This time around we’re given a reprieve from the hefty violence and an opportunity to see the intricate web revealed as well as some surprisingly touching and sensitive moments. For a series that has been so brutal, dark and twisted this is a much brighter albeit still emotionally heavy episode to take in.
At the hospital Molly Solverson has managed to survive being accidentally shot by Gus Grimly. Whilst Mr Wrench also escaped death at the hands of Solverson’s shots in the whitewash blizzard but doesn’t escape her questioning him. Lester Nygaard has framed his brother Chaz for the murders of Lester’s wife Pearl and the former police chief Vern Thurman, and manages to convincingly sell his fictional story to police chief Bill Oswalt. Whilst Lorne Malvo makes his way to Fargo to exact revenge upon the mob that sent Numbers and Wrench to kill him.
Firstly this episode belongs to Lester Nygaard and the phenomenal Martin Freeman portraying him. Over the course of the seven episodes we’ve seen to date, his character development has been brilliant. But in particular the last two episodes have shown us how much change Nygaard has undertaken. The first thirteen minutes (minus the thirty seconds or so at the very beginning where we see Grimly angsting over Solverson’s hospitalisation) we see Nygaard’s wicked plan of framing his brother for the murders and having his nephew arrested for gun possession play out. His ability to sell his lies rest heavily on his and his family’s reputation in the community. Everybody knows that Chaz had a temper, and that he was always mean to Lester, and for Chief Oswalt the notion of a lover’s quarrel between Chaz and Pearl over a broken affair is a far more convenient and believable story that fits the evidence found in Chaz’s gun cabinet. Martin Freeman’s portrayal has been skin-crawlingly good, particularly the end of last week’s and the beginning of this, where the tiniest of smirks and the look of self-satisfaction on his face is enough for us to see that he’s enjoying all of this chaos. From somebody who was steamrolled by his wife and brother to somebody who goes and murders his wife, frames his brother for it and then goes to have revenge sex with his bully’s wife, the change in his demeanour is visceral and jarring but understandable.
Our lovely leading lady Molly Solverson (the exceptional Allison Tolman) also has some evolution in her character in the most heart crushing of ways. In the space of a singular episode we see her rise with such wistful hope and then by the very end come crashing down in a heap. She still manages to keep a sense of humour about herself, quietly joking that Grimly better get her a new spleen once he reveals he accidentally shot her during the blizzard. Her awkward but tender bonding with her ex-cop father (an under-utilised Keith Carradine) whilst she recovers in hospital enables us to see her vulnerabilities. She’s gone headlong into this chase with little real thought into how it affects those around her. We can see this in both her father and in Grimly, the fact that he’s so visibly upset by what he’s done shows that in the short span of time he’s known Solverson he’s grown deeply affectionate and respectful of her. The bunch of flowers was a sweet and lovely touch, Solverson’s happy smile indicates she’s clever enough to work out that it’s more than just a “get well” wish from Grimly. But the real kicker, after finally piecing everything together (and graphically drawing a flowchart on her hospital window with a marker) upon arriving back in Bemidji she’s told that police chief Oswalt has wrapped the case up all neatly courtesy of Nygaard’s “confession”. The look on her face speaks volumes of the level of confusion and utter desperation she’s now found herself in, it makes you empathise with her.
Devilish Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) has less screentime in this episode but is no less dastardly and he’s now out for revenge courtesy of nearly being killed by the hitmen. One of the best scenes in the episode we barely even see him, it’s just his one man rampage upon the Fargo headquarters as he casually strolls in with his assault rifle and floor by floor he mows down everybody in his path. The brilliance of this is apart from the last 5 seconds of his riotous invasion, it’s all just a camera panning slowly along the frontage of the building and we just hear Malvo’s movements as he peppers the people in his path with bullets. His sheer brazenness seems impossible, how he hasn’t been caught yet seems implausible.
Surprisingly this episode of Fargo has significantly less “in your face” action, and the violence factor is toned down quite a lot compared to what we’ve been dealt thus far. Yet the timing doesn’t feel slow at all, I was pleasantly surprised at the half-way mark, and it certainly didn’t feel like we’d ploughed through half of the episode in that time. Scott Winant, the director for this and next week’s manages to deliver a well paced episode that has the most heart and emotion we’ve seen to date.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Fargo airs on SBS 1 on Thursday at 9:30pm and is also available On Demand via the SBS website.