Gloria keeps on the case. Varga and Nikki come together at their meeting with dangerous results. And Emmit gets just desserts.
Nikki and Mr. Wrench try escaping the would-be assassins. Meanwhile, Emmit believes Ray has come back from the dead.
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!
Season 1, Episode 3: “A Muddy Road”
Directed by Randall Einhorn
Written by Noah Hawley
Back to Minnesota. You betcha!
“A Muddy Road” begins in an office building, cubicles on every which side. People work quietly, like any other day. One man looks troubled. Then suddenly, he spies Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) down at the end of the hall. The worried man obviously owes money. So Lorne drags him by the tie down through the hall while others watch. A security camera records all of this, right through the building, down into the parking garage.
Malvo strips the man down with a knife, then throws him in the trunk. Ah, so this is where the beginning comes from. From inside the trunk we watch the man get thrown around, Malvo flying out off the road and into the snow. Out in those woods, the man dies, as we already saw. But I dig how Noah Hawley takes us back through that beginning moment, to show us a little behind those opening moments of the series premiere and gives us a bit of context, instead of it being a one-off moment.
Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) is out at the office building where the frozen man was dragged from by Malvo. The employees are hilarious, each giving their opinion on the guy. Mostly, Molly is looking for connections to what happened in Bemidji with Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) and his wife, the Chief, all that.
At the same time, Lorne is over sweating Don Chumph (Glenn Howerton): “You got bronzer on your blackmail note.” Poor Don has got himself into a rough situation. Howerton is an awesome addiction to the cast, he is a funny guy and able to be subtle, unlike his excellent portrayal of Dennis Reynolds on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. But more than that, I love the entire scene between Don and Lorne. Eventually Lorne discovers Don knows nothing, only that Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt) supposedly “lies about where he got his money“. Now there’s more of the wandering evil in Lorne coming out, making people do as he bids. He’s getting Don to make a new blackmail letter.
Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) is still haunted by letting Malvo go. He looks up the plate number of the car; it was Lester’s car. Heading into the bathroom to talk with his lieutenant, Ben Schmidt (Peter Breitmayer) hilariously as the man is trying to take a shit, Gus tells him about the car belonging to one of the – supposed – victims. “It‘s god damn Sioux Falls all over again,” Lt. Schmidt says to himself. He is not impressed with Gus, but how could he have done anything? Lorne basically threatened his life. Was it worth pushing? At the same time, the lieutenant has every right to be pissed.
Lester is also haunted. He can’t stop thinking, obviously, about what happened at his house; his wife, Chief Thurman, everything. Weighing heavy on him. And why wouldn’t it? Well, now Lester is trying to get back to work at the insurance office for his foolish boss Bo Munk (Tom Musgrace). He actually ends up bringing documents over to Sam Hess’ widow, Gina (Kate Walsh). Interesting.
The Hess boys are still as dumb and dickish as ever, taunting Lester as a “loser” and wondering if he wants to “do” their mom. All the insurance mess starts to get worked out eventually once Gina invites Lester inside. “When do I get my money?” she asks quickly. He tries being a bit graceful, but she’s really only concerned with cold hard cash; not her cold dead husband. Then they start bonding a little over their dead spouses, as Gina sips what is most likely wine from a water bottle. Slowly, Gina starts trying to seduce Lester, whose awkwardness as usual knows no bounds.
And out in the trees, Lester eventually eyes Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard) and Mr. Numbers (Adam Goldberg) watching on.
Lester: “You‘ve got your kids”
Gina: “I‘ve taken shits I wanna live with more than them”
A perfect scene between Molly and an old friend having dinner is highly reminiscent, without copying, of the original Fargo film where Marge Gunderson meets her friend from school Mike Yanagita. Of course, this scene with Molly and her friend is not at all the same situation. But the whole thing is very good homage. One of those awkward encounters we have with people after years of not seeing them. I thought it was a great inclusion. Plus, it just shows how sensible and intelligent minded Molly is compared to so many other clueless people around her.
