TV Recap: Fargo, S01E07

fargo ep7

This is another strong episode in a very good series, and decidedly less violent compared to last week’s instalment.

The episode starts with a strange juxtaposition of image and sound. We see Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks), head hung awaiting word about Molly’s (Allison Tollman) condition in the hospital. We remember that last week he accidentally shot her in Duluth while in pursuit of gunmen in a blizzard. Over the shot of Grimly, which tracks out down a hallway in reverse slow-motion, we hear dialogue of a more domestic nature. The show cuts to a scene around the breakfast table between Chaz Nygaard (Joshua Close), his wife (Rachel Blanchard) and young boy Gordo (Spencer Drever). A news report explains the appearance of fish on the road from last episode – baffled meteorologists speculate that perhaps a tornado sucked up water from a lake and randomly dumped it over a mile away. “The darndest thing!” exclaims the wife.

Next the camera follows the movements of young Gordo and his schoolbag, and it is eventually revealed that he has taken one of his father’s handguns to school. This random event leads to the police conducting a search of the family house, where they discover that Chaz is a gun enthusiast, and that he owns illegal automatic weapons. Sheriff Bill (Bob Odenkirk) also discovers the evidence that Lester (Martin Freeman) planted last episode – the hammer he used to kill his wife Pearl, saucy pictures of her, and a pair of her underwear. There is a nice touch recalling one of the first scenes of the series, when from Chaz’s perspective Bill holds up each piece of damning evidence, and the sounds of his wife screaming at him fade down, and the sound of Lester’s damaged and droning washing machine take over. This sounds a bit like the thumping of a heart, and perhaps it is like the Pearl character’s theme in a way. Chaz’s wife tries to attack him, and she needs to be physically restrained by a cop.[1] We now see a wad of his wife’s spit run down Chaz’s face as he processes what is happening to him – his perfect world falling down around him.

Next the show cuts to a scene in a police station, with Lester discussing recent events with Bill. Bill complains to Lester about the number of criminal acts recently afflicting the small town of Bemidji. Historically it is a quiet town, he argues. Here Lester proves himself to be a scheming and selfish bastard, when he gives false information about his brother. He is basically helped by an emotional Bill, who fills in all the gaps for Lester, based on fond memories of his friend from high school. Bill begins the informal interview by asking Lester why he didn’t tell him sooner that his brother was having an affair with his wife. Bill himself can barely comprehend what has happened – and Lester probably can’t believe his luck. This all harks back to the first episode when the previous sheriff Vern told Molly that Bill was incompetent – once more proving to be sound and prophetic information.

Lester recounts the murder of Pearl and Vern at his house with convincing sincerity. He modifies the truth to erase his and Lorne Malvo’s (Billy Bob Thornton) involvement; quotes things Pearl actually said to belittle Lester himself but spins it to become overheard conversation between Pearl and Chaz, and ultimately claims his brother bashed Pearl to death and shot Vern. At the end of the scene Bill has tears in his eyes and is lost for words. He clearly believes everything Lester has said. As he walks out of the interview room and down the hallway, Lester passes his brother in a holding cell, and smiles to himself when Chaz begins to yell: “Lester, what have you done?” Dramatic string music punctuates the moment as the title of the show comes on screen.fargo tv poster

Before waking in her hospital bed, Molly remembers in a dream that she saw Malvo in the hazy blizzard just before being shot herself. We learn that before going down she shot someone else twice. In her hospital room, Gus and his daughter are visiting. He is wracked with guilt, as Molly has lost a spleen because of his poor shooting. “I’ll get you a new one, I swear!” says Gus as he confesses to having shot Molly. He knows he’ll probably lose his badge over it. Molly tells him that “I could have shot you just as easy” due to the “whiteout conditions” of the blizzard, and her forgiveness convinces Gus to not quit the police force.

Molly’s father Lou (Keith Carradine) next comes to visit “I guess we’ve both got bullet holes now, huh?” It is a nice scene; he is a stoic older man who clearly doesn’t show a lot of emotion, and they share a moment or two watching an ice hockey game on a small television over her bed. “I’m proud of ya” he says, holding her hand – explicitly because she took down a baddie with an assault rifle – but implicitly Lou is relieved that his daughter has survived, and his love for her is clear.

