Wow, this is a very dark and serious episode. Shit just got very real in Fargo. Basically, many threads of the story have a certain amount of resolution by the end of this episode, and several of these plotlines result in death for many characters.
The episode starts by following the gradual preparation of a fish meal at an Asian restaurant. The dish is eventually served to a gang boss, who orders the death of whoever killed associate Sam Hess. A man with an annoying Australian accent (supposedly) agrees to organise his men Mr Numbers (Adam Goldberg) and Mr Wrench (Russell Harvard) to carry out the hit, on the killer we know to be Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton).
Next up, Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) is visited in hospital by his brother Chaz (Joshua Close); who raises genuine concerns about his recent behaviour. The police have posted a guard outside Lester’s hospital-room door because they strongly suspect he was involved in the multiple murders from episode one. In the previous episode, you will remember, Lester also gave a confession of sorts to Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman). During their exchange, Lester continually denies any knowledge of the crimes, and claims that he may have lost his memory from his hand injury which had recently become infected (enough to result in his hospitalisation). Lester’s brother accuses him of lying, and of being involved with amoral criminals, and finally disowns him. Though somewhat disappointed, Lester seems to be preoccupied with escaping the hospital, and fashions an escape by posing as another patient disguised by large facial bandages.
Lester goes to his brother’s house when nobody is home, and proceeds to plant evidence to tie his brother to the murder of his sister in law; including the hammer Lester himself used to kill his charming wife in the first episode. Lester hesitates when he sees a picture of his brother with his family, and even is seen in the house by his young nephew at one point. We think he might not go through with his cruel plan to frame Chaz, but when he sneaks out of the house and eventually returns to his hospital bed unnoticed, we realise just how unlikable Lester truly is. I doubt it was just the influence of Malvo in the first episode that made Lester ‘evil’ – instead Malvo just brought out the worst in Lester perhaps – but it was surely a side that was always just under the surface.
Malvo is also back to his worst behaviour in this episode. Whenever he is deadly serious and not joking around at other people’s expense, you know there is going to be deadly consequences. Here Malvo ties up one loose end for himself, by orchestrating the end of his lackey (the aptly-named) Don Chumph (Glenn Howerton) who had previously been locked in a pantry (I noticed the class act had drunk bottles of salad dressing to survive). Malvo gets the man to call blackmail target Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt) to organise the drop-off of his million dollars. This is to take place at a key location from the original Fargo (a carpark) – another direct reference to the great film. After making the call, Malvo knocks the lackey out, and when he wakes he is taped to a chair and holding an unloaded shotgun. Malvo fires a machine gun at random targets outside the house knowing that the police will come to intervene. When they do, the SWAT team inadvertently shoot the terrified man to death – as Malvo planned. Malvo listens to all of this play out over a police scanner, though soon finds himself in danger.
Driving in a blizzard, suddenly a car stops in front of Malvo and he can’t help but rear end it. Suddenly he is fired upon – Mr’s Numbers and Wrench have finally caught up with their man and advance on him with automatic weapons. Seemingly unarmed after dropping his pistol, Malvo flees into the blinding storm.
The police team (and budding couple) of Molly and Gus (Colin Hanks) hear the shots of the street battle and quickly arrive on the scene. While they carefully approach the source of the shots, Malvo sneaks up on Numbers and plunges a knife into his back several times. Malvo learns who has sent the killer after him (the fish-eating boss from the start of the episode), then slits the man’s throat. Malvo then takes the dead man’s machine gun and disappears into the whiteness.
Earlier in the episode, Gus talked about how he really wished he was a simple post office worker, and that he only pursued a career in police work as a secure source of income once his breadwinning wife had passed away. Sadly his unsuitability for the job rises to the fore near the end of the episode when, understandably nervy and his vision obscured by the snowy conditions, he fires almost-blindly at an approaching figure. He (and we the audience) are dismayed to learn that Gus has accidentally taken out Molly, and all we know for now is that she is unconscious, facedown in the snow.
A final tragic twist occurs at the end of the episode, after the devoutly religious Stavros Milos has returned the million dollars to the hole in the snowy fence line where he originally found it some 20 years earlier. This was after he interpreted the recent events (controlled by Malvo and his Chumph) as punishment from God for taking the cash in the first place. Returning to meet up with his son, who he had sent away for his own protection from the blackmailers, Milos comes across the scene of a terrible car accident. Inexplicably, large fish have fallen from the sky and caused the car Milos’ bodyguard was driving to crash, killing him and the boy. Milos cries to the heavens at the unfairness of this horrible event; while the audience is left wondering how the hell it will be explained next week…
We realise by the end of this episode that Fargo has very few truly likable characters. Personally, I basically empathise with Gus, but only really like and respect Molly (among the main characters). Before this episode, I thought Lester could possibly redeem himself, and perhaps he still can, but time is surely running out for this to happen. I had been enjoying Malvo’s sense of humour, and in early episodes could excuse certain crimes, but basically he is a sociopathic criminal who seems to get off on the pain of others, and the sadistic nature of the death of his lackey in particular is probably a deal breaker for me. Also Malvo hates Turkish Delight; which I love, so that also has to go against him in my book.