Fargo episode 7 review: Who Shaves The Barber?

Review Michael Noble 1 Jun 2014 - 22:06

A necessarily quieter episode this week, but no less well made. Here's Michael's review

This review contains spoilers

1.7 Who Shaves the Barber?

It was necessary, after last week’s vivid bloodbath, for Fargo to take a little bit of a breather and offer a moment of respite to absorb some of the carnage that had been visited on Bill Oswalt’s sleepy patch. That it could do so while advancing the plot and continuing to twist the metaphorical knife was evidence of how confident the writing and direction have been on this show.

Several scenes lingered, giving Who Shaves the Barber? a steadier pace than its predecessor. Lester’s  anti-confession with Oswalt seemed to endure for a long while, but used the time wisely, covering not only Oswalt’s despair at the sudden bloodletting that has occurred but also laying down additional track for Lester to roll his cover story. Each element supported the other. Oswalt, who puked at a crime scene when we first met him, was given a solid reason for accepting the first plausible story that came along to satisfy the Vern murder/Nygaard home invasion case that he’s been tasked with solving. For Lester’s part, having a welcoming official ear made it easier for him to take his next steps along the path that he first trod in that hospital emergency room.

The ease with which the fake story was accepted (helped by Chaz’s incriminating gun cabinet, his general assholery and Lester’s mousy persona) served to make Molly’s situation all the bleaker by the end of the episode. She’s at a low ebb, having taken a bullet for the team before working out the spidery elements of the various crimes only to find that a more convenient explanation has descended on her. Her look of despair at the end of the episode provided a neat mirror with Lester’s smirk at the end of the previous one, like parodies of the traditional comedy/tragedy masks from the theatre. They’re at opposite ends of the wheel of fortune, while her luck seems poor, his seems very good indeed, but that situation cannot last.

Molly also works inversely to Gus Grimly, who descended to new lows of haplessness this week as he stood vigil in her hospital room. His motives appeared to be equal parts guilt and genuine affection (his gift of flowers was a conveniently ambiguous gesture –the sort of thing you do either for someone in hospital or for someone with whom you are romantically interested and in Gus’ case, perhaps both). His nervous, but unswerved admission that it was he who had shot her and cost her her spleen (he’ll get her a new one) was well placed in terms of his development as a character. Telling Molly personally was the right thing to do. Greta would be proud. It also stood in marked contrast to Lester’s slippery avoidance. As Lester continues to walk down a bad road, Gus is at least trying to walk down a good one, however circuitous his route. His comment on Molly’s competence, that she did it ‘because you’re you’ was well-rewarded by her diligence at returning to the solving of the case and of working out the wider implications of Malvo’s involvement.

Lester’s stroll into the dark side received a boost by his successful framing of his brother, a neat revenge for a lifetime of putdowns and dismissals. His seduction of the widow Hess, unthinkable just a few episodes ago, was again an act of vengeance. Staring at the photograph of his deceased tormentor was a touch heavy handed, even if the orgasmic collapse was funny, but it suggested a real heaviness to the situation. That Hess is deceased at all is down to Lester’s bumbling instigation. He’s had his revenge. What’s this now, a coda? It will undoubtedly prove his undoing.

The respite from violence gave us the episode’s cleverest (and most bleakly funny) scene, when Malvo took his vengeance on ‘Fargo’. From the moment he casually swept past the FBI agents, uncovering his assault rifle to his scrolling passage through the building accompanied by the sound of gunfire, shouting and the crunching of bones was brilliant and all the funnier for being left in the viewer’s imagination. We’re fully aware of Malvo’s supreme competence and don’t necessarily need to see it on full display and, as such, the final defenestration came as an expertly timed flourish. The bravado required to pull off such a scene was impressive, especially given the show’s relative novelty, but unsurprising. As the placing of this quieter episode demonstrated, Fargo is a brilliantly controlled TV show.

Read Michael’s review of the previous episode, Buridan's Ass, here

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