[Review] - Fargo, Season 1 Episode 3, "A Muddy Road"

Courtesy of MGM
You ever know one of those guys, who only has one joke? And tells it over and over again. And it wasn't a particularly funny joke to being with? And every time he starts to tell it, you roll your eyes and zone out? Well, Fargo is that guy, and their one joke is the opening "This Is A True Story" cards. Why the producers have felt the need to open every episode with that spiel escapes me. Once, it's a funny throw back to the film, and we all chuckle at it because this time we're in on the joke (sorry folks, but it's not a true story). But every episode? That's just... oppressive and dull.

Elsewhere, things actually started to come together in this episode. While not every element is working quite right, this episode felt like it was finally bringing things together in a cohesive way. As the story lines begin to... not merge, merge isn't the right word. Orbit; as the story lines begin to orbit each other, you can see the design of the series finally emerge. Except for Malvo's story, which is still wiping around out in the dark, like a rogue planet messing with gravitational balance.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that sit there like a 300 pound nine year old.


I didn't mention him last week, but Colin Hanks' Gus is the one character I've actually developed an affection for. Maybe it's because he is the most sympathetic, or the best defined in terms of motivation and intent. Or maybe it is because, between his scene with his daughter over chicken nuggets last week, and his scene in the dinner with Molly this week, he's had two of the better performed scenes of the series thus far. Whatever the reason, his heart of his shoes, I welcomed the fact that this episode brought him into the fold proper. His guilt over letting Malvo go lead him to Bemidji, where he is able to connect the dots missing from Molly's own puzzle. Three cheers for plot relevancy!

Molly herself got some much needed improvement this episode, the writers finally gifting her with a personality that wasn't entirely based on her role in the story. She's been dogged yet reserved in her police work thus far, but here she managed to show cunning, guile, and humour. She's becoming more defined, and that is always welcome, though a part of me wished that the best of that definition didn't have to come from her flirting with single dad Gus. The show has four female characters thus far: a pregnant woman, a money-hungry former stripper, a vindictive ex-wife, and a cop. As cliches and archetypes go, only Molly stands to counter the norm. And now she's getting doe-eyed over the shy fellow officer who comes with family already established. It seems like the least interesting way to develop the character.

My theory of Malvo being a hallucination of Lester's when the Chief was killed was undermined slightly by the revelation that he had stolen Lester's car, which is what brought Gus into the A plot. Meanwhile, the other stories roll over each other like dogs in the park. Lester is brought to the attention of the fish-hut dwelling Misters Wrench and Numbers when he delivers some life insurance documents to the widow Hess. Molly can now directly connect Malvo to both the naked trunk man crime and the Nygaard massacre. Bob Odinkirk's obstructive Chief Oswalt won't be able to ignore clear evidence for much longer, and because Malvo is completely unconcerned with disguise or hiding his face, the investigation will undoubtedly turn it's attention his way in the coming episodes.

Malvo himself remains the disconnected thread. I honestly have no idea where his blackmail scheme is going. It was enough for the character in the premiere to imply that he is an agent of chaos, but now that we're three episodes in, he needs some motivation himself. He is a hired gun, but his taking over the blackmail plot, his drugging Milos, his killing the dog (that's how you know he's the bad guy) is all one hundred percent on him. But there isn't even the slightest hint why. Malvo hasn't shown any indication of being a greedy man, so is he doing it just to destroy the man? Forgive me is that isn't enough. And how this long aside will fold back into the primary story has not been hinted at as of yet. It feels like a B-plot, but more than that, it feels like stuffing. Malvo provides Thornton an opportunity to deliver a fantastic performance, but this story feels like an excuse to keep him on the show while the real story hunts him down.

Lester continues to spiral, as the guilt eats away at him, and his wound continues to fester. The episode ended though, with the suggestion that Lester's guilt will transform him into a better version of himself. He recognises that he is surrounded by danger, danger he has brought on himself. Being terrorised by Sam Hess was his lowest moment in a life that never real stood up. Now, as he is forced into a defensive position, he'll become more confident, more assertive, more of the man that he was never accused of being, and has never really felt himself. I said last week that Lester is an unsympathetic character, and that hasn't changed. But, this episode gave us a glimpse at the idea that he will become a more interesting character, rather than just a nebbish. In fact, for the first time in three episodes, Fargo gave us a glimpse of what this series could be in the long term.

I would like to make mention at this point of the show's wonderful use of windows. Discussions are shot at distance (the cinematography on the show is excellent), with windows prominently placed, and there is always something going on behind them. A subtle way of letting the viewers know that there is always more going on behind the action? Or just an excuse to plant some comedy in the background. The Hess kid shooting his brother with the arrow gave me one of two verbose laughs this episode (the other was Molly's bourbon milkshake line). The windows have also been used to make explicit what the dialogue is making implicit. Last week, it was Malvo and Milos making veiled threats while a pig was dismembered behind them. This week, it was two boys hunting while Mrs. Hess seduced Lester, and later attention was drawn to a roasting St. Lawrence as Malvo sweated Milos. The show might not be a clever as it thinks it is, but it is being clever, and you do get points for that.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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