tv review – FX’s Fargo, episode 1.6

With ‘Buridan’s Ass’ Fargo delivered its best episode yet and a stunning hour of television. The title refers to a philosophical paradox, a story of an ass placed precisely midway between two bails of hay, leaving it unable to pick one over the other, which causes the animal to starve to death despite the two food sources at its disposal. It’s a parable that questions the value of free will and to this day a “Buridan’s ass” is someone who doesn’t make a choice. Basically the story is about the inability to carve out one’s own path, because of multiple stimuli that push and pull, and this is also exactly what’s at the core of FX’s Fargo: people who are stuck by themselves, but because of outside help get ushered into a certain direction. All they need is a gentle push to finally make a choice and completely chance their lives and personality. The prime example of this type of person on the show is Lester, who received his push from Lorne Malvo and has been going down a new and different path ever since.

And what a path it is. ‘Buridan’s Ass’ found Lester in the hospital, where his brother came to visit him. Apparently Chaz had been talking to the cops and when he stepped into the room he started pointing fingers. He called out Lester on his “prank call”, on the fact Lester’s been lying and he went so far as to say that there’s always been something wrong with Lester and that he’s always been a burden. This triggered something in Lester; it was just the spark he needed to come up with an idea to save himself and take out his anger on his brother. Disguised as another patient Lester managed to sneak by the policeman at his door and leave the hospital to go to his house, where he picked up some of his late wife’s underwear, some naughty pictures of her, and the hammer he murdered her with. Then Lester snuck into his brother’s house, where he planted the evidence to frame his brother. He hid everything in the secret garage gun cabinet, then took a revolver and put it in his nephew’s school backpack, the idea being that the revolver would be found, sending the police to search Lester’s brother’s house, finding everything they’d need to get Chaz arrested. The episode ended with Lester entering the hospital unseen, where he awaited the results of what he had set in motion. The smile on his face told us everything: Lester really likes the new him. Despite the fact he’s a despicable character, it’s great fun to see Lester Nygard turn into Lorne Malvo, a man who derives the same satisfaction from manipulating people and pushing them to their limits.

Once again Malvo did just that. When he no longer needed Don, he tied him to a fitness machine and planted an empty shotgun is his hands with the help of some more duct tape. He then fired a couple of shots into cars on the street to lure the cops to Don’s house, for two reasons: because many of the town’s boys in blue would be distracted while he was picking up the ransom from Stavros, and… because the SWAT team would do his dirty work, killing Don. It went exactly as planned, up to a point: Malvo didn’t make it to Stavros because Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers showed up. Both men tried to kill Lorn in a blizzard which made for a terrific and tense scene, especially because Gus and Molly happened to be nearby and decided to check out the sounds of gunfire. It was wonderfully done: most of the characters lost each other in the snow storm, and Malvo used this opportunity to knife Mr. Numbers and find out who sent him before he slit his throat and attempted to got away. It seems that Molly fired a couple of shots after him, before she was accidentally shot by her own partner Gus, who was scared and panicked. It seems very unlikely he killed her, but it will be interesting to see what this means for both characters and their relationship. For now let’s just say this must have been the worst date ever.

Lastly there was Stavros Milos. While waiting at the garage where Lorne would pick up the money, he had an epiphany. He saw the red ice scraper, stuck in the snow, and he saw himself burying the suitcase he found those many years ago. He thought that putting it back where it came from, would resolve the trouble he was in now, would smooth things over with God. He then left the garage, drove out into the fields and buried the money where he had found it. This led to the most curious moment of the episode: while Stavros’ son and bodyguard were driving home it started raining fish. As of yet we don’t know why or how, but we did see the grisly aftermath. Stavros stumbled upon the car wreck, his dead bodyguard and his deceased son. So, after all, the next plague from the Book of Exodus came true and it left the supermarket king utterly defeated. This heartwrenching moment was executed extremely well, thanks in large part to Oliver Platt’s wonderful acting throughout the episodes. Stavros is a man who’s been broken down bit by bit, and he’s at his lowest low now. How will he respond? When will he find out who was behind the extortion? Will he at all? These are the burning questions I can’t wait to find out the answer to.

‘Buridan’s Ass’ was Fargo‘s best episode yet: atmospheric, tense, funny and tragic. The journeys its characters are on keep getting more interesting with the episode, what a feat. 10/10

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2 thoughts on “tv review – FX’s Fargo, episode 1.6

  1. Oh man, this episode. The entire sequence with Don was so well done: the use of music, the horrifying imagery, and the fantastic acting by Howerton (him screaming “WAIT!” was chilling). Definitely the best episode yet.

    Also, I liked the callback to the movie with Milos getting out of the parking garage.

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