By Kris Kerzman
The Arts Parnership
We’re at the halfway point in this first season of “Fargo” and it’s lining up its characters to act out a complex morality play through five remaining episodes of cat and mouse (and probably a twist or two in there). Aside from the straightening plots (with all eyes firmly locked on other characters), two telling scenes involving a newly introduced character lay out our firmest idea yet of the show’s moral overlay.
We open on our first non-winter scene in the show and our the first of a couple glimpses of warmth and hope. We find out in backstory how Lester got the shotgun from a stone-faced shopkeeper who throws in the double barrel along with some irregular socks. Lester takes it home where we see that the relationship between he and his wife had been an extended pattern of impotency and abuse.
Back in the present, Lester is feverishly running the scenario through his mind as the shotgun pellet wound continues to worsen. Numbers and Wrench lean on Lester, specifically the wound, and get Lorne Malvo’s name out of him. Now they’re on Malvo’s trail.
Molly solidly builds a case around Lester, one that even the bumbling chief can see clearly, and (despite being unable to find the hammer that killed Lester’s wife … I’m sure we’ll see it again) she’s now in the clear to get some answers. Lester is in the hospital for the wound, and it’s likely we’ll see a Lundegaard-esque indignity of an escape from him.
Gus continues to puzzle over Lorne, knowing the pieces don’t quite fit with “Pastor Frank Peterson.” After some baaaaad secondhand web searching through Greta, he decides to retrace his steps.
Meanwhile, Lorne is stepping over Chumph and focusing on Stavros and the million dollars, putting the final touches on his plan to finish off the supermarket mogul once and for all. Stavros (his character now having shifted into an argument against the fallibility of moral absolutism) is at wits end, racked out on adderall and convinced that God is literally punishing him and using Old Testament plagues to do it. He fears this would mean the life of his pun-loving first-born son, Dmitri, who is also on the hunt after figuring out that the infestation of crickets in the store could be traced to local pet stores.
Amid this posturing and hard plotting, “Fargo” introduces Gus’ neighbor, a rabbi up late with his own “troubled mind” (his exhibitionist wife is causing a few). Gus lays out his quandary of whether he should do the right thing and pursue Lorne despite the pain it could cause his daughter.
The scene cuts to the rabbi’s dream-like parable of a wealthy man who reads of the pain and suffering in the world and wants to act. First, he gives away his wealth. Then, he donates a kidney. Finally, he wants to donate the rest of his organs, but his doctor won’t let him, saying “it’s suicide.” The man, resigned to giving all of himself, commits suicide so he can be an organ donor. “Only a fool thinks he can solve the world’s problems,” the rabbi says, a pragmatist among the innocently bewildered and those who prey on them. True-blue Gus replies “yeah, but you gotta try, don’tcha?” and, unable to sleep that night, doesn’t take the rabbi’s advice.
Lorne and Stavros continue to act out the blackmail and Lorne spies Gus retracing his steps outside of Stavros’ house, putting him back on Gus’ scent. Lorne delivers a speech about how the Romans were raised by wolves and that there are “no saints in the animal kingdom, only breakfast and dinner.” (Guess who the wolf is.) Lorne follows Gus home to spy on his family with a newly acquired police scanner from Zombie Apocalypse Drug Van Guy when he’s confronted by the rabbi, who sizes him up immediately as a “black-eyed man.” Lorne gives him one of his trademark fright speeches but, unlike any other character so far, the rabbi is not intimidated. Lorne flinches for the first time, driving away to hatch his wolvish schemes.
The episode ends much like it started, with glimmers of hope. Molly checks in on Ida’s new baby (“well, that’s a baby, all right”), Bernadette. Ida encourages Molly to keep at it. In the final shot, Molly looks with contempt upon Lester and, in perhaps a moment of pity, leaves him alone. Lester, clear-headed, is probably about to do something stupid.