FARGO EPISODE 3: A MUDDY ROAD
Yes! Flashback! Fargo’s third episode opens with the mysterious “nude fella” in Malvo’s trunk from the premiere! I interpret that this way: shit is getting good. By the end of the hour, we get a chance to better understand the characters because we are treated to more significant interactions between them. I don’t even mind the uneven accents this time.
Oliver Platt as Stavros bored me to tears last week, but in this episode he is fucking fantastic. Malvo found Stavros’s extortionist in the last episode, and now he doesn’t tell Stavros that he cracked the case. Instead, Malvo double-crosses the mogul and teams up with the Stavros’s ex-wife’s bronzing addicted, idiot trainer-cum-blackmailer. I’m not sure about this trainer storyline, but in a truly beautiful scene in a tiny storage closet between Malvo and said trainer, Malvo discovers that the trainer knows nothing about Stavros or his money. “You’re blackmailing Stavros for something but you don’t know what it is?” Malvo asks. As our fearful trainer squeezes an inflated medicine ball and tries not to hyperventilate, Malvo says, “You’re working for me now.”
I was worried about Lester Nygaard’s wounded hand in episode two. I’m pretty sure if this was real life he would have lost his mitt by now. It’s not looking good.The last time we saw him, he was sobbing into his dead wife’s knit sweater while the decorative wooden plaque bearing the phrase EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON hangs perfectly on the bedroom wall. Now we see him in his brother’s kitchen (the brother being the father of the kid who is mysteriously harboring a jar of piss in his closet), contemplating going back to his job as an insurance salesman.
Lester’s assignment on his first day back at the office is to pay a visit to the widow Hess. She has more than enough on her hands with two asshole teenagers who’ve inherited their father’s penchant for bullying, which is what got Lester into this in the first place. But mostly, Mrs. Hess is busy day drinking and wringing her hands over her dead husband’s life insurance. In a bathrobe with tousled red hair, Kate Walsh plays the former stripper turned trophy wife to perfection. It’s during this near-salacious meeting with her that Lester discovers he’s being followed by Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers.
The henchmen show up at Lester’s office. (I must say, Wrench was definitely using real sign language this time. Numbers did not use any sign language, which left me wondering had he done so, would it be the odd, clearly fake handography from episode two. I think I just coined the term handography.) The double-teamed intimidation is interrupted when Molly comes knocking. What a day at Mr. Nygaard’s office! Molly lets slip a surveillance image of Malvo that sets Lester into a panic, ushering Molly out the door. He knows Malvo, just as Molly suspected. When she goes to Deputy Bill with the revelation, he dismisses it in a staggeringly aggressive move by silently turning his desk chair around on when Molly is in mid-sentence.
Fortunately, Gus shows up at the right time with the right information; he tells Molly that he caught up with Malvo but let him go when our antagonist threatened him, which garners Molly’s sympathy. He’s a single dad, after all. Gus then reveals the most important discovery he has ever made: the car Malvo was driving belonged to Lester Nygaard. Molly shows Gus that same surveillance photo that she brought to Lester’s office, Gus ID’s the guy, and that’s when we cheer for Deputy Solverson.
Arguably, the best thing about this episode is Molly’s character development and her deft detective skills. She may be small-town-small-time, but she demonstrates that she may in fact be a force to reckon with in her own wash-and-go way.
In a holler back to the movie scene in which Marge meets up with her former schoolmate Mike Yanagita, Molly has an uncomfortable lunch date with an old friend. This sets Molly up as a Miss Lonelyhearts married to her job, though it ends up being much more when the strange conversation Molly had with her old gal pal comes back around at Molly’s father’s diner, where she’s taken Gus and his daughter for milkshakes. Are Molly and Gus headed for a tumble? I can almost envision some hormonally awkward choreography in which Molly and Gus dance around each other, but never quite seal the deal. Molly connects with Gus’s daughter, giving her knowing looks across the table. When Gus walked into the station with his daughter in the previous scene, he said she was “a good girl.” “As far as you know,” she replied.
Meanwhile, Malvo is secretly stalking Stavros by murdering his dog and siphoning jugs of blood into the plumbing. (Where did he get the blood? Was it pig’s blood? Was it from that kid who was selling pills and bags of drug-test proof piss out of the back of his van? Did I miss that? Must have been when I was reaching for my third glass of Merlot.) Malvo is stunningly stealthy as he trades Stavros’s prescription Tylenol for 30 milligrams of Adderall, and when a confused and hopped up Stavros takes a shower, the water turns to a Carrie-esque hail of blood.
The show continues to get real David Lynch-y. It’s not over-the-top surreal, but there’s enough bizarro-world level stuff to know undeniably that Twin Peaks is an enormous influence. I don’t know much about the bible, but there are some heavy handed biblical allusions throughout this episode, and Malvo reciting a psalm in voiceover in that final bloody scene is just one of them. Is this devil stuff? Piss and other toilet-related issues are still a strong thru-line. Oh, and some sort of situation in Sioux Falls gets mentioned twice, but we don’t know what that is yet. We also don’t really know why the hell Malvo is torturing Stavros with blood showers and speed.
But what do we know about the poor nude fella who Malvo kidnapped and who ended up frozen to death in the backwoods beyond the Minnesota thruway? He was an accountant who loved his Windows XP fish tank screensaver, and he owed somebody a shit ton of money.