TV Review: Fargo – Season 1, Episode 6 “Buridan’s Ass” (USA, 2014)


The tension levels increase exponentially as we now hit the back end of the series and the finale is now edging ever closer. The title of this episode is a paradoxical parable that is loosely thematic of what we see in the episode and relates to free will. Interestingly we see a lot of that occur in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

We open in a Chinese (Possibly?) restaurant and a circle of shady men discussing Sam Hess’ death. Clearly this is the organised crime ring who are out to tie up loose ends, one of which is the murder of Sam Hess. After being given a quick summary on the state of Mr Numbers and Mr Wrench’s attempt to catch Malvo, our head goon Mr Tripoli sums it up “Kill or be killed, head in a bag, there’s the message” and then tucks into a deep-fried fish head.

In Duluth Lorne Malvo is now executing the final stages of his plan which involves patsy Don Chumph getting knocked out, taped up to his gym equipment and staging a gun shootout that results in Chumph falling victim to the SWAT team. Earlier, despite Chumph (using a voice disguiser) arranging with Milos Stavros to deliver the blackmail money to a parking garage, Stavros deviates from the plan and ends up returning to the place where he found his fortune to bury the money. Believing he’s been absolved by God, Stavros then orders his bodyguard to return with his son but on their way back to town a freak storm where fish rain out of the sky cause them to crash and both are killed. Molly Solverson meets up with Gus Grimly to discuss the case but get distracted by a shoot-out involving Mr Numbers, Mr Wrench and Malvo who is trying to escape Duluth. Trapped in the blizzard induced white-out, Malvo, Numbers, Wrench, Grimly and Solverson, only three of them are left standing.

Meanwhile back in Bemidji, Lester Nygaard is wanting to get out of hospital but is trapped by a deputy posted outside his door. After being berated by his brother Chaz, Lester hatches his own dastardly plan to try and get out of his wildly messy predicament.

There are a few things that you notice about this episode in particular that makes this one of the best episodes we’ve seen. The first is the detail and complexity of each of the scenarios that are being realised by our characters. Malvo’s being the paramount, it’s totality is like a black hole with its own gravitational pull, sucking in characters that are orbiting and destroying them one by one. Nobody has managed to escape from his path without being affected in some way. The next is Stavros’ religious-fuelled madness, he is so intent on forgiveness that his single-mindedness has cost him both money and the life of his only son and his bodyguard. Then there’s Molly and Gus, they’re both driven by the need to do the right thing, and Molly in particular charging headfirst into the storm may end up losing it all. All of these things are fuelled by their own free will, their ability to choose what they’re doing, and almost all of their decisions are now costing them in terrible ironic consequence.

Another thing that was utterly outstanding in this episode is the visual effects and cinematography. First there’s the SWAT team invasion of Chumph’s home choreographed alongside a choral singing a religious hymn. The camera snapping from the viewpoint of Chumph strapped to his equipment with the blinding white light pouring in behind him, and the cops outside in the encroaching snowy blizzard. Then Chumph being peppered with bullets and “crucified” atop his own exercise equipment, whilst Malvo drives away in his car listening in via the police scanner.

The next is the blizzard shootout between Malvo, Numbers and Wrench and then Grimly and Solverson. It’s chilling and nail bitingly intense as we are literally drenched in snow whilst our hitmen spray bullets in an attempt to take down their target. You purposefully end up squinting in an attempt to make out our characters through the snowy mist. They disappear in and out of shot leaving us to look at an almost completely white scene. It’s one of the most visually breathtaking scenes of the series so far, for just completely engulfing you in the moment.

Bonus points to Jefferson Russo and his musical department on this episode too. We get to really hear the distinct character scores here for each person, and they not only add to the ambience of the episode but give weight to the character’s persona. My personal favourite has been the jazzy snare drum and cymbals sequence for Numbers and Wrench, but even the use of something as simple as some jingle bells for Malvo as he lures Numbers away into the snow adds to the change in tone and signals that we know he’s concocting another plan. The fact that we have a musical accompaniment that gives us cues along with what’s happening onscreen really shows the attention to detail from those working in post-production elements.

With three more episodes to go, the stakes are raised even higher. Malvo knows he’s being hunted, Grimly potentially has to go it alone and Nygaard is turning into a real sick and twisted dark horse. What’s surprising is how the show has managed to up the ante every single time. Where to next from here is what I keep saying after each episode.


Fargo airs on SBS 1 on Thursday at 9:30pm and is also available on demand via the SBS website.


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Carina Nilma

Office lackey day-job. Journalist for The AU Review night-job. Emotionally invested fangirl.