The subtitle for “Who Shaves the Barber?” may as well have been “Lester’s Revenge.” But revenge for what? Being a coward? Carrying the baggage of everyone else’s regrets and insecurities until they stirred his inner psychopath? By now, Lester’s fully internalized the gospel according to Lorne Malvo, which is basically a literalized grafting of biblical wrath, Nietzschean ideals, and the Discovery Channel. Mr. Nygaard is neither hero nor protagonist. Both he and others once perceived him as nothing. Now, as he anger-bangs the widow Hess from behind, Lester is exhilarated and void. Or, as his prophet Lorne might conclude, truly human — one who sees only red, not shades of green.
Meanwhile, younger brother Chazz’s lifelong routine of cocky homecoming king has written his fate. No one really wants to believe Lester’s capable of such misdeeds (excepting Molly, of course), which means this evil demands a face. Three murders, one disappearance (we love ya, Lenny Potts), and a wounded deputy are enough to make Chief Bill helplessly sob, and no one wants to see their top cop cry. When Bemidji PD seize Chazz’s stash of automatic weapons, not to mention the incriminating hammer, a pair of Pearl’s panties, and some “boudoir” Polaroids for good measure, no one stops to ask if this is all a bit too neat. Nor does anyone pipe up and wonder aloud whether judging evidence at face value in this case has really served them well to this point. Not even Chazz’s wife, Kitty, who gets her big “My husband’s been leading a double life!” hysterical breakdown before they even open his war chest, gives him the benefit of the doubt.
Kitty’s dramatic presumption of Chazz’s guilt was one of several head-scratching moments in tonight’s fourth-to-last series chapter. Contrivances, throwaway lines (yeah, Lou, “screw the damn restaurant”), and requisite cognitive dissonance have been the norm throughout Fargo, keeping it closer to good than great. You’d think that when the local news reports on those mysterious flying fish, they might temper the whimsy to acknowledge related fatalities (one of whom was the teen son of a famous area entrepreneur, no less). And while it’s clearly established that Fargo-assigned FBI agents Pepper and Budge (played by Comedy Central cut-ups Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, they make for an inferior analog to True Detective’s Papania and Gilbough) are boobs, did their senses entirely shut down as Malvo fired off hundreds of rounds, elicited fatal screams, and shattered countless panes of glass? The mayhem’s already casually violent, so why not just show us the bird’s-eye carnage rather than linger on the building’s exterior like a side-scrolling video game? The primary effect is more distracting than artful, and makes Pepper and Budge appear deaf as Mr. Wrench, rather than comically unobservant.
“Who Shaves the Barber?” exemplifies Fargo’s frequent misfires with black comedy. (Although the exchange between Lester and the cleaning service, while probably worthy of future deleted scenes, was hilarious and, moreover, victimless.) À la Lester himself, and to paraphrase Andy Samberg, this televised adaptation of the Coen brothers’ flick just got dark. Actually, it started to char about the time Lorne staged his Grand Guignol decoy/execution of Don Chumph.
If there’s light or hope at the end of this grim, increasingly nihilistic tunnel of cable drama, it’s twofold: Gus and Molly have a sweet, natural romance blooming with all the awkwardness of a hospital gift-shop bouquet. It’s obvious by now that Gus’s daughter Greta would be better suited to tracking bad guys than her dad. That includes Molly, who’s the closest thing this show has to a saint for not only looking past that Gus plugged her with an errant bullet (Grimly got some ’spleenin to do …), but somehow finding it sweet. (She was also remarkably sympathetic to an inconsolable Mr. Wrench, even if her rhetorical moral inquiry was a bit pat and naïve.)
Second, and most tantalizing, there’s the promise of Lester’s just desserts. To be sure, something ugly awaits Lorne as well. He’s a fully unchecked id whose rampage has exploded into a historic criminal spree that’s perked the federal government’s attention. We may still see Malvo exit the way he was introduced: drifting and disappearing into a blizzard, a necessary and immortal evil. But there’s also a good chance that, for all his arrogance, this primal killer could meet a symbolic death closer to American Werewolf in London. (Or, perhaps more fittingly, that of Stavros’s beloved Caroline King.) But Lester isn’t as evolved as Malvo, and Molly can put him down (she is Fargo’s true heroine, and therefore thankfully alive). It all has the makings of quite a story, more unbelievable in its truth than Lester’s allegations against Chazz in their dishonesty. Still, it’s not one without hope. Lester and Lorne are similarly sad, soulless creatures, but it’s doubtful either’s selfish resolve can survive Molly’s humanity and strength.
Apart from all that:
Even when the guy’s last conversation as a free man is about blumpkins, it’s hard not to feel for Chazz.
Lester’s adapted to where he believes his lies, which makes him a dangerous man.
Great stuff from Bob Odenkirk tonight. Ditto Martin Freeman.
Someone maybe needs to put Gus down.
At last, the breakout episode for Allison Tolman. Although Keith Carradine’s part is still pretty thankless.
RIP (we think), Mr. Rundle. May no one ever spit on you during sex in hell.
Can we assume Bill purposely made the details about Gordo’s arrest to Molly vague?
I love the way they’ve kind of left it to us to determine whether Lester tacitly “hired” Malvo or not.
“Get bent”… Really?
And, lastly, your weekly music notes: Mr. Rundle’s last workout was set to the tune of obscure Michigan doo-wop outfit the Junior Mays Group; Lester wooed Gina to Trevor Duncan’s woozy jazz; and Lester bopped out the insurance agency to some Beethoven.