[This is a review of Fargo episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]
Fargo may be dark, violent, and wildly misanthropic, but it doesn’t just balance those elements out by being funny. Viewpoints countering that overt distrust of humankind have slowly begun to emerge within the narrative in ways that are present in both the text and subtext.
And in that sense, the show continues to explore its own notion of morality and conscience through a discrete sense of ethics intersecting the oftentimes-overwhelming gist that the world these characters inhabit is simply circling the drain – and that guys like Lorne Malvo exist to accelerate that vortex spinning civilization into oblivion.
To demonstrate this, ‘The Six Ungraspables’ features a strange, slightly heightened moment when Gus is given the opportunity to have a late night conversation with his neighbor, Ari Ziskind (presumably the man married to the woman who revealed herself to Gus just a few episodes ago). Mostly, Gus is just looking to unburden himself about his involvement in the Lorne Malvo debacle, and the ongoing concern he feels about pursuing such an obviously dangerous man who threatened him and his family.
In order to be, well, neighborly, Ari attempts to offer some advice in the form of a parable about a man who gives everything he has, including his own life, in an misguided attempt to end the world’s suffering. The conclusion being – at least according to the neighbor – that only a fool would think he can solve all the world’s problems, to which, despite knowing this, Gus asks whether a person still has to try and solve those problems that he can.
Unsurprisingly, there are some terrific elements to unpack from the neighbor’s efforts – both in his attempt to provide some semblance of council to Gus via the parable, and in the humanness he exhibits in simply wanting to talk with his neighbor, even though we get the feeling this may be the first instance the two have really conversed.
Ari’s community spirit, then, aligns itself with the episode’s end. After he reveals himself to be part of the neighborhood watch, Ari winds up parsing one of Malvo’s patented thinly veiled threats in which the black-eyed scoundrel openly contests the assertion that Gus and Ari live in the kind of close-knit community where neighbors actually look out for one another.
But that’s just part of Malvo’s dark, narrow worldview, the kind explained in his conversation with the religiously minded Stavros of the Romans being a society of people raised by wolves, and that there are “no saints in the animal kingdom.”
So far, Fargo has more or less been seen through the eyes of Malvo – or at least those who think like he does. That was how Lester Nygaard was essentially introduced at the end of the first episode. But his festering wound is symbolic of the fact that not everyone is like Malvo; they exist in multiplicity, a mixture of good and bad, or, at least, varying degrees of good and bad. Which is why it’s important to note that as soon as Lester partially and feverishly unburdens himself to Molly and Bill (as well as Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers), his wound is given a chance to heal.
Fargo has done a great job filling its world with individuals who are easily seduced by Malvo’s equally easy, cynical, sinking-ship mentality. But as Lester’s literally and symbolically infected hand suggests, there’s a shred of humanity tucked away in nearly everyone – even in those who seek to get away with doing the unthinkable. Not everyone can be goodness made manifest like Molly. Sometimes, just like being coaxed into doing something wrong, doing the right thing – or at least coming clean about having done wrong – requires a little outside help.
Whether it sticks or not is another question altogether.
Fargo continues next Tuesday with ‘Buridan’s Ass’ @10pm on FX.