notes on a scene

Noah Hawley Annotates One of Fargo’s Tensest Scenes So Far

FARGO -- “Before The Law” -- Episode 202 (Airs October 19, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: Ted Danson as Hank Larsson.CR: Chris Large/FX
Walk away, slowly. Photo: Chris Large/FX

On Fargo, it’s the quiet that really wears on your nerves. One of the tensest moments (next to this) in last night’s episode was a conversation about half an hour in, when Hank (Ted Danson) pulls Kansas City henchman Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) and the Kitchen twins over for questioning in the middle of an empty forest. Over five excruciatingly long minutes, Danson and Woodbine, both at the top of their game here, speak in sentences punctuated by, gulp, silence:

Vulture caught up with Fargo creator Noah Hawley at PaleyFest last weekend to get a sense of where his head was when writing this scene. Below, Hawley annotates the script for us, noting where sound effects were added to ramp up the tension, and what Woodbine and Danson brought to their roles.

What films influenced this scene, either the writing or the way you shot it?
It’s a very tense scene between them, and a lot of what’s tense about it is how unperturbed Bokeem’s character seems to be by the fact that a policeman has pulled them over and taken them out of the car. And the fact that they’re on this isolated road. There’s a sense you get from the Coens’ work, like No Country for Old Men, where you put these characters in situations and you just let this painful amount of time take place. Part of the tension is just how long it takes to get out of that scene. Ted Danson was sort of singularly wonderful in showing one thing to Bokeem, you know, and showing something else to us.

It reminds me of that scene in the first season, where Billy Bob Thornton runs into—
Yeah, yeah, with Colin Hanks. I like the idea that when there is a reference point, it creates an expectation. You remember that scene. When Molly’s pregnant and she leaves the police station, and Malvo’s in a cabin, you can’t help but think, Am I going to see what I saw in the movie? And then when you don’t, you have this feeling like, I thought one thing was going to happen and then something else happened. And that’s a much more interesting experience, I find, than giving you the thing that you see in your head. Here the stress of that would be, we know that Colin got away, but will Ted get away?

Zoom in to read Hawley’s notes on the script below:

Fargo 202

Reporting by Kat Ward.

Fargo Creator Annotates Last Night’s Tense Scene