We’ve all seen enough television to know the traditional moves a show will use to drag you to the edge of your seat: the editing tricks, the musical cues, the drawn out silences that linger a second longer than you’re comfortable with, etc. Even if you can’t articulate them from an advanced film study perspective, you recognize it when they happen, mostly because you feel unsettled almost all of the way to your core, and that is generally the type of thing one notices.
Where Fargo is brilliant, especially in last night’s episode, is the way the show plays with this kind of tension. So, yes, sometimes it will build and build and build and then pay it all off immediately, like in the elevator at the beginning of the episode or in Lester’s office at the end (both of which we will be discussing at length, once we all collectively recover, which should happen sometime between a few paragraphs from now and NEVER). But other times the show will build and build and build in the exact same way, and then … nothing. The scene in the diner with Lorne and Molly’s dad, the thing where Lester was looking out his window and into the woods after fleeing Vegas, both textbook examples of a set-up that led to no immediate resolution. The result of all this is that you, the viewer, are left with no concrete idea of what’s going to happen at any point in the show, which ramps up the tension even more, stretched over the full 60 minutes, to the point that the stress of whole thing has probably taken a few months off of the end of all our lives. This, to be clear, is not a complaint.
But let’s dig into the stuff from last night. We begin with a simple question.
Lemme answer that one for you, friendo: No, it is not what you want. It might be what you think you want as you stand in that elevator with the artificial confidence from your Salesman of the Year victory and the “dangerous” libation you just ordered coursing through your veins, but no, Mr. Fancy Haircut Man, you do not actually want this. Because “this” will bring everything to a screeching halt: Your new happy life as a wealthy small business owner, Lorne’s six-month dentist caper, the lives of the strangers in the elevator, one of whom is Stephen Root and another of whom is a very nice lady who will put her thumb all the way up your butt if you treat her right. But you’re a big macho tough guy now, so, you know, say yes. See what happens. Spoiler alert: PEW PEW PEW.
All of which brings up another point: LORNE MALVO. If you are still, somehow, in Episode 9 of the show’s 10-episode run, trying to figure out what kind of guy Lorne Malvo is, here’s your answer: He will become proficient enough at dentistry to go deep undercover for six full months, finding a sweetheart in the process just to frost the ruse, all to collect a $100,000 bounty on a snitch, which isn’t really even all that much money when you consider how much time and effort he put into the whole thing. (Again, he learned how to be a dentist. That’s the real story here.) And then, the second things start to go awry, he will calmly cut bait and put a bullet in everyone inside a building that is lousy with surveillance cameras, just to make a point. Also, sometimes he will scare the sh*t out of your children for literally no reason at all. Malvo.
Let’s move to a lighter note, briefly: Solverson, Key, and Peele are on the case, as Molly’s giant conspiracy board has finally been seen by someone with a lick of sense. (NOTE: Does she have two conspiracy boards? Because we’ve seen one on the white board in the police station and one all over the wall of her home office. She’s either spending a fortune on markers and staples, or she’s taking it down and reassembling it every time someone wants to see it. Geez, lady. Make a Powerpoint.) God bless Bob Odenkirk and his second prominent character with an awful combover, but I let out an audible cheer when Special Agent Key shut him down. It’s about to get quite serious. To quote Molly Solverson herself, “Watch your butts.” (And if you haven’t read Josh’s interview with Allison Tolman yet, please do that immediately.)
Okay, now, the ending. I’ll be honest, I still don’t know if I’m fully ready to talk about what happened at Lester’s office. And so, in lieu of actual analysis, I present the full and complete notes I took in real-time as it happened, beginning with the car ride there:
– lester’s wife tells story about guy pooping btw mattress/box-spring in motel
– is malvo the mysterious pooper?
– oh god he’s sending her in
– oh god lester
– LESTER YOU COWARD
– JESUS THE ORANGE JACKET
– LESTER YOU EVIL COWARD
– OH GOD
– OH GOD
Lester, you unbelievable piece of garbage.
– Favorite scene of the night: Lorne and Molly’s dad in the diner. Hoo partner, was that ever nerve-racking. I thought for sure the elder Solverson was a goner, especially since we were well into the penultimate episode of the season and we hadn’t had a major death yet. I was very relieved to see him escape with his life.
– We’ve seen other references to Lorne being the devil between the biblical imagery with Stavros and his beyond human ability/desire to bring destruction, but I don’t think any have been more clear than his Garden of Eden reference in the diner. Malvo is Beelzebub. Beelzebub is Malvo. Proceed accordingly.
– Oh, and speaking of the phrase “Hoo partner,” last night marked the second time Lorne has used it while undercover, the first being his interrogation at the police station as Rev. Frank Peterson. My point here is twofold: 1) Methinks Lorne has a tell; and 2) If you ever hear a mysterious, oddly polite newcomer drop that phrase in conversation, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, RUN.
– “I’m a rascal. There’s no two ways about it.” – Lorne Malvo, making one of the more substantial understatement in history.
– Finally, a heartfelt Rest in Peace to Lester’s second wife, Linda. You were a sweet, naive lady with terrible taste in men, who spent a not insignificant part of her life scrubbing feces off of motel box springs, and who was happy to look a nosy, pregnant police officer in the eye and lielielie if it meant a shot at preserving the cozy life you built with the creep whose first wife died under mysterious circumstances and who was now being questioned about a triple murder in Las Vegas. You will be missed.
As always, your thoughts below. And thanks to Chet Manley for the GIFs. Finale next week. Someone find me a paper bag to hyperventilate into.