The Fargo Frozen Five is a weekly countdown of five notable things from FX’s Minnesota murder show, meant to serve as a supplement to our standard recap coverage. It will probably get weird at times. In a way, that’s kind of appropriate.
5. “You’re the cheddar. The cheese.”
This week, Fargo went both to California and back in time to shed some light on this whole “Ennis Stussy was Thaddeus Mobley” business. The strange thing about all of it is that the show doing an episode in the warm sun felt stranger than it hopping around chronologically. Although I guess it makes sense, in a way, because Fargo just did a whole season in the past. Sunshine, however? Not so much.
The other interesting thing is that the episode was kind of nothing. A beautiful, fun, well-acted nothing (Carrie Coon is so great), but from a long-term plotting perspective, yeah, nothing. It was an hour-long red herring, an exercise in dead ends, with Santas and grifters and cocaine and the like. The short version of it all is that Gloria Burgle solved the Thaddeus Mobley mystery (Ennis was a sci-fi writer who got bamboozled for thousands by a fake producer and his beautiful associate, then attacked them once he found out, then fled to the Great White North with a new name he stole from a toilet), but got nowhere on the actual Ennis Stussy murder until she got home.
And it was actually pretty cool. It was a display of confident TV-making, and it was a little hilarious given the “Fargo is in a rut” criticisms that popped up early on this season, as though Noah Hawley read those and was like “A rut? A rut? FINE. I’M SENDING CARRIE COON TO HOLLYWOOD. HOW’S THAT, YOU JERKS?” I know it didn’t play out this way in real life, obviously, because the episode was locked in long before those murmurs started, but it’s fun to imagine.
4. “Disturbing the peace? I got thrown out of a window!”
There were Coen references galore in this episode, especially to Barton Fink, and you can’t do a Christmas murder story set in Los Angeles without tipping your cap to Shane Black, but I’d also like to point out that “cop from a Northern state who heads out West to investigate the death of a loved one without getting permission from the department first” is literally the plot of Beverly Hills Cop. I wish she had stopped at an art gallery and run into Bronson Pinchot. It would have been such a nice bookend to her Leftovers episode with Mark-Linn Baker. The full Perfect Strangers.
Also, I wish she had worn a Detroit Lions jacket the whole time. A real missed opportunity, in my book.
3. “You don’t use Facebook?”
Leaving the rest of the cast behind in Minnesota led to a parade of guest stars. You had Fred Melamed, Ray Wise, Frances Fisher, and so on, but I imagine the highlight for most was It’s Always Sunny star Rob McElhenney popping up as a mustachioed, Facebook-obsessed sleazeball cop who wanted to hook up with Gloria. For those of you keeping score, this now makes two Always Sunny stars who have shown up on Fargo, the other being Glenn Howerton in season one. Between this and the love affair between Always Sunny and Game of Thrones (Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss popped up in an Always Sunny episode last season, as water park employees), Always Sunny is really stretching its tentacles into prestige television. I love it. I hope Charlie Day pops up as a CIA agent on The Americans next.
2. “I can fix it.”
The robot cartoon — the one the episode laid out in chunks throughout the hour, based on the book written by Thaddeus Mobley — bummed me out so much. It was like Wall-E, if Wall-E had the squeaky voice of a child and lived in misery for two million years and then committed suicide. I get the point of it, I think, and it tied into Gloria’s story with the box she found in her hotel room, but “life is a miserable information-collecting mission and you will be discarded once your usefulness expires” is some dark stuff. I think it was the little guy saying “I can help!” over and over. I think that’s what got to me. The whole thing was kind of fascinating and it added to the interesting structure of an episode that did a lot of very different things, Fargo-wise, but… man. Tough break, my guy.
1. “Every once in a while… bang. We collide.”
As I said up top, the episode was more of a fun diversion than anything else, because it didn’t really shed any light on the murder of Ennis Stussy, which Gloria has yet to discover was just unfathomable pinheadery based on mistaken identity. But it is fun to go back and track the course of events and see how they tie together. Here, look.
– A sci-fi writer gets bamboozled by grifters in the 1970s
– He discovers it and attacks one with a golf club
– Realizing what he’s done, he becomes ill and vomits in his hotel toilet
– The “D” in Dennis Stussy’s name is worn off of the toilet, which makes it read “Ennis Stussy,” and the writer adopts that as his new identity and flees to Minnesota
– Two brothers in Minnesota, also named Stussy, have a disagreement over a stamp 40 years later
– A parolee fails a drug test
– One of the new Stussys, a parole officer, attempts to blackmail the parolee into stealing the stamp
– The name and address of the intended target blows out the window of the parolee’s car during a weed-related mishap
– He looks up “Stussy” in the phonebook and sees Ennis, goes there, and ends up killing him
– The parolee goes to find his parole officer, who is in the bathtub with another parolee
– Chaos ensues
– Nikki Swango kills a man with a falling air conditioner.
A butterfly flaps its wings, etc. etc. etc.