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Season 1, Episode 10: “Morton’s Fork”
Directed by Matt Shakman
Written by Noah Hawley
* For a review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage” – click here
* For reviews of Fargo Season 2 starting with “Waiting for Dutch” – click here
The finale of Fargo‘s amazing first season has come. Aw, geez.
“Morton’s Fork” commences where we last left Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), whose wide eyes and open mouth gape at Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) having just killed his new wife Linda (Susan Park) at the insurance office.
Now, we start to glimpse into the newly criminal mind of Lester. He’s become a ruthless, terrible man. Especially when compared to the meek and mild person he was at the beginning in “The Crocodile’s Dilemma”. Beginning to piece together an alibi in his head, Lester crafts things out of nothing. First, he places the car keys in Linda’s dead hand. Secondly, he goes over to the diner where Lou Solverson (Keith Carradine) receives him with a warm smile. He orders, for both himself and Linda, then rushes out to the bathroom, supposedly, making a call from a phone booth to report the shots fired. Slick? We’ll see.
Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) is relaxing at home with her stepdaughter Greta (Joey King) and husband Gus (Colin Hanks). Then she gets a call about the murder: “The other one now?” asks Molly.
Meeting Chief Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk) at the crime scene, Molly goes over things as he keeps back, for fear of vomiting at the sight of more blood. Then Lester shows up, his grief coming through in “aw geez” over and over. Putting on a show for the officers, he pretends to start crying, wobbling and almost falling over. But sneaking one last moment with his wife’s body, Lester attempts to grab the airline tickets in her pocket. No such luck, buddy boy.
Gus: “What‘s that now?”
Molly: “Someone killed the second Mrs. Nygaard.”
At a cabin in the woods, listening to his police scanner, Malvo cooks up a little food on the stove, as well as grabs hold of a few key materials: gun, jimmy stick to steal cars.
Meanwhile, FBI Agents Pepper and Budge (Keegan Michael Key & Jordan Peele) are waiting at the Bemidji Police Department. They’re getting ready to question Lester. However, Lou appears so he can tell Molly about the strange man he’d met at the diner – though he can’t be sure, the security footage picture she shows him looks like it could be Lorne. When Molly asks her father to check up on the family at home, he replies: “Screw that. Goin‘ home and gettin‘ my gun is what I‘m doing. Sit on the front porch. Make sure my granddaughter‘s safe.” Love, love, love Keith Carradine as Lou Solverson. Amazing.
Outside the P.D., Malvo shows up and takes a little black notebook from the car which Pepper and Budge drive. Off he goes, as Lester is being questioned by Molly, Bill, and the two agents. Budge and Pepper want to know more about the wandering evil that is Lorne Malvo. Trying to gain more favour from Bill, Lester gets shut down; no more help from the bumbling chief. Once Nygaard lawyers up things shut down, but Molly warns him: “He‘s not gonna stop. Y‘know that right? A man like that… maybe not even a man.”
Bill (to Molly): “I used to have positive opinions about the world, you know, about people. Used to think the best. Now I‘m looking over my shoulder. An unquiet mind, that‘s what the wife calls it. The job has got me staring into the fireplace, drinking. I never wanted to be the type to think big thoughts about the nature of things and… all I ever wanted was a stack of pancakes and a V8.”
Out on his own, Gus is determined to try and do right. Or at least prevent Molly from having to wade into the river of blood which Malvo always brings with him. Gus heads over to the cabin in the woods where he’d seen the red car parked – the one in which he was sure he’d seen Malvo. Then, from out the door comes the man himself. Lorne drives away with Gus sneaking around quietly.
Malvo is starting to put another plan into motion. He’s calling into the Bemidji P.D. to get the names of the FBI Agents Budge and Pepper. Then to the FBI Operations, cancelling any back-up and claiming things there are a “dead end“. What’s about to happen next? Well, Lorne goes to a car dealership and finds the exact same Ford model as the undercover FBI vehicles. He asks to test drive it, taking the owner with him.
When Agents Pepper and Budge pull out of the station, Lester in tow (being released though still watched), Malvo isn’t far behind in his identical car. Back at his place, Lester is sweating it out in nervousness, awaiting his own next move.
Lou: “What are you plannin‘ on doin‘ with that?”
Greta: “If he comes, I‘ll put his eye out. You can finish him off.”
Lou: “That‘s my girl”
At the Nygaard place, Agents Pepper and Budge sit waiting, watching. Out of nowhere, up pulls another car just like the one in which they’re sat. They’re not sure whether it’s backup or not. Guns drawn, they ask the driver to exit their vehicle. To no response. Coming up next to the window, realizing the man inside – the car dealer – is duct taped to the wheel, Budge and Pepper are both shot to death by Malvo, emerging from the snowy forest behind them.
Rifling through his suitcase and tossing things everywhere, Lester is trying to determine the next step. Just out the front door he spies trails of blood, an open empty FBI car. Panic sets in.
Malvo pushes his way into the house. In the bathroom upstairs he can hear a frantic Lester calling for help on the phone. A few more steps and – BAM – Lorne steps right into the bear trap Lester set on the floor, covered with all those clothes he tossed out of his luggage. What I love most? Lorne throws the Salesman of the Year award and breaks Lester’s nose; giving him an injury to match the one he had in the first episode, bringing things full circle. Except when the dust settles, Lorne is gone, having escaped from the trap in a bloody mess. The car outside is nowhere to be found. As Lester closes his front door, a look crosses his face, an almost grin, as if believing he’s finally run the wolf off his trail.
The episode’s final 15 minutes see Lorne heading back to the cabin in the woods. His leg is brutal, bleeding everywhere. He manages to pop some drugs via needle into his system, then sets the bone very craftily with a small length of rope. But when he begins to start tending to his wound, Lorne finds himself surprised by none other than Gus Grimly pointing a gun his way. Gus says he’s figured out the “shades of green” riddle. Then, when an angry Malvo insists on hearing what the answer is, Gus only fires on him, blowing a few holes through his chest. A couple more shots and then the wandering evil of Malvo has come to an end. A fitting finish for Lorne, but even more so Gus, whose earlier mistakes are finally cauterized by the shooting. He’s proved himself and made right what once went wrong. You betcha.
A great finish to the season includes Lester being finally caught, chased out onto the ice where he falls through into the dead cold waters, as well as the Solverson-Grimly family sitting together, watching television and letting their lives go back to normal.
This, along with Season 2, is some of the best television ever made. Some of my favourite, up there with The Shield, The Knick, and a handful of others.
Please, if you haven’t, check out my reviews for Season 2 and let me know your thoughts on all the episodes. And until 2017 brings us Season 3 of Noah Hawley’s intense, funny, and consistently fascinating series – enjoy.
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.