There is an interesting later scene in a hospital room between Molly and the deaf hitman Mr Wrench (Russell Harvard) – the man that she shot last episode. He asks about his partner via a small whiteboard, and we assume that this confirms there was more than just a professional relationship between the hitmen. A tear runs down his cheek. It is hard not to feel sorry for Mr Wrench somewhat, when Molly asks “What’s the point? Here we are, your friend is dead, and you’re gonna spend the rest of your life in jail. But for what?” He turns away from her, eyes red from crying, and she leaves the room.

In this episode Lorne Malvo does a bit of fast travelling in order to exact revenge on his enemies. First he shows up in Reno, Nevada where he confronts the man who had been organising his jobs (who we presumed was his boss) in an office of a business offering ‘solutions, guidance and protection’.[2] Malvo asks if he, or if he knows who, sent the two men after him (in the previous episode). The man denies that he sent them, but exclaims that “this is a business of relationships” and that the matter must just be a private one between Malvo and the criminals in Fargo. Malvo believes him, but demands to know who the people are in Fargo, as to him it is a matter of principle that he gets revenge. Malvo here reveals his own moral code – in which being doublecrossed is unforgivable and punishable by death. Malvo next points to two old-fashioned dial phones. “This one calls an ambulance, that one calls a hearse. I’m gonna ask you again, and depending on the answer, I pick up this, or that.” We don’t have to wait long for our answer; Malvo is next seen walking out of the office with a slight grimace on his face, and in the distance we can hear a woman from within the building start to scream.

Malvo is seen again later in the episode in Fargo, where he has tracked down the gangsters who ordered his death in the previous episode. In an amazing sequence, we see Malvo calmly walk into the building where the gangsters operate, brandishing the machine gun he took after slitting the throat of Mr Numbers last episode. Now we don’t really see the action unfold inside the building, however. Episode writer Noah Hawley and director Scott Winant know that we have seen this type of massacre a million times before, and they want to breathe new life into it. We hear; Malvo shooting henchmen all over the place, men telling him to freeze and then being out of bullets and being shot themselves, Malvo travelling in a lift (the camera moves up the building), and Malvo never showing any mercy. The bravura camera movement is pretty amazing, with the help of CGI the camera follows the movement of Malvo in the building, and as the glass is reflective and you cannot see inside, we only hear the carnage unfold. This highlights the storytelling possibilities that sound can have when almost devoid of vision, which also forces the audience to use their imagination – which is rare. It is an amusing way to approach the scene, and it is a hallmark of the show Fargo that something overly violent and dark is amusing like this. Two FBI agents find the body of a henchman who had fallen through the glass to his death. “Shitballs!” mutters one, while inspecting the bloody mess on the pavement.

After leaving the blood from the double murder in his house up until this point, Lester now finally decides to get the mess cleaned up by professionals. Is he trying to wash away his sins, as a sign that he no longer feels guilt for his crimes? Thinking he has fooled the police and gotten away with murder seems to have unleashed something within Lester, transforming him with newfound self-confidence. We see this when he visits Sam Hess’ widower, supposedly to inform her she won’t be receiving an insurance payout. There is a nice contrast between Lester using the woman for (pretty rough) sex, with Gus Grimly chastely bringing Molly flowers and trying to build a relationship.

By the end of the episode, the police are happy because they think they have caught their man, and a cop killer to boot. Chaz is transferred to county, and has to walk past Bill and the other police who look at him intensely. On the way home from hospital Molly stops in at the police station, where she learns of Chazs arrest. The episode finishes with dramatic music rising once again, as Molly seems to hyperventilate as the knowledge sinks in that the wrong man has been arrested.

Fargo airs Thursday nights on SBS1. See more episode recaps here.

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[1] In a way we doubt that a man with a wife this attractive would waste his time pursuing Lester’s plainer wife Pearl, but in the previous scene Chaz was explaining his exploits at a strip club to a work colleague, so we can believe that he probably has a history of womanising.

[2] Perhaps a coincidence, but the man is dressed and even acts an awful lot like Woody Harrelson’s character Carson Wells in the Coen brother’s Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men. Perhaps another small sign that the creators of Fargo have strip mined a lot of Coen-isms.

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