Fox, fish, rabbit, wolf, dog, bear… There was no shortage of animal references in episode 9 of Fargo. It was full of tension and bloodshed, and made for a drinking game.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more mystified over a series’ impending wrap up. I have no fucking clue with Fargo, which is part of what makes it, as it turns out, so damn good. Billy Bob Thornton is utterly brilliant as Malvo posing as a benign, high society dentist named Dr. Michaelson who tells corny jokes, says “Aces!” often, and has a young fiancee who rewards him for good behavior by sticking her thumb in his ass just like he likes it. One question among many: pretending to be a minister is one thing, but how does Malvo know how to fix a cavity?
Lester, in his Bill Blass suit (as he points out), approaches the silver-haired Malvo in the Vegas bar, but our sinister conman, who’s entertaining his fiancee and another couple, says he’s never seen Lester in his life. I believe him, thinking maybe this is some off-the-deep-end David Lynchian character-switcheroo, until he stealthily whispers two stern words in Lester’s ear: “Walk away.” Lester’s had it made thus far, but he’s become too cocky for his own good and follows the foursome into the elevator. When Malvo looks him straight on and asks, “Is this what you want?” there’s a moment when Lester suddenly realizes he doesn’t know what “this” is, but he answers affirmatively anyway. Malvo pulls out a gun and pulverizes his party of three. Turns out the couple was a target in the Witness Protection Program, while the fiancee was just an expendable part of an elaborate, year-long plan to get to them. Lester stuns Malvo by clocking him with his Saleman of The Year award and slipping out of the elevator. Malvo rebounds and chillingly calls out, “See you later, Lester. See you soon.”
Because the only thing more terrifying than Malvo on the loose is Malvo-as-evil-dentist on the loose, Lester plans to escape to Alcupulco with wife Linda, but preggers Molly shows up at his door on a routine inquiry about Lester being a possible witness to the Vegas elevator murders. Just as Molly deftly backs Lester into a corner, the submissive Linda steps up and covers for him. Does Linda know more about Lester than we think she does? I don’t think we’ll ever get the answer to this one because – SPOILER ALERT – she’s about to die, and in the most heartbreakingly coldblooded way since the bronze trainer was duct taped to an exercise bike with a bazooka.
Malvo blows into Bemidji – driving by Gus’s mail truck like a ghost on the snowy highway – heading straight to the Nygaard house, only to find a new family living there. For no other reason than pure devilry, Malvo tells the new homeowner, in front of his kids, that the house is haunted by the gruesome murders that took place there the year before. He heads to the diner where he asks Lou Solverson for coffee, pie, and the whereabouts of Lester Nygaard. He tries to manipulate Lou but, being a former deputy, dad’s not falling for it. He responds to Malvo’s yarns with a vague story about a Sioux Falls incident, as alluded to in previous episodes. “Bodies piled up as a high as the second floor,” he says, but that’s all we know. Was Malvo behind some Sioux Falls massacre too? He walks out one door just as Molly walks in the other.
The Nygaards, on their way out of town, stop at the insurance office to empty out the safe. Lester suspects Malvo’s waiting for him there. Callously, he sends in his devoted and unsuspecting wife, bundled up in his own red parka. He sits in the car and watches Malvo blow her away. This is how the episode ends.
Dr. Michaelson would call it “a real pickle.” Malvo would say, “That’s a bear.”