[This is a review of Fargo episode 7. There will be SPOILERS.]
Noah Hawley’s world of Fargo certainly favors those who act over those who react. It also highly favors those who act decisively over those who act reflexively. That is: those characters that know what they are doing (and why) seem to be the ones who find themselves on top in any given situation.
Right now, the story finds itself entering the final stages of its 10-episode run, and those characters who were the first to act – like Lorne Malvo and Lester Nygaard – are afforded another chance to act again, solely in their own interests, bringing forth another wave of chaos when the first has yet to be fully resolved.
Although Lorne Malvo has orders from some sort of crime syndicate, many of his early actions have either been to serve his personal interests, or they have been intriguingly illogical – often resulting in something of an unanswerable question as to who would actually benefit from his involvement.
It stands to reason, then, that the killing of Sam Hess theoretically had no immediate upswing for either him or Lester, and yet he went through with it anyway, almost as though it was an uncontrollable compulsion, like telling the kid at the motel to urinate in his boss’ gas tank. That same sudden, gripping urge could be used to describe Lester’s murder of Pearl, and, again, it could be factored into Gus’ decision not to arrest Malvo when he first had the chance. It seems that all three were acting reflexively, and that’s what put them in the situations they now have to work their way out of.
That being said, Malvo and Lester did survive their initial encounters with the men from Fargo, and with law enforcement in both Bemidji and Duluth. As a result, they have since engaged in plans that are both swift and decisive, which seem to have positioned them both in ideal spots. Malvo took it upon himself to go and deal with the higher-ups in Fargo, while Lester successfully framed his brother Chaz for the murders of Pearl and Vern – possibly giving Bill the luxury of thinking his drifter theory was at least spot-on for the murder of Sam Hess.
Both men execute their plans with spectacular, almost mechanical proficiency, which the episode handles wonderfully by pointing out how the personal becomes frighteningly impersonal, and the impersonal is treated with shocking iciness. For one, Lester’s framing of Chaz takes an already tenuous familial relationship and boils it down to all the negative pent-up anger that had accumulated over the years. The audience doesn’t know all the ins and outs of Chaz and Lester’s relationship, but over the past six episodes, Hawley has demonstrated enough through their encounters that feelings of inadequacy on behalf of Lester, along with a healthy does of general animosity was constantly roiling underneath the surface of their connection.
In that sense, the motivation for the actions Lester takes against Chaz are almost identical to the ones that drove him to murder his wife. Only this time, he’s using another body to literally clean up the mess he made with the first – which the episode then nicely underlines by showing Lester’s long-delayed decision to finally erase the bloodstains in his house and pay a visit to the widow Hess.
The familiarity and pent-up rage pushing Lester to turn on his family hits similar notes as Malvo’s swift and seemingly total destruction of the crime syndicate in Fargo. Although Malvo is told the decision to have him killed by Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers was likely personal, his act of killing takes on a decidedly impersonal tone.
In fact, the camera doesn’t even enter the building where the killings take place; instead, it remains on the outside, unable to look in and see what is actually going on. In a way, that distance is as reminiscent of Malvo’s temperament, as it is the ineffectualness of law enforcement – especially those sitting right out front when the carnage erupts.
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s very funny appearance as Agent Budge and Agent Pepper (what, no Agent D’Pez Poopsie?) demonstrate how unaware those in a position of authority are when it comes to everything that is and has transpired with regard to Malvo and Lester. The comedic duo’s appearance manages to call to mind Bill Oswalt and the rest of Bemidji’s overwhelmed law enforcement, which – outside of Molly’s actions – hasn’t gotten a single thing right since Vern died.
That leaves Molly faced with a seemingly unanswerable question of how to tell a group of men who are already uninterested in listening to her that their open-and-shut case is completely wrong. Her next action will not only influence her already contentious standing with Bill, but it will also have an impact on those freely acting beyond the reach of the law.
Fargo continues next Tuesday with ‘The Heap’ @10pm on FX.
Photos: Chris Large/FX