TV Recap: Fargo, S01E10

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bs, When a show is as good as Fargo you don’t want it to end. The final episode starts off with the sound of Lester’s (Martin Freeman) heavy breathing, and we see shots of a snowy landscape with vehicle tracks prominent.[1] A crashed snowmobile can be seen on its side, there are footsteps in the snow, and the camera cranes up to reveal a mysterious hole in the ice. The shot disappears down into the blackness beneath. The show cuts back to Lester in the car watching Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) leave the scene after killing Lester’s wife Linda (Susan Park). Lester goes into his insurance shop, pauses at his wife’s bloody body, then steps over her corpse to get to the safe. He takes out his passport, and has a flashback to Malvo asking him “is this what you want?” in the elevator in Vegas. He now sees the consequences of his response.

Lester next visits Lou’s (Keith Carradine) coffee shop to create an alibi for the killing. He awkwardly orders some food for himself and Linda, telling Lou that she is running an errand at his shop but will be there shortly. Lester sneaks outside and uses a payphone to anonymously report to the police that he heard gunshots near the store. When he returns to his seat at the diner Lou informs Lester that Malvo was looking for him the day before. “Can’t say I much liked his demeanour”. Lester suddenly remembers he has left the plane tickets to Acapulco in his red jacket, which Linda is wearing.

Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) is at home in domestic bliss watching a television game show with husband Gus (Colin Hanks) and daughter-in-law Greta (Joey King) when the phone rings. “What, the other one now?” she says into the phone. The next scene is set at the Nygaard Insurance store, where Lester pretends to be dismayed and in shock. Molly asks if Lester thinks the crime might be connected to the elevator murders in Vegas. “A repercussion for what you saw, maybe?” “I’m gonna be sick” Lester says, and the weak-stomached police chief Bill (Bob Odenkirk) pleads with him not to throw up. Lester asks if he can “say goodbye” to Linda. Bending down to her body, Lester starts to pull out the plane tickets from Linda’s jacket pocket when Molly intervenes and reminds him he can’t touch the body. Molly’s diligence as a police officer has come to the fore once again.

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When we first really see Malvo in this episode, he is shacked up in a log cabin in the woods, not far from Bemidji. He listens to the action unfold over a police radio: Molly can be heard saying she is taking Lester to the police station and for the FBI agents to be alerted too. Malvo picks up a machine gun and we presume he has some evil plan for his pursuit of Lester. Next Molly’s father Lou arrives at the station. “I’m a fool for not saying something earlier” he says, recounting his peculiar visit from Malvo in the diner. Before heading off to interrogate Lester, Molly then quietly asks her father to call Gus and explain she could be out all night. “Screw that. I’m getting my gun is what I’m doing…Make sure my granddaughter is safe”. In the interrogation room, Lester tries to be uncooperative with Molly and the two FBI men, and when presented with photos of Malvo he looks to his old high-school friend Bill for help. “Answer the question,” Bill says – his most decisive and professional moment so far as Bemidji sheriff. Lester is taken aback, and asks to see a lawyer. “He’s not gonna stop” says Molly, referring to Malvo. “You know that, right? A man like that…he may not be even a man.”

It is at daybreak when Gus leaves for work and is surprised to see Lou on his porch. Lou sits in a rocking chair with his shotgun, an image reminiscent of the old woman protecting her children in the old Robert Mitchum classic The Night of the Hunter. “There’s some consensus this Malvo fella may be back,” says Lou. Meanwhile, Molly coordinates the manhunt for Malvo from the precinct. Lester “wouldn’t crack so the plan now is we use him as bait” she tells the other police officers in her briefing. Phoning from his car on the way to meet her, Gus pleads with Molly not to go after Malvo herself, saying he couldn’t imagine having his daughter lose a second mother. This changes Molly’s mind, “I won’t leave the building until they call and tell me he’s surrounded” “No, until he’s dead” says Gus. He is absolutely clear about the threat Malvo poses to his family. Gus drives on after the call, and has to slam on his brakes. A lone wolf is in the middle of the road, and when it walks away, Gus turns his head to follow it and notices Malvo’s red BMW parked next to the log cabin. He opens his phone to call Molly, and then changes his mind. It is a big moment, because we know the deadly ability of Malvo, as well as the bumbling track record of Gus. The music helps build a foreboding atmosphere as Gus drives around a corner and approaches the house on foot through some trees, snow coming down heavily.[2] Gus watches Malvo leave the house and drive away, and sneaks carefully into the house.

