Admittedly not convinced by its first two hours, in “A Muddy Road,” Fargo made a turn that sets it on a very interesting road. It was much more casual and connected than the opening episodes, which seemed to push the quirkiness too hard. Here, the humor felt more natural, and a little surreal (in the best of ways). As Malvo continues his path of destruction, Molly begins to put together some pieces from the trail he’s left behind. Hit the jump — “first prize is three fun-filled days in Bismarck!”
“A Muddy Road” took us back to the events that brought Malvo to Bemidji, starting with poor Phil in St. Paul (who, it turns out, was the man in his underwear who escaped from Malvo, only to die from exposure overnight). For many reasons, “A Muddy Road” would have made for a great premiere. It set the tone and the action beautifully, and with plenty of humor. From the start, Malvo dragging Phil out by his necktie (past his co-workers) was fraught with weirdness and humor. It was also subtle — he grabbed him, and dragged him away soundlessly. Business as usual. Carry on.
There were three main arcs in “A Muddy Road,” each primarily dealing with the past, present or future. Regarding the past, Lester is haunted by the murder of his wife and the death of the police officer (which he seems to feel much worse about). Heading back into work, he’s immediately sent to Gina Hess’ house, to wrangle again (briefly) with her dog-like idiot sons. Bemidji is starting to feel like the small place that it is, and when Lester is later visited by Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers, with Molly interrupting, things really began to connect. The wound in Lester’s hand is a constant reminder of the choices he made, and his guilt is not the only thing catching up to him. Bill won’t be able to protect him for much longer, as evidence is mounting. His descent into that reality is going to be gripping to watch.
Molly and Gus finally met and put their notes together, discovering that Malvo was the man who dragged Phil out, met with Lester, and is the man Gus had pulled over. Gus is also haunted by the choice he made, but unlike Lester, he’s moving forward in a positive way. He takes his daughter to meet with Molly, and the they begin to work the details of the separate, but obviously related cases. Even though Bill put Molly on the “naked man” case to keep her away from Lester, the Malvo connection gives her a reason to start questioning him again. For Gus, it now also gives him a way to redeem his mistake of letting Malvo go (although compassionately, I wouldn’t say he really had much of a choice).
Malvo, meanwhile, is focused on the future. Quickly working out that it was trainer Don Chumph (these names …) who was trying to blackmail Stavros so he could open a Turkish Bath (those kinds of asides were really great in this episode), Malvo decides to play both sides. He helps Don do better blackmail work by doing it himself, killing Stavros’ dog and demanding a bigger ransom. This escalation allows him to move into Stavros’ abode, where he’s more easily able to torment him (like with the pig’s blood shower and the Adderall). These torments are all throwing Stavros’ confidence in a way that is making it easier for Malvo to control him.
Though the characters are starting to overlap in each other’s worlds, it’s still unclear what some of their motivations or end-games will be. Those questions are keeping Fargo interesting, even though its pace is still incredibly slow. “A Muddy Road” was definitely the show’s first great episode, and if things only escalate from here — as things seem to be doing for the characters — we’re in for quite a ride.
Episode Rating: A
— Molly making eyes at single dad cop Gus … saw that coming all the way from Duluth!
— I love that Phil’s co-workers were throwing him under the bus for so many potential wrongdoings: Gambling! Drugs! Statutory rape! Something like that.
— “He killed my dog and wants one million dollars? Eat a turd! Is my response!” – Stavros. That phrasing reminded me of Master Shake from Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
— Gus’ Boss: “Aren’t you animal control?” Gus: “No I just sub for them sometimes… ” Poor guy. I like that Lou chatted him up and told him his boss was a prick though. Validation!
— Oh ye gads that spider story. Was that scene of Molly meeting with an old friend supposed to be like Marge meeting with the guy who liked her in high school? Overly enthusiastic, doesn’t pick up on sarcasm, and full of weird stories? The less like the movie the show is, the better it is (because when it tries to re-do the film, it doesn’t work well).
— “Now here I am, stuck in the Yukon with my two mongoloid sons. There are shits I’ve wanted to live with more than them” – Gina, former stripper, who just wants her insurance money.
— I love that when one of the brothers shoots the other, Gina just says, “not again…”
— Again, the use of windows as a motif here, both at the beginning of the episode and many times later, particularly with the boys and the crossbows.
— So many nice little weird things throughout, like Stavros’ portrait and the framed ice scraper.
— “Me, I’m the consequence” – Malvo. He had a ton of great lines in “A Muddy Road.” Again though, he was restrained, and there wasn’t as much of him monologuing as in past episodes. It worked.
— The best scene so far in the entire series has to be the slow-mo of Lester shooting guns with his brother. Hilarious.