[Review] - Fargo, Season 1 Episode 7, "Who Shaves the Barber?"

Courtesy of MGM
After my review last week, I took a step back and looked at Fargo from a wider perspective. Because my review last week was not kind. Nor have been my reviews of this series since the premiere. And frankly, they haven't been good reviews either. And that bothers me. A bad show, I can tolerate, but I feel that even a negative reaction should be able to spur me towards putting words to page. Why, then, haven't I been able to meet my own expectations? So, from my wider perspective, I think I identified my problem. Fargo wasn't generating any reaction from me at all. I've seen bad shows, and I've seen shows go bad, but when they've done so, I've felt something.

Since the premiere, Fargo has felt like a show I've been making time for. Like a customer that just won't shut up and go away, and you've got to keep on smiling and nodding and pretending that everything is OK. I watch episodes, glancing at my watch, thinking of all the things I'll do once it's done and I'm free. And because of that, I realized that as bad as I believe Fargo has been (and I stand behind everything I've said about it thus far), I've been unwilling to give it some of the benefit of the doubt. I've been so apathetic about it, I've failed to notice the things worth noticing, and there have been some. So, I vowed that going into this episode, I would be a better viewer, and give the show some genuine attention, for good or ill.

Then the "this is a true story" hit the screen, and my eyes drifted. But, then something remarkable happened. A good episode followed after. And I know that it was good, because it grew my eyes back to it. It made me, literally, sit up and watch. Something about this episode was different. It was interesting, engaging, and enjoyable. It doesn't redeem the series, but after five hours of disappointment, an hour of redemption was like striking gold.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that want a new spleen as much as the next fella.

The episode dealt entirely with the repercussions of last week's storm. Gus' bullet did less damage to Molly than he had thought (but not us though, considering that she's the lead and we've still got half the season to go). She heals up mighty quick, even for a through and through (with spleen removal thrown in for good measure), and is back on Lester's case before she's even out the door. Gus is too caught up in self loathing and guilt to be of any significant help, though Molly still seems sweet on him, which is charitable of her considering that he shot her. Though Gus is far down her list of priorities, which an make for some confused characterization. She's all duty for so much of the time, then every one and a while she gets this smitten look on her face until the scene transition, and she goes right back to being all business. I wonder how much of her obvious if subtle feelings for Gus were in the script, and how much were affected by the actress, knowing that some of these scenes could do with a little subtext.

Mr. Wrench was taken down my Molly during the blizzard, though he survived, and had a moment with his gunman when they discussed Lester, Malvo and Fargo, while also touching on lose of purpose. I don't now if we'll see Wrench again, though I suspect he's still got a mean on for Malvo. He is in custody, which might get in the way of any potential revenge. Though, Duluth PD has proven to be just as incompetent as everyone else (I'm sure the real police departments are loving this characterization) so he might get out and have a chance to avenge his partner before the season is over. With Numbers and Wrench out of the picture, the show introduced us to a new comedy duo, in the form of Key and Peele as Pepper and Budge, equally ill tasked for their work, but on the side of law and order this time.

Their introductory scene was easily one of the best the show has done, if not the best, as Malvo directly assaults (and decimates) the Fargo operation, completely out of sight. In an amazing oner that begins trained on the restaurant we saw inside of last week, the camera follows the Fargo associates out, and into their own building, then to the car of our new FBI agents, then to Malvo approaching unseen with an assault weapon, then tracks the exterior of the building as Malvo ascends through the floors, with only his brief queries and the sounds of gun fire to tell us what is happening. While the CGI was again painfully noticeable, it was a unique and utterly successful way of pulling off the sequence. Few shows would have the courage to entirely disguise a major action sequence in this way, and find a way to make it more fun then watching necks explode (and, after last week's blood bath, I think we'd had enough blood for a while).

As for Lester, his plan comes to absolute fruition, as he spins a yarn about his brother and wife having an affair, a yarn that the new Chief swats at with kitten-like glee (internally, of course. On the outside, Bob Odenkirk has fantastic in that scene). Molly is left at episode's end despondent and questioning the very meaning of her work when so obvious a lie is taken as truth, but Lester not only manages to avoid any repercussions, but also finds a new sense of self in his victory. I've read comparisons elsewhere to Walter White's journey as a character, and while I won't go that far, the new Lester is a man of confidence and of resolve. And it is this new pride and importance that will be his down fall. Conning the widow of his former bully, whom he had killed, to have hate sex with while staring at a photo of the deceased is an early indicator of how bad this could go for him. He nearly collapsed under the weight of the lies he was telling before, and now that he is free of that burden (having destroyed his brother's family in doing so), he creates a whole new pile of lies in it's place.

The signs of the show stretching itself out to last ten episodes is still evident. Introducing new characters at this late stage is proof of that. As is the next level of scheme that the improved Lester is concocting. And when I mentioned last week that the episode felt very much like a season finale, well this episode felt very much like a season premiere. It was about establishing new paradigms for the characters to exist within for the final three episodes. Thankfully, it appears that the blackmail storyline has been done away with, allowing Malvo the freedom to be independent and frightening again. Though, the wiping out of the Fargo operation in it's entirety seems to have clipped any substantial revenge plot on his behalf a little short. If the show can maintain this level through its final episodes, it won't vindicate the series entirely, but it will at least make these last few weeks worth the time we've been putting into it. Then it can go away, and we can all move on.
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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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