“Don’t got the stomach for it, not like some” says Bill, who has informed Molly that he has decided to quit the force after the Malvo manhunt comes to an end. “Seeing the lengths people are capable of, the inhumanity…All I ever wanted was a stack of pancakes and a V8.” Bill tells Molly that he will be recommending she replace him as sheriff after she has her baby. While this happens, Malvo poses as FBI agent Budge and cancels the agent’s request for backup from headquarters. Next we see him visit a used car lot. A young man (from the diner in the first scene and the first episode) asks cheerily if he can help Malvo. Standing next to a beaten up black Ford sedan Malvo says “I like it coz it looks like an undercover vehicle, like an FBI car.” The amiable young man says “shotgun”, and throws Malvo the keys for a test drive. As they drive off you don’t like the dealer’s chances of surviving the encounter.

Screenshot 2014-06-28 18.42.33(3)When Molly informs Lester he is free to leave the precinct, he tells her “I’m not sure what it is you’ve had against me since day one but I am not the person you think I am, this…kinda monster”. As a response to this, Molly dives into an analogy about a man on a train that realised he had dropped one of his gloves on the platform after boarding.[3] “So, what are you telling me?” asks Lester, genuinely perplexed. Molly has figured Lester for a completely selfish bastard and knows he won’t understand her point. There is a nice contrast to this in the next scene in the car, where Lester easily figures out agent Pepper’s (Keegan-Michael Key) ‘fox rabbit cabbage’ riddle because it involves holding onto what you possess; what is yours.

When the agents reach Lester’s house, Agent Budge (Jordan Peele) tells Lester “We feel we may need to say again that your life may be in danger”. “Like a lot of danger” adds his partner. This is true – Malvo has been following their car. The agents say they will be sitting in their car to “keep an eye on things”. Inside the house, Lester goes down to his basement and looks inside a box labelled ‘Chaz’s hunting gear’[4].

Back at Lester’s, the FBI guys are in the car waiting, debating (once again) the nature of reality. “What if my whole life has been a dream,” asks agent Pepper. Malvo’s dark Ford interrupts by rolling into the snow-covered driveway, its windows tinted so you can’t see inside. “Could be our back-up”. It is a tense scene, as the FBI agents approach the driver’s side of the other car, guns drawn; the wide shot they are framed within panning around a bit to show Malvo walking in from the tree line, flanking them. Agent Budge taps on the window, and we see it is the young car dealer behind the wheel, his hands taped to the wheel. “I’m sorry” he says, while Agent Pepper asks his partner once more “Is this a dream?” Suddenly Malvo shoots Budge in the head and Pepper in the neck. “Please. I got a little girl,” says the dealer. We can see Malvo’s reflection on one half of the car window, while the other half is blood splattered.

Lester rummages through suitcases, throwing clothes around an upstairs bedroom. He finds his heavy glass insurance sales award and looks at it momentarily, and then it too is then thrown on the ground. He then runs downstairs, and notices that something is wrong – the FBI car doors are open, nobody seems to be around, and there is a trail of blood in the snow. He runs upstairs, and outside we see a pair of legs being dragged behind a pile of wood (sadly this must be the dealer’s body). Malvo stands, and walks with his silenced pistol towards the house. He breaks in, and as he walks upstairs we can hear Lester calling the police. “Yes this is an emergency,” he shouts, but this is actually some of Lester’s finest lying. “Please hurry up, I’m upstairs in the bathroom – there’s no lock on the door!” and on that line actor Martin Freeman stifles a sob. As Malvo walks towards the bathroom, standing on the clothes, he activates a bear trap, which snaps instantly on his leg. We can hear bones breaking from the force, and he gives a muffled cry of pain. Lester walks in from the bathroom with a pistol and as he fires, Malvo dives backwards behind the bed, the shot narrowly missing him. Lester’s gun now jams, and Malvo quickly picks up the heavy award and throws it at Lester, who wears it in the face[5]. Lester checks his bleeding nose, then realises Malvo is now aiming his own gun at him, and dives back into the bathroom. Bullets fly through the wooden door. From inside, Lester aims his gun (now working) at the door, but Malvo never comes in. Lester leaves the room, and sees that Malvo is gone, having freed himself from the steel trap. The deep spikes, wall and flooring are covered in a trail of Malvo’s blood, which Lester now follows.

