Fargo: A Muddy Road Review

There is not enough praise in the world for Billy Bob Thornton's twisted Malvo on FX's Fargo...

In my first review for Fargo, I added the show amongst the ranks of the recent anti-hero programs, like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Dexter, about complicated and morally gray protagonists. If you’re looking at Lester as Fargo’s main character, then I guess you could call my compartmentalization accurate. But Lester isn’t even close to being this show’s main focus or drawl. That distinction goes to Billy Bob Thornton’s Malvo, who is for sure the real protagonist in the viewers’ eyes, and if that’s the case, then he’s much different from Walter White, Don Draper, or Dexter Morgan; he’s worse. 

Yes, Malvo is far worse than those three. He’s not morally gray; he’s morally pitch black. He shares more in common with Christopher Nolan’s Joker because he really just wants to watch the world. He’s even got the impishness and quirky black comedy that Heath Ledger’s interpretation embraced. His motives for doing anything that he does are unclear, except for the fact that he looks like he’s enjoying himself. Billy Bob Thornton seems to be enjoying himself as well. I’ve praised his performance in past reviews, but really not enough can be said about taking a character that is so inherently bad and making him likable.

Maybe I’m not giving enough credit to Noah Hawley, the writer who dreamt up replacing someone’s pain medication with Adderall and the water in their shower with cow’s blood. Though he can’t help hitting some of the same beats that the Coens set-up in the original, like Molly’s lunch date in the city with a friend from high school and Lester’s undoing coming courtesy of a missing car, Hawley continues to keep the Malvo thread of the story a pulpy delight. Lester’s bumbling is a little less interesting, and I’m not quite sure what to think of the pairing of Gus and Molly. Their scenes were cute enough, but it just seems so obvious to pair them up romantically, especially when that means something bad is destined to happen to one of them.

While I’m throwing praise around, director Randal Einhorn (The Office, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia) deserves a tip of the hat. A lot of the comedy tonight seemed more direct and less overly-Coen inspired, which helped keep the darker moments from bogging down the material. He especially shined in the show’s opening moments, showing the death of the “naked guy” from the series’ premiere. He expertly splices in security footage, then puts the camera in the trunk with our poor victim, which tosses around when the car crashes. Also, maybe Einhorn coaxed the performance out of his old cohort Glenn Howerton, who is still pretty unrecognizable from his most widely known role of Dennis on Sunny.

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The action this week is comes from Lester having to deliver the insurance policy on Sam Hess to his widow. Played by Kate Walsh, Gina Hess is an ex-stripper through and through, using that old seductive charm for a little bit of fun with Lester. Unfortunately, his appearance at the Hess home earns him a visit from the two men from Fargo, who give an almost silent shakedown before Molly comes to his rescue, which really isn’t much better for him. Lester isn’t that bright of a bulb, surely he would have the good sense not to visit the wife of the man he was suspected of having a hand in killing. That little bit of coincidence struck me as sort of dumb, even for by his standards.

Malvo, in the meantime, decides to switch sides on Stravos and use his ex’s lover/lackey Don as a pawn, even if he’s not quite sure what he’s being used for. Malvo kills Stravos’ dog and leaves another note, swapping his meds with Adderall in the process. Adderall-fueled Oliver Platt is definitely a gag I can get used to, and the shower scene was a gruesome tipping point. Malvo better start looking out however, with Gus and Molly hot on his tail, and able to connect him to all of the murders. Wait, what am I saying? I don’t trust the officers’ good ol’ detective work to take down Malvo’s pure unbridled evil.

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4 out of 5