Fargo episode 9 review: A Fox, A Rabbit, And A Cabbage

Review Michael Noble 16 Jun 2014 - 06:47

Lorne Malvo's diabolical side is showcased in this week's Fargo. Here's Michael's review...

This review contains spoilers

1.9 A Fox, A Rabbit, And A Cabbage

‘I haven’t tasted pie this good since the Garden of Eden’. There have been a few clues to Lorne Malvo’s diabolical nature scattered through the preceding episodes - his charm, his ruthlessness, his improbable knowledge - but none quite so explicit as this apparently throwaway statement he made to the, frankly lucky to be alive, Lou Solverson. This week, as he was brought more fully back into the tale, we had an opportunity to observe him in his supernatural habitat and it’s not pretty.

His breezy confidence in stringing along his mark and anyone else who has come into his orbit and his sudden coldness (Thornton’s performance in the elevator was a study in suddenly switching temperaments) is that of the psychopath, but with Malvo, there’s something more. He’s permanently one step ahead of everyone else, his alibi always secure, his control of the situation constantly assured. The scene between him and Lou was excellent, one of the season’s very best set pieces, simply because Malvo’s decisions are so unpredictable. We were given every hint that Lou was a goner (tellingly, there were shades of the Sicilian scene from True Romance), and that his retelling of the Sioux Falls story was going to have some proximate resonance but then, just before it became too unbearable, Malvo smiles and leaves, his business there concluded to his satisfaction. The tension came not merely through the superbly understated performances that we have come to expect from Billy Bob Thornton and Keith Carradine, but from our deliberately partial knowledge of Malvo’s character. His evil has been so firmly established that our expectation of his misdeeds is sufficient to add a patina of fear to something as innocuous as a conversation over coffee and pie.

Somehow, it’s different when Lester does it. Perhaps it’s because we’re more closely involved with his emotional life, but when Lester sends his patsy of his wife to her certain death, it’s a terrible thing, when Malvo summarily executes his patsy of a wife along with their two friends, it’s just Malvo being Malvo. Not that that excuses either man, it just illuminates some of the tricks of the writing trade. Malvo has always been presented to us as a being of pure evil, an entity so malevolent that he doesn’t require anything so mundane as a motive for his actions (are we really to believe that he spent six months undercover as a dentist for a mere $100k bounty?) Lester, on the other hand, has been transformed before our eyes. We’ve seen him in his put-upon state, at the emotional mercy of everyone in his family, and we’ve seen him develop, thanks to the intercession of that Great Tempter, into a man of decisive action. It’s a transformation of Whitean proportions, though as with his New Mexican counterpart, there’s a nagging suspicion that Lester was a bad guy all along, he just didn’t know quite how to bring his darkness into the light. Until, of course, that chance meeting in the hospital that set this whole story spinning. There too is evidence of Malvo’s inscrutable intentions. Is this whole thing some twisted marionette show that’s been performed by Malvo for his own amusement? Being both puppeteer and audience would suit his character and may suggest that he’ll escape this situation yet. It would be narratively consistent for him to do so, as long as Lester doesn’t. There are several structural interpretations available, but the one I’m leaning towards, particularly after Lester’s swaggering transformation and his sacrifice of Linda is that he’s the antagonist here and Malvo is merely the wild card, who is likely to survive and head straight for his next target. Nevertheless, one of them has to go.

Whichever one does, may come down to Molly, who, true to form, has seen her luck rise in inverse proportion to Lester’s. Seeing the excellence of her work finally acknowledged by someone outside her immediate circle was a thrill, perhaps more for the audience than her, her muted response suggests that she’s long since internalised her desire for recognition and simply focuses on the case at hand. In this, as in so much else, she is the anti-Lester, a person who is capable of sublimating her ego rather than becoming its hapless subject. If there is a positive moral dimension to Fargo (and I’d be more than happy either way at this stage, such is my trust in Noah Hawley’s vision) then Molly’s quiet diligence stands to be rewarded. She and her family (which now incorporates Gus and Greta) are solid, decent people and even in this darkened universe, through which a demon like Malvo wanders with impunity, there is scope for such goodness. In fact, there is a requirement for such goodness and for its bright contrast with the shadowy world into which Lester has been absorbed. 

Read Michael's review of the previous episode, The Heap, here.

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