[This is a review of Fargo episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]
As Fargo pushes further toward its conclusion, more and more of the ideas that were formulated in the early episodes begin to take greater shape. One in particular that the narrative likes to return to is, of course, the idea of choice, or, as is emphasized in the events of ‘Buridan’s Ass,’ the idea of determinism, free will, and the question of why people make the choices they do.
Naturally, as Lorne Malvo has been the catalyst for nearly everything that’s occurred, it is easy to argue that many of the early choices made by Lester, Stavros, and to a certain degree, Molly and Gus were caused by Malvo’s actions. So, the question then becomes what is the cause of Malvo’s actions to begin with?
Aside from the appearance of fish falling from the sky, the reasons behind Malvo’s actions seem to be the primary unanswerable element of the series. In fact, it’s far more likely that Fargo will have a reasonable explanation for the event that ultimately took the lives of Wally and Dimitri before it ever reveals what exactly is driving Malvo to do the things that he does. Until that time, Lorne will continue to exist as the archetypal trickster, or, at the very least, someone capable to doing anything because his actions are seemingly free of any kind of causal relation.
Of course, those fish fall from the sky after Stavros opts not to deliver the ‘No Country For Old Men’-style case of money to his blackmailer and instead chooses to bury it in the snow around the same place that he found it all those years ago.
Stavros – who is presumably still reeling from the effects of the Adderall and the biblical torment that was visited upon him by Malvo and Chumph – assumes that returning his unearned case of money to its point of origin will return nature to a state of balance. At first, it seems like Stavros has the right idea, as the massive storm hitting Minnesota abates not long after the case has been reburied along with the ice scraper, but that supposed achievement is soon proven meaningless by the aftermath of the raining fish.
Meanwhile, Malvo continues to cut through Duluth like a buzz saw, setting up a chaotic and rather awful end for the dimwitted Don Chumph, before having to dodge a hail of gunfire from Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers.
Unsurprisingly, Malvo gets the upper hand, killing Mr. Numbers and evading capture from Molly and Gus, thanks partially to the massive snowstorm and to the fact that Gus apparently shoots Molly. All of this further demonstrates the chaos that continues to erupt around Malvo, and how, despite characters moving in on him, the mayhem doesn’t necessarily stop; it just continues to spread out in order to impact more and more people.
In a sense, the same thing is going on with Lester, who unconsciously unburdened himself last week. Now that he’s lucid and is seemingly on the mend, however, Lester has turned his sights once more to the notion of self-preservation.
It’s a testament to the show that, with everything else that’s going on, ‘Buridan’s Ass’ manages to make Lester’s temporary escape from the hospital and subsequent planting of evidence in Chaz’s gun locker more than just an ancillary incident to pass the time. Instead, it becomes another example of the power of weighted choice and how the ripples of Malvo’s interference continue to spread out and affect those he’s never even crossed paths with.
The show is turning toward the final stretch, and as some events can be traced back to a series of choices, others seem to occur completely at random and may only have reason for the viewer. In that sense, the question of what Fargo is suggesting, in terms of the reasons for choosing one path over the other, is that choice is always weighted, even if the people making them aren’t entirely sure how or why.
Fargo continues next Tuesday with ‘Who Shaves the Barber?’ @10pm on FX.
Photos: Chris Large/FX