‘Fargo’: No Saints in the Animal Kingdom

Published 4 months ago by

Adam Goldberg Martin Freeman and Russell Harvard in Fargo Episode 5 Fargo: No Saints in the Animal Kingdom

[This is a review of Fargo episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.] 

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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.

Allison Tolman in Fargo Episode 5 Fargo: No Saints in the Animal Kingdom

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.

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Fargo continues next Tuesday with ‘Buridan’s Ass’ @10pm on FX.

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  1. What did Ari call Malvo when he drove away?

  2. All I can say is, this show is morbidly twisted and interesting in a good sort of way.

    I wondered what was up with Lester’s hand (maybe i missed seeing him get hit in the hand) and now it all comes full circle.

    My only comments/questions thus far are:

    - Malvo seems to live in a bottle and seems to think he’s above the law. He does so many things overtly and is not ever worried about doing something like wiping down a crime scene to rid it of his prints. He just carries on as if what he’s doing is “normal” which is kind of scary.

    - Lester appears screwed at this point. The female officer has pieced together most of the puzzle and with the shot pellet, can now prove he was present at the officers shooting and not “knocked out” in the basement.

    I am looking forward to seeing how they write him outta the corner they painted him into.

    - The overly zealous female officer kind of screwed the pooch there by literally breaking into Lester’s house and looking for evidence w/o warrant in hand. Anything she finds would have been obtained illegally.

  3. Nice review! I’m really enjoying this show. It’s got the gritty moral-bending drama of Breaking Bad, and the dry witty humor of the Coen Bros. I hope it stays as good as its been through the end of the season and beyond.

  4. Fargo, Hannibal, and True Detective are probably my three favorite shows of the year thus far. Every second of Fargo is pure gold.

  5. Fargo movie references are showing up everywhere:

    Gus to his neighbor Ari when the moral of the story got a little to complicated for him:
    “You’re sayin’… what’re you sayin’?”

    Stan Grossman to Jerry Lundegaard when his business proposal stopped making sense: “You’re sayin’…. what’re you sayin’?”

    • Yeah, I’ve tried to keep track of them. This episode had a shot out of No Country (Gus in bed staring at the ceiling, realizing something, getting up;) the Goy’s teeth scene from A Serious Man; reading the “sporting goods” store sign reminded me of the “mr. sporting goods” bit of dialogue from No Country. Last episode Gus said “what’s he got? the cancer?” which is out of No Country. The first episode had a white russian reference. The scene at the pharmacy when Molly runs into Lester had a Mike Zoss sign and the word “unguent.” and so on.
      They’ve really crammed plenty of references in, which is great but mostly when they do it subtly.

  6. Great review, it does seem like the show is showing a greater spectrum of good and evil compared to the movie which mostly focused on the polar opposites. I think the show has been ok, could definitely be better, I’ve enjoyed all the references to Coen movies but Ari’s parable seemed too much a ripoff of A Serious Man’s ‘the goy’s teeth’ story (my favorite scene from that movie) they even copied the dutch angles and lip syncing, not sure what was gained with making it that similar and it just seemed out of place and not earned.
    I guess one can’t expect other writers to match the Coen brothers in every way but I’m afraid they might hurt themselves trying.

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