The trail ends where the FBI car had been. The camera zooms in on Lester’s bloody face as he nods towards the driveway, seemingly satisfied that he has dealt with Malvo once and for all. We now see Malvo driving, and he suddenly looks really old with that white hair[6]. His leg wound smarts, and when he arrives back at the cabin he hobbles out of the car. Inside he sits on a couch facing a window. When he cuts open his pants leg we see the bloody mess of muscle and broken bone that the bear trap has left. “Ahhh, goddamit” he says, knowing the seriousness of the wound. He injects himself (a bit like Anton Chigurh stitching himself up in No Country for Old Men), and then pulls his leg bone back in place using a length of curtain cord. Malvo releases his biggest groan at that moment, and it is graphic and horrible to watch; we hear the meat of his leg moving around the broken bones.

mortons-fork-malvo-pops-bone-back-into-placeOutside the window, Malvo sees the lone wolf from before, and it seems to look back at him. From Malvo’s profile, we hear footsteps and see a dark outline in the background. “I figured it out,” says Gus, pointing a gun at Malvo. “Good fer you” says the killer, still looking outside. “Your riddle, shades of green, I figured it out”. Malvo now turns his head to face Gus. “And?” he asks. Gus replies by putting three bullets into Malvo’s torso. Malvo looks dead, but Gus (and we, the audience) get a shock when he gasps for air. Malvo looks down at his leg, and this recalls his story in episode 8 about a bear eating through his own leg to free himself from a trap. He has blood stained teeth, and with them bared he looks animalistic. Malvo laughs at Gus, who reacts by shooting him another two times, in the face. After a second or two Malvo stops moving. Gus breathes a nervous sigh of relief then just to be certain, takes the knife from the table next to Malvo. After Gus’ previous mistakes, this time he needs to get it right. He then looks at Malvo’s body, the music rises, and a bell sound tolls.

Next scene we see Molly arrive at the cabin. She holds her pregnant stomach as she walks towards Gus, who is giving a statement. Soft acoustic guitar plays on the soundtrack as the characters hug. Inside, they look at Malvo for a moment, then Gus tells his wife to open Malvo’s briefcase. Inside is an old-school cassette player with several labelled tapes. She opens the one with ‘Lester Nygaard’ written on it, puts it in the player, and hears Lester’s phone call asking Malvo for help (“Lester, have you been a bad boy?”). She finally has solid confirmation of her suspicions.

To wrap up Lester’s story, there is next a dissolve to a snowy landscape: ‘Glacier National Park, Montana, Two Weeks Later’. Lester is riding on a snowmobile, wearing a red jacket again. He seems happy, but runs into a police patrol, and is pursued by two border patrol agents on their own snowmobiles. A picturesque chase sequence plays out, with snowy mountains as a backdrop. Lester is thrown from his vehicle when he hits a mound, but continues to run on foot. The two policemen stop their machines and yell at him to stop when he runs past a sign proclaiming ‘Danger thin ice’. Large cracks appear in the ice, shown in a high-angled crane shot. Lester finally stops, but then suddenly drops down below the ice. The next shot is a silent one, and when Lester doesn’t reappear, a crane shot moves down towards the only sign of him – his hat, floating in the icy water. This is a suitable way for Lester to meet his demise, as he had been running on thin ice all series.

In the final scene, at home Molly receives a call about Lester. In another indication of their domestic bliss, the family again debates the decisions made by television game show contestants. The title tune of the movie Fargo plays softly, with its haunting and beautiful violins. Gus explains that he is to receive a “citation for bravery”, but tells Molly “they really should be giving it to you”. “No,” she says, “this is your deal. I get to be chief.”

To conclude, in Fargo creator and writer Noah Hawley was able to capture the flavour of the famous source material and produce a quality product in its own right. The writing, direction, cinematography, music, and acting in Fargo is particularly superb. Thornton, Freeman, Tolman and Odenkirk are standouts, while Fargo’s setting and black humour, like the film, are also noteworthy features. I was initially sceptical about the concept, having been a big fan of the film, but was won over massively by the inherent quality of the show.

Fargo aired on Thursday nights on SBS1

5 blergs
5 blergs

[1] Writer Noah Hawley now reveals his hand (and that of the Coen brothers in the original Fargo) when the word ‘true’ from the title ‘this is a true story’ lingers on screen. This implies that it is just a storytelling device, in case anyone was still wondering.

[2] The scene is tense because a few shots are from the rough perspective of the house, which could be Malvo’s point of view, but thankfully aren’t.

[3] As the train was already taking off, he quickly and selflessly decided to drop the other glove down onto the platform so that whoever picked them up would have a pair of gloves instead of just one useless glove.

[4] In the next scene on the porch at Gus and Molly’s place, Greta asks about Lou’s police career, and whether he has ever had to stand guard like this before. He nods, and the story he tells her echoes what Lou has recognised about Malvo’s nature.

[5] This is a lot like when The Dude wears a coffee mug thrown by a “fucking fascist” cop in the Coen brother’s The Big Lebowski.

[6] And because Thornton’s crow’s feet become prominent when he grimaces.

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