Fargo episode 5 review: The Six Ungraspables

Review Michael Noble
18 May 2014 - 21:26

Certain truths were revealed this week, by very different methods. Here's Michael's review of the latest Fargo episode...

This review contains spoilers

1.5 The Six Ungraspables

All drama, indeed all human interaction, relies upon the exchange of information. It’s a phenomenon so ubiquitous that it takes place all the time without the exchangers even being aware that it is going on. Unless, of course, the information itself is significant. It’s important for dramatists as human beings, uniquely in the world, use stories as a means of information exchange. Narratives are a brilliant device for these purposes as they are excellent at freighting seemingly inconsequential details with a surfeit of meaning. 

The Six Ungraspables toyed with this idea of the exchange of information and the path it took from one person to another. It worked through several layers, from the straightforward passage of information to the telling of unwitting truths. That stray shotgun pellet, one of the many animated ones from the opening pair of flashbacks, that had embedded itself symbolically in Lester’s hand, was transformed from metaphor to clue, giving Molly a genuine lead.

As such, this episode, a mid-point of the season, was significant in the revealing of certain plot elements. The deliberately obscure Malvo, a man invisible to Google (even if his alter-ego, the sweet Pastor Frank Peterson isn’t) has now been revealed to Molly (who has grasped his involvement) and to Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench, who finally have a real name to go on. 

Numbers and Wrench wheedled their information from Lester via the simple expedient of torture. It was a necessarily unpleasant scene, not just because of the parlous state of Wrench’s sock, but because Lester is, and always has been, such a magnet for punishment that his Jack Bauer-ing in the jail cell was simply another entry in his catalogue of suffering. It was more interesting as a counterpoint to Molly’s gentler approach, which he was able to avoid by simply pretending to be asleep. It was reminiscent of those tales of supervillains teasing their heroic pursuers for their weakness for ethical concerns, and in all likelihood, will remain so. Molly will get to the truth but only through simple dogged righteousness. 

It’s that attitude that enabled her to work out the essential details of the Nygaard-Malvo pact by this relatively early stage. Sure, she falsely believed a transfer of money to be involved (that other great human exchange phenomenon) but aside from that, had most of the pieces in the right place. To be fair to her, a pay-off would be the most plausible explanation for the collaboration between these two radically different personalities. Having never met Malvo, Molly can be forgiven for missing that he seems to operate without obvious motive. His continued tormenting of Milos, and now the dumb chump Don Chumph, suggest a self-perpetuating motion. Malvo does the things he does because he is Malvo, a being of pure agency with no time for anything so mundane as reason. 

This only serves to make him more sinister. If he is, as he appears, one of those men who ‘just wants to see the world burn’, there will ultimately be only one way to stop him. It makes his pursuit of Grimly (or even Grimlys if the purchase of the single walkie-talkie is anything to go by) more diabolical. 

Grimly was our vehicle to the episode’s best example of the deeper type of information exchange, which came in the form of The Parable of the Rich Man Who Gave Everything. Again, the motive is less important than the delivery. It was an excellently mounted scene, from the cross-building conversation to the assumed invitation to the conversation itself, presented through switches from camera to camera, recalling the standard presentation of Catholic confession, part conversation, part lesson. Gus has been searching for meaning and guidance from his first encounter with Malvo, and here he seems to have been given it, even if it was so abstract that he missed its meaning. What is the purpose of the parable? Is it to say that there’s no way to solve the entire world’s problems so there’s no point trying? Is it the Gus Grimly reading, that you’ve ‘still gotta try, don’tcha?’ Or is it that it’s worth the effort so long as you don’t impoverish yourself as a result. With the mysterious Mr. Malevolence gunning for him, Grimly would perhaps be advised to take this third reading. All the same, it made the parable almost unbearably poignant. 

As was the meeting between Molly and Ida on the maternity ward. A post-natal widow gives scriptwriters an easy option for poignancy, but to Noah Hawley’s great credit, he avoided the obvious and crafted a gentle scene that carried far more heart than a more obviously emotional one would have done. It was one of the best character-led scenes I have ever seen because the four persons present (Molly and Ida, baby Bernadette and the memory of Vern) were so believably real. The indecision of Ida and Vern as expectant parents, played for gentle laughs in the first episode (they couldn’t agree on a nursery colour scheme), became laden with emotional depth as Ida sweetly remarked that, in dying, Vern had ‘won the argument’ over what to call the baby. Thus was he brought back into life, his decisions continuing to be made post-mortem. For Molly and Ida, the scene was perfumed with genuine friendship, their exchanges, such as Ida’s concern for Molly’s sleeping habits, all too real, all just a simple exchange. 

Read Michael’s review of the previous episode, Eating the Blame, here.

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