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Fargo Recap: Parable for the Course

For a show with such flare for the gloomy and grotesque, this week’s Fargo sure missed a golden opportunity for Lester’s oozing hand to reap some serious Requiem for a Dream­–worthy tragedy. Or, at the very least, justify a couple more close-ups of what’d been festering underneath all that lamely applied gauze and Neosporin. After all, we’d already witnessed canine bloodletting and hammered-in brains, among other macabre and mischievous gore, so why the tease?

Speaking of that ball-peen Lester used to pull an Unfaithful on poor, nagging Pearl (welcome back, Kelly Holden Bashar!), Deputy Solverson came oh-so-close to finding its original hiding spot behind that blasted washing machine. We’re not entirely sure what tipped her off, besides a delirious Lester — en route to the hospital to drain and clean out his shrapnel wound — rattling on about Pearl washing towels and assorted peripheral details of that fateful day.

“The Six Ungraspables” was, mostly, about brushing up against breakthroughs and bad fortunes. Molly nearly got her man (though she’d have some ’splainin’ to do with Chief Bob, even if his skepticism about her theories has thawed a bit); Lester almost lost five digits; Dmitri’s attempt at demystifying Stavros’ paranoia was stonewalled by Milos’ Chief Bob–esque stubborn certainty; and Gus’s neighbor, Ari Ziskind (Byron Noble, another of the cast’s many theater actors), is lucky to be alive after confronting a stalking Lorne and calling him a “nudnik,” no less.

In fact, Malvo’s about the only Bemidji regular who gets what he wants by episode’s end. Namely, a million smackers from Stavros, who’s so shaken from getting the Magnolia treatment that he not only fails to question Lorne’s futility (let alone suspiciousness), but pays him fully for services un-rendered.

But something suggests that the tide’s about to change. As we round the corner into Fargo’s back half, Lorne’s been I.D.’d by everyone but Milos, including Mr. Numbers and Señor Wrench, who squeeze a confession from Lester in their snug overnight jail cell by clenching his deformed hand and gagging him with Wrench’s sweaty sock to muffle the screams. If the Witches of Eastwick analogy from last week’s recap follows, meddling Mr. Malvo may have underestimated this sleepy community’s resolve. (A newborn baby that smells delicious, in this case, Bernadette Thurman, daughter of late Chief Vern and widow Ida, is the surest sign that evil has an uphill battle.) They may yet rally, as Ziskind warns. Lorne can only hope his fate is less epic than that of Eastwick’s devilish Daryl.

Maybe the question is what bumbling Mr. Nygaard deserves. A flashback to Lester purchasing his 12-gauge (thrown in with three pairs of mismatched socks for $55 total) triggers plenty to consider. For one, was it only a matter of time till he snapped and plugged Pearl with the bullet that eventually found its way inside Vern (and Lester’s telltale hand), Lorne or no Lorne? Moreover, shouldn’t Lester have taken agency over his life long ago, or is his rut such a commonplace one that it makes for the stuff of terrific, outrageous, violent television fantasies?

Perhaps Lester should consult with Ziskind, who kibitzes with Gus in the wee hours (Lorne is keeping Gus awake, while the good rabbi doesn’t get much quiet time to think), relating a cryptic (read: meaningless) parable about some mysterious, wealthy man whose philanthropic urges led to a literal, fatal self-offering. Then again, maybe he shouldn’t. But Lester certainly has fewer friendly faces and places to turn, and he’s just about beaten down enough to where Molly can eke out his truth.

Hopefully, Deputy Grimly won’t get himself Malvo-ed in the meanwhile. He and cross-county colleague Molly have a nice little thing going on, and there’s a happy ending to be had where the two merge lives and precincts and become Northwest Minnesota’s most charming husband-wife crime-solvers. That, and catching Vern's (and, sure, Pearl and Sam’s) killer, would mean something rose-colored came from the crimson mess Lorne left on Lester’s floor. Gus is also Fargo’s most relatable figure in many ways, and you really root for his confidence and capability. This show is populated by a collection of individuals who either squandered their potential (i.e., Lester, Stavros and maybe even dumb Don) or, à la Molly, are fully realizing it. Gus is right to be in awe of her, and we’re compelled to be in awwww toward him.

Fargo’s characters are its best asset, lead by the iconic Lorne. Despite Billy Bob Thornton’s star presence, and him having personified such a fun villain, Malvo’s inserted into things just the right amount. (Especially when somehow duping Don into essentially locking himself in his own pantry closet.) Lorne stirs the pot, but the contents are plenty rich. Now, if only they’d avoid the odd contrivance or cliché, or if the occasional aside were better distinguished as satire or standard beats. It’s one thing to cheekily drop in on Molly as she happens to be watching a nature special on predatory pythons, but you have to scratch your head at Dexter­­-like adventures in archaic search engines, Lester babbling about his crimes in his sleep, and even Molly muttering “or someone” in a clear voice (and then shaking it off as nothing) when the doctor surmises Lester’s bullet fragments traveled through “something” first. Or perhaps Allison Tolman’s sitcom timing is just off.

As in prior weeks, those deviations can ultimately be summed up as quirks of a quirky show, particularly when so much other minutiae (like Bob associating Lorne’s name with Bonanza) are situated so well. Now, if only Lester could get everyone to gloss over some of his transgressions and acknowledge a life otherwise lived in obedience of moral law. Unfortunately, once you let a wolf like Lorne in the door, the saints don’t often march in with him, and you may just get burned alive.

Apart from all that:

It’s all Uli’s fault!

Love the description of Leroy’s Motor Inn owner Lorraine Babbit as a “severe woman with hard hair.”

Was that a Pussy Riot poster on Greta’s wall?

Lorne’s black-market dealer is the best. (A toy truck?) I hope he lives.

I wonder if Lorne’s bosses know about all his action on the side (something tells me all those keepsake recordings of his victims might live on to tell his legend).

Ziskind has to be A Serious Man–inspired.

Brilliant of Lorne to play the anti-Semite card (although coincidental that, while in the car with Stavros, he referenced actual noted anti-Semite Roald Dahl?). 

Great writing (and delivery): “We don’t need a man in a dark car, doing things.”

In case you were wondering, the opening tune was the Carter Family’s country gem “Wildwood Flower.”

Photo: Chris Large/FX