TV Review: ‘Fargo’ Just Keeps Getting Better

Ok, Fargo, I’m totally in now.

While I’ve been enjoying the new FX series, Fargo, from Noah Hawley, I’ve been holding onto reservations because it carries the name of the beloved Coen brothers film. In fact, it was their seal of approval that originally piqued my interest. After its latest episode, “Eating the Blame,” I am officially on board.

There’s been sly nods to the film in the series so far, but unless I’m mistaken, “Eating the Blame” features the first explicit reference to an unresolved piece of the film: Just what happened to Jerry Lundegaard’s sack of money. Seems the Minnesota Supermarket King didn’t have a wealthy uncle after all, but rather a “religious” experience. While heading across the frozen terrain, Stavros and family run out of gas with no help in sight. Escaping his wife’s insults, Stavros heads out into the cold only to find God…and a sack full of cash buried in the snow. Of course, Stavros makes promises to his maker that we already know he isn’t going to keep. Power and money corrupts and we’ve already seen where he ends up.

Malvo (still a weird name) continues his new plan to extort Stavros, dumping blood into his shower and then has a friend lay a biblical guilt trip down. Malvo’s next move gets interrupted when he’s spotted by Gus. Officer Grimely’s on his way to Stavros’ to respond to the dead dog situation, fresh from the confession of his mistake regarding Malvo from the pilot. Opportunity strikes and Gus arrests Malvo, giving us our own chance to see just how much influence and power Malvo exerts over his situations.

It’s a curious development to be sure, as so far we’ve watched Malvo escape any kind of consequence either by planning or his menacing nature. Thorton shines by giving us a glimpse at Malvo’s cunning and acting ability, posing as a pastor from a neighboring town and claiming mistaken identity. You can’t help but to laugh along with Malvo as he stammers and “you betcha’s” his way out of the hot seat. Still, Thorton never lets us forget who Malvo really is, leaving Gus with a riddle as he walks out the door to resume his string of plagues upon old Stavros.

While Malvo is strutting around like the predator he is, Lester cannot escape the truth. Despite his best (?) efforts to cover up what happened in his home, Lester is plagued by a piece of buckshot stuck in his hand like Lady MacBeth’s proverbial spots of blood. As his wound grows more infected, Lester must also contend with the presence of Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench. Only in Bemidji to find Hess’ killer, the pair settle on Lester as the culprit, but need verbal corroboration. Lester has his own moment of cunning after finding a tazer in the trunk of his kidnappers’ car and then punching a cop to get himself arrested. Glory is fleeting, though, and a bar fight finds Lester sharing a cell with his kidnappers as the episode ends.

Molly and Bill continue to be at odds as she butts into Lester’s case over and over. I’d love to see this go somewhere other than just repeating itself, but the hints at a romance between Gus and Molly make up for any lack of traction. Molly is clearly a top notch detective, but has to deal with Bill’s office politics and desire to assert himself.

Fargo is quietly building a world full of quirky tales and quirky people I’m enjoying spending time with. It’s what I like best about this show. Fargo isn’t trying too hard to grab or shock its audience. Instead, the writing speaks for itself, catering to the talent pool of actors and developing characters we want to follow as they react to the craziness within the mundane world around them. While this same world closes in on some (Lester, Malvo, Stavros), we also see the how the moral centers (Molly, Gus) respond to that same darkness. What began as slow pacing is turning into a voice. The quirkiness is not overwhelming, but rather part of the darker tone of the show.

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