Fargo Recap: Canton Fodder

Photo: Chris Large/FX
Episode Title
A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage
Editor’s Rating

To echo a sentiment asserted here after Fargo’s premiere, Lorne Malvo comes from a unique ilk of mischief-maker, the kind that terrorizes small children with tales of tortured ghosts haunting their Minnesota home. He couldn’t outright murder the new family that had moved into Lester’s old address, but providing fodder for a lifetime of nightmares would do.

Lester, on the other hand, just can’t help not leaving well enough alone. Rather than thank his lucky stars to be alive and un-incarcerated, and perhaps move to some tiny town miles away from the scene of his crimes, he has stayed and marked his territory. Little ol’ Lester has climbed over Pearl, Sam, and Gina; eluded Molly; and survived Lorne. He has conquered and claimed. Hell, he has all but erected a monument to himself by opening Nygaard Insurance, his surname brandished big and proud on the building’s facade, never again to be reconstituted by bullies as a slur.

But alas, his lack of humility also makes him a target. It’s why Molly has arrived at his door again, this time with questions about the three schnooks Lorne murdered in a Vegas elevator — a trio Malvo had been “working” for for half a year in search of a mafia turncoat. That elevator wouldn’t have been one Lester and his adversary would have shared had he simply heeded Lorne’s advice to “walk away” after their chance encounter at a casino bar. Or had he recognized that gloating to Malvo about his big-boy suit and shiny award wouldn’t elicit the respect he’d been whimpering for from all the people whose lives he subsequently ruined. If only, just once, Lester would’ve summoned something like trophy wife Linda’s wisdom about staying on the pot instead of shitting between the sheets.

The most tragic revelation in “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage” (a title that comes from yet another witless Agent Budge riddle) was that Linda had a crush on Lester from the moment she saw him. To invoke that telltale fish poster, Lester could have realized he was right even if others were wrong, that it wasn’t so black and white. He might have evolved. Instead, here he is, swimming with sharks. Rather than head off to Acapulco with Linda, whom he might have met and married the relatively old-fashioned way in an alternate, divorcée’s universe, he instead served her up to Lorne, who was sitting starving but unflinching inside Nygaard Insurance.

Linda’s death, or at least its literal execution, was reminiscent of the emotionless assassination of Jesse’s girlfriend Andrea in Breaking Bad, a harsh embodiment of the consequences of one’s actions. But as Lester manipulatively cautioned Linda before she headed off unwittingly into a figurative bear trap (nice actual, earlier shot of one in Chazz’s hunting gear, itself an allusion to Lorne’s grizzly tête-à-tête with Mr. Wrench) in order to get her to put on his orange winter coat, “it’s cold out there.”

And as Fargo warms up for its finale, time is of the essence. Urgency was everywhere in last night’s episode: the eye-catching clock in Lester’s living room; he and Linda’s rush for the airport; the shared, independent laments by Lorne, and the bumbling yet dogged agents Pepper and Budge about having wasted six months staking out their targets; not to mention Molly’s impending due date. But it doesn’t matter exactly when the baby’s expected. The imminently arriving Grimly won’t be the Messiah, just as Lorne isn’t the Antichrist. There won’t be a duel at high noon. So whether it’s Molly or the aforementioned rogue G-Men in pursuit, nobody’s punching any time cards. Malvo himself is patient with a kill, yet intolerant toward disruption of what he deems the natural order. But as Lou illustrates in his sketchy elaboration on that 1979 incident in Sioux Falls, not much has changed about the evil that men do. In Linda’s mortal words, all that varies is “the disarray people leave behind.”

Apart from all that:

Lots of fun little details in this episode, from Stephen Root’s ostensible cameo as Burt Canton, DDS (and he and Lorne’s memorable exchange about their spouses’ sexual appetites) to that great, lingering opening on a dental patient’s dry tongue and ailing choppers.

So, is Lorne just cool with having lost out on Stavros’s million bucks? And was Stavros’s story just a story within a story/tie-in to the film?

Strange choice to feature a sign promoting vocal acrobat Danny Gans’s act at the Mirage, even if he was still alive circa 2007. Homage?

Wait — are Budge and Pepper competent now?

R.I.P., Linda: morning person, rum lover, tragic antithesis of Gina Hess.

Lester’s really gotta improve on his yes-or-no ultimatum skills.

Billy Bob Thornton was great tonight, and almost human, especially in his scenes with Martin Freeman. “Shit, Lester.”

Why didn’t Lester just take the stairs in that hotel? And was that long, ominous hallway shot a tribute to The Shining? Barton Fink? Something else?

And lastly, your weekly music notes, the Lorne Malvo, DDS (a.k.a. Mike) edition: The good doctor cleans teeth to yodeling master Wylie Gustafson, while he gets a house party going to a vinyl slab of 1960s Midwest pysch-poppers the Lemon Pipers (weirdo).