Lorne: “It‘s already dog–eat–dog, friend. Not sure what worse a bunch of zombies could do.”
At the Milos residence, Lorne shows up with his nasty knife. He meets a big burly dog eye to eye, and you get the sense the dog recognizes Malvo as another animal. Inside, Malvo switches Stavros’ medication out with amphetamines. Well, that’s going to be quite the shock, isn’t it? Just as Stavros almost catches the culprit at work, out slips Lorne from the front door. Then, through the window, Stavros sees what the animal did to his dog, who lies dead with a cut neck and a new blackmail note to his corpse. Tragic to see an animal die, but did we expect anything better from a guy like Lorne? Not I. Milos is clearly intimidated, and also pretty angry.
Something I love about this series is there are little easily read bits of symbolism throughout the episodes. Such as the buckshot left in Lester’s hand: it stays around, it won’t leave, he can’t get it out and the wound just won’t heal, similar to how his guilt and those other feelings remain right below the surface threatening to expose him. Coming out of the bathroom in his office, Lester finds Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers waiting silently at his desk. The phone rings and he sits down to answer it as usual; it’s actually the impound in Duluth letting him know they have his vehicle. From there, a tense conversation between Mrs. Wrench and Numbers and Lester begins. First with a little sign language, until Numbers tells him exactly what they’re here about: “Sam Hess“.
Then, inconveniently, Molly appears to talk insurance with Lester. She wants to start thinking about life insurance, possibly. On account of her father Lou (Keith Carradine), worrying what might happen to him if she were to die in the line of duty. When some files fall on the floor from Molly’s folder, a security camera picture comes out: Lorne. This rattles Mr. Nygaard pretty bad, fast, and Molly can see how much it does. Little by little, the facade slips. Lester can only try his hardest not to be swept away in the tide of guilty lies.
At the home of Milos, a windshield scraper, a small one, is framed on the wall. Everything there is very grand, except the scraper. Strange, no? We’ll find out its significance soon enough. Milos wants to get things handled now, after the death of his dog; he and Wally (Barry Flatman) berate Lorne a little for him not knowing who exactly did the deed. Then we get into a little mention of Milos and his fortune, only Milos won’t budge on giving up any further information. Then he chews up one of the amphetamine tablets Lorne slipped into the bottle earlier that day. Lift off.
Gus Grimly and his daughter Greta (Joey King) sit at his desk. He’s looking through mugshot book after mugshot book, to try and find the man he pulled over that night. You can see how it all chews him up inside, the poor fella. But I suppose living on the thin blue line is never easy, no matter how much we wish it would be; it just is not.
Continually, Chief Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk) does not appreciate Molly’s theories about what happened in their town. She realizes Lester knows more than he lets on, yet Bill is so blind to the people in his quaint little town he is just completely unable to see what’s really going on. Molly isn’t giving up, though. Onward and upward.
Finally a break – Molly meets Gus, who came to tell her about his mistake. He talks about what happened, letting Lorne go and so on, the car he was in belonging to Lester Nygaard. Now, things are starting to come together, and an interesting relationship between Gus/Molly begins as she now has someone on her side.
But the best of all comes in the finale of “A Muddy Road”.
Lester goes to see his brother Chaz (Joshua Close) looking for the gun that “makes the biggest hole“. They have a brother-brother bonding session. And we can see, Lester is getting more bold. Slowly, but it is happening.
Then, the finale concludes with Lorne reading from the Bible – the part about the plagues in Egypt – which also sees Stavros still sweating it out, hopped up unknowingly on amphetamines, then hopping in a shower. Except the shower starts to pour red, much like the red water in Egypt during the plagues, and when Milos notices he goes berserk. As one would. A smile on his face, and a couple buckets of pig’s blood in the back, Lorne gets in his vehicle to drive off.
Loved this episode. Can’t wait to review the next episode, “Eating the Blame”. More Minnesota chaos and mayhem coming again. Stay tuned for another review.
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
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.
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; “I‘ve 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 “there‘s 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.
Love this season so much. Stay tuned soon for another review of the next episode, “A Muddy Road”.