A review of tonight's “Fargo” coming up just as soon as that's the wrong part of the sentence to be focusing on…
“How the heck did I do that?” -Molly
“'Cause you're you.” -Gus
“Who Shaves the Barber?” has some memorable material involving Malvo, including his trip to Reno to visit his booking agent, and especially his one-man assault on the Fargo mob's headquarters, done right under the nose of two FBI agents played by Key & Peele(*). Like last scene's gunfight in the whiteout, the tracking shot following Malvo's path through the building even as the camera remained outside was a very clever way to depict a complex action sequence despite the restrictions of a TV budget and schedule. (Also, there are times when the less we see of Malvo in action, the easier it is to buy that he's this superhuman force of destruction.)
(*) The introduction of these guys may be two buffoons too many, but there's a buffoon gap with the murder of Don, and I can't object to the presence of the men who gave us Liam Neesons, Ladennifer Jadaniston and the tastiest soul food meal ever.
The bulk of the episode, though, deals with our other two leads, who find themselves on opposite paths: Lester gleefully discovering the power of chaos, and Molly sadly coming to grips with the limits of order and goodness.
We've seen Lester travel slowly down this dark path, but “Who Shaves the Barber?” is the point at which he stops walking along it and starts tearing down it in a stolen sports car. His frame of Chaz works not only because Bill is relieved to have an alternate theory of the crime with some evidence behind it, but because who could imagine meek nice guy Lester Nygaard doing something so devious and nasty as this? Who could picture the guy with the eternal “Kick Me” sign framing his brother for murder, and setting his nephew up to be arrested, on top of that?
His accent's always going to be a shaky thing, but Martin Freeman's been awfully good these last few episodes. Lester's transformation into a wolf in sheep's bright orange parka certainly helps; there's a level of artifice to his performance that functions better when he's a bully pretending to still be a victim. Even if Bill wasn't both dim and inclined to believe the best in his old friend Lester, I could see him being snowed by Lester's performance and the web of lies he spins about Chaz and Pearl. And his seduction of the widow Hess – taking advantage of her desperation to get her hands on money he knows he can't provide – was a slick piece of black comic theater, with Lester more turned on by thoughts of his continued revenge on Sam (even climaxing after their thrusting knocks Sam's photo off the wall) than he is by the beautiful woman offering herself up to him.
If Lester has for the moment unlocked the secrets of the universe (even if I expect all of this to blow back on him in a very bad way before all is said and done), Molly is a woman who finishes the episode believing nothing in the world makes sense. She has done everything right – up to and including defeating Mr. Wrench in a circumstance where she was horribly outgunned – that it's almost painful to watch her and Gus get excited as they build their case against Lester, because we know what's been happening in Bemidji. Allson Tolman has been wonderful throughout this series, and the look of utter confusion and despair on her face as Molly processes the Lester/Chaz news at the end of the episode is perhaps her best moment yet. But she's involved in plenty of lovely small moments throughout the episode, like Molly being grateful that she's alive to watch a hockey game with her dad (this show has done very well by father-daughter relationships, and Keith Carradine was terrific in showing Lou's barely-hidden concern for his daughter), or Molly trying to get answers from a grieving, miserable Mr. Wrench.
It's a episode of extremes – good and evil, small emotional moments and big actions – and another terrific installment in what continues to be a great series. I look forward to seeing what's coming next.
What did everybody else think?