Photo: Chris Large/FX
There are a pair of scenarios in “Buridan’s Ass” (a fairly straightforward reference to this philosophical dilemma) that seem to borrow from both real headlines and post-Fargo-the-movie fiction. One involves the sniper device Lorne rigged inside Don’s house, which he designed to fire off hundreds of rounds from behind newspaper-lined living room walls once police crossed a carefully placed tripwire. Don would be inside, duct-taped from head to toe, his hands adhered to an unloaded shotgun, leaving the cops no choice but to blast his ass away.
The strategy’s creativity brings to mind a very similar, though less successful, ploy by the truck-driving madman in John Dahl’s underrated 2001 thriller Joyride. And, of course, a certain series-ending, Nazi-killing mechanism deployed by Walter White in Breaking Bad. It’s also a tragically sophisticated addendum to Lorne’s backdoor execution of Chief Thurman. But the elaborate misdirection is also unsettlingly reminiscent of true-life rampages like military veteran Michael Vaughan’s December 2013 standoff with lawmen in Covington, Kentucky, or when Timothy McVeigh sympathizer Jared T. Bozydaj opened fire on village police in the streets of New Paltz, New York, in June 2001. Know-it-all episode title aside, “Buridan’s Ass” got really real, really quickly.
Then there’s those flying fish, which rained down on Semenchko and Dmitri’s sedan just as Dmitri saw a clearing in the snowy skies and forebodingly declared, “Let there be light.” Much as the moment brings to mind Magnolia’s famous frog downpour, it’s rooted (as is that surreal Paul Thomas Anderson sequence) in actual precedent. In windswept, blizzard conditions like the ones Bemidji radio warned were “a perfect storm or what have ya,” sea-faring creatures and amphibians have been known to get jettisoned from their habitat and re-deposited miles away. Once more, Chief Bob was far from shortsighted. Storm Watch 2006 was deservedly high priority. Storm Watch, if given PD’s full attention, might have saved Dmitri, or even Molly’s, life. (As for Mr. Numbers, he at least went down in an epic, literal flurry of battle. Semenchko? That’s what you get for not honoring a father’s wish to tell his only son he loves him.)
Then again, we don’t know for sure whether Deputy Solverson’s breathed her last bit of frosty, Minnesota oxygen. What’s sadly apparent is that Gus’s jitters make him a danger to anyone within 50 feet of him and a licensed weapon. Except Malvo, whom he first failed to apprehend and then fell short of either shooting in plain sight or detaining with any hard evidence. It’s an unfortunate irony, but the randomness of his snow-blind bullet finding Molly fits nicely into Lorne’s plans and Fargo’s themes. It also makes Gus enormously frustrating.
But then, as many viewers have lamented, there aren’t too many people to root for in this series. Lester’s stooped to framing his brother Chazz, who made the mistake of demonstrating some reason and humanity once he wised up to Lester’s misdeeds. In this current milieu, that makes you prey, and for all Chazz’s macho posturing, it’s clear that socially softened Lester was born the bad seed. That little smirk, the same one he flashed after getting away with murder the first time, bares his nature.
And for all Lorne’s banter with black-market van merchants or nimrod accomplices, he’s a fairly one-dimensional sadist. The way he dispatches of Don and lures Mr. Numbers (not that he didn’t have it coming) to slaughter with a trail of his own blood bypasses familiar antiheroism or comic-book villainy. (Even the deaths he only indirectly precipitated, i.e., Dmitri’s, are tough to stomach.)
He’s very much kindred with No Country for Old Men’s Anton Chigurh in this way (ditto for his fixation on determinism and free will), but No Country also offered clear and persevering adversaries. In Fargo, we’re left with Gus, who’s become awfully hard to sympathize with; a wounded Molly at best; Lester, who’s best put down like Caroline King before he evolves into a wolf; Stavros, who to his credit has truly repented and chosen to do the right thing, even if his fate’s already decided; and some supporting cast in the wings, including Molly’s dad Lou and Gus’s daughter Greta. Hell, maybe we’ll even find out what happened in Sioux Falls. Or whether Ari Ziskind’s allegorical philanthropist from last week’s episode serves to illustrate Burdian’s Ass or make Gus feel like one. With four episodes left, we can at least all agree that Turkish delight is disgusting.
Apart from all that:
There’s a lot of Biblical and philosophical meat to chew on by now, but I have to admit that it makes my head hurt.
It’s all about that damn fish poster.
Although according to Chazz, and by suggestion the crime boss who inhaled one unlucky singled-out fish, that poster is wrong.
Speaking of said crime boss, he may be feasting now, but à la Stavros, his famine is coming.
Nothing wrong with a little Star Wars voice-scrambler gag.
If dead, my lasting Molly memory will be her fixing her bangs in Gus’s lobby. And then dying a horrible death.
We’ll be thinking of you, Mutt Creech.
The closer to any kind of truth these characters get, the more it seems to be too late.
Sort of obvious he’d switch out with Creech.
That’s one slow-moving hospital.
Has there ever been a show with more stolen cars?
And yes, that shoot-out in the snow was fucking incredible.
Lastly, your weekly music notes: Fargo got its Easter on during Don’s fatal shooting with a little “Litany” action, Stavros’s fateful drive in the snow was sound-tracked by this dramatic classical “Requiem,” and the closing credits bopped to this obscure Italian pop track. Prego.