles through the two-way glass at Gus standing right outside.
Deputy Molly is hard at work. She tracked down the motel owner and the young man with whom Malvo earlier had an encounter. Just so happens, he even signed his name in the book as Lorne Malvo. He memorably asked about a pet fish and such, which obviously wasn’t hard to forget for the clerk. Yet all the while, Frank Robertson is being let go to walk free. “You‘re making a mistake,” shouts Grimly – the very same thing Malvo earlier told him he’d be saying later. The tragedy continues, as Gus is being held accountable for pointing his gun at a supposed minister, a civilian, and nobody can see what’s going on. Even Oswalt shakes Lorne’s hand before the man leaves.
A brief confrontation between Grimly and Malvo sees the latter break out some criminal wisdom, after the former asks how he can just lie then walk away so casually: “Did you know the human eye can see more shades of green than any other colour? My question is why?… when you figure out the answer to my question, then you‘ll have the answer to yours.” It’s a question of predators. And the many, many shades of villainy.
Just as Lester begins to worry about a forensic team searching through his vehicle at the impound, Mrs. Numbers and Wrench toss him into a trunk then speed off, possibly towards a frozen lake. Lester manages to call his brother from inside the trunk, though Chaz is in the midst of watching porno in his garage. “I think I may have been kidnapped is the thing,” Lester tells him politely and strangely calm. After finding a taser, he claims the whole thing was a joke: “You‘re an asshole,” his brother replies, hanging up then going back to the porn. When the car stops he prepares his weapon. But a punch to the gut and the strength of Mr. Wrench overpowers him. Out onto the ice, auger once more in tow, the two partners take Nygaard to his probable doom. They’re still convinced it was Lester killed Sam Hess. Then out of nowhere, Lester tasers Numbers before taking off and leaving the unsuspecting Wrench still drilling a hole in the ice.
Through the forest and the trees, Lester makes it out onto a road where a police car is stopped nearby. He runs down trying to find help. The officer (Gary Valentine) won’t give Lester a ride, so he punches the cop in the face with a light tap prompting an arrest. All to get away from the two henchmen nipping at his heels.
The amphetamines are working overtime on Stavros, whose teeth are grinding, whose pores are all but pouring. He works away at his desk trying not to lift off like a rocket. He and his son Dmitri (Gordon S. Miller) have a fight, or more so Stavros yells at his son.
And following this very brief moment, more Plagues of Egypt befall Milos. Well, at least close enough. Crickets begin to literally seep from the walls, flying and perching over everything in the grocery store sending customers wailing through the doors. Things are getting Biblically fucked up: “Remember – God is watching,” a disguised voice tells Milos over the phone. Stavros is worried a reckoning has come round, full-circle, after he took that money from the snowy side of the road.
In a smoky bar, Mrs. Numbers and Wrench aren’t getting along too well. Specifically, Wrench doesn’t look pleased with his good buddy. A fight breaks out and they kick the shit out of each other for a while.
At her father’s diner, Molly meets Gus. He gives the sad report about what happened with Malvo. And they think about where to move next on the grand chessboard of their horrible situation.
And the bar fight has led Mrs. Numbers and Wrench into a jail cell. Right next to their old pal Lester Nygaard. Confronted with them, the finale of the episode sees the men now smiling, happy to be right back with him again.
Excited, as usual, for the next episode – titled “The Six Ungraspables”. Stay tuned, my fellow Fargo addicts!