FARGO Recap: “Buridan’s Ass”

by     Posted 163 days ago


The title of Fargo’s sixth episode, “Buridan’s Ass,” comes from the philosophical idea that if a donkey is equally hungry and thirsty, and is given both water and hay equidistant from itself, it will die of starvation and thirst, because a decision cannot rationally be made between which of the two to start with.  The paradox is a satire of moral determinism, which suggests that actions and their effects are all part of a causal web, and that when faced with a choice, humans must choose the greater good. But what if there is no greater good? The character Malvo is a walking agent of evil and destruction, and while he in some ways seems to be the catalyst for what’s happening in Bemidji, in others, it could be argued that he is just a heightened manifestation of the of evil or mistakes the residents brought upon themselves.  Hit the jump for more mumbo jumbo.

fargo-buridans-ass-martin-freeman“Buridan’s Ass” was an hour of consequence.  There is a clear causal web in Bemidji that starts with Malvo’s first conversation with Lester.  The murder of Sam Hess brought on Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers, and the death of Verne made this a personal vendetta for Molly.  On the other hand, Malvo’s interactions and torture of Stavros is a separate set of crimes that has finally overlapped with the others in “Buridan’s Ass,” leading to the deaths of Don, Numbers, Dimitri, and at least the serious injury of Molly.  Lester, meanwhile, pulled a grand caper wherein he implicated his brother Chazz, as well as his nephew, in some kind of gun-nut conspiracy and coverup of the murders at his own house.

Readers will note that Fargo is not among my favorite series, and “Buridan’s Ass” didn’t change that for me (those of you hoping I’ll have a change of heart like I did about The Americans, we’ll see …).  But I am certainly willing to admit what the show gets right: for one, the use of the blizzard to provide confusion and obfuscation was a great way to make the setting of Bemidji matter.  Not only did it allow Malvo to be cloaked and escape (much like Lester did), but its white blanket also directly led to several deaths. Secondly, the entire sequence that culminated with the shootout that killed Don was a great use of slow motion and cinematography (the lights around him, his bobbing and weaving to avoid the shots), while the white outside and the darkness inside compounded to make his circumstance (duct taped to the gun and exercise equipment) unable to be determined until after he was shot to pieces.

fargo-billy-bob-thornton-buridans-assThat particular scene felt the most like the Coens than anything else in the hour, where a dim-witted small-time crook with big dreams came to a horrific and gruesome end.  Meanwhile, the true evil lurks away.  Still, the suspension of disbelief required for the fish, as well as for Lester’s grand hospital escape, pushed some limits.

The scene “Buridan’s Ass” has set for the back half of the season is one of extreme confusion.  Facing a scene mired in death and chaos, it’s up to Gus, who never wanted to be a cop, and who let Malvo go (which helped unleash a lot of this nightmare) to put it all back together.  It’s not easy to find heroes in Fargo, but the closest approximation so far is Gus.  For him, the dilemma is between good and evil, and neither one has a guaranteed outcome.  He could listen to his neighbor’s parable, and give up on Malvo.  Or, he could fly in the face of Malvo’s threats, and continue to pursue him for the greater good.  Buridan would suggest that the latter is Gus’ only choice.  And for Fargo to continue with any meaning, I would have to agree.

Episode Rating: B+

Musings and Miscellanea:

fargo-martin-freeman-buridans-ass– Finally, some “Minnesota nice” made an appearance at the grocery store.

– The deaths of Numbers and Dimitri have made things personal for Wrench and Stavros, just like the injury (surely not death) of Molly has made things personal for Gus as well.  There has to be that emotional connection there, it seems, for things to move forward.

– “Part two is, have you ever had Turkish Delight? It’s disgusting” – Malvo.  No lies detected there.

– If the money stays buried this time, then the show has kept itself from messing with the mythology too much, and also has created the possibility for other instances where those who find the “cursed” money will have their own stories about it to tell.

– Gus gets the most upset over the sin of duplicitousness.  That must be a hard life in this world, as Molly notes.

– “Son, do you go to church? Then open the goddamn gate, your Lord demands it!” – Stavros.

– “There’s something wrong with you, something missing” – Chazz.

– As surreal as it was, I did enjoy the suspense of Lester’s escape and reappearance at the hospital.  That self-satisfied smirk can only portend the worst, though.

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  • MJ

    Guess the same 15 people that watch Hannibal must watch this?


    • randommale7

      That’s me!

    • Bhammer100


    • Aquartertoseven

      And those 15 share the same bad taste!

      • Ryan

        Hannibal is actually really good. So who made you the bad taste police?

      • Aquartertoseven


      • Ryan

        Riiiight. judge not lest ye be judged. remember that one… very important.

      • Aquartertoseven

        Having met him, he told me that’s bulls***; he never said that.

      • Ryan

        well, I’d say you may have “met” a false one unless you care to explain that. People can make a lot of claims doesn’t make them legit. Move along now troll.

      • Aquartertoseven

        So because a lot of people make claims, none of them are real?

      • Ryan

        no some are surely real. and for some, people may think they are real.. but not the case.. Perspectives. All I’m saying is, what YOU may think is bad taste, may not be to another.

      • MJ

        Gotta grudgingly respect someone who celebrates their love for the Hannibal show while claiming they are close to Jesus as well…LOL

        That’s like being in the Tea Party and voting for Obama. :-)

      • Ryan

        it’s all the same to me. if you look past the violence and gore of the show, there is a tight psychological thriller with the classic good vs. evil going on. some people get hung up on things though and only see what they want to see. :)

      • Bhammer100

        Have you seen Hannibal? Or are you just assuming?

      • Aquartertoseven

        Yes, it was mediocre. Derivative and meh.

      • Bhammer100
      • Aquartertoseven

        Well hey, not everyone has standards. You’re able to enjoy crap served up to you as long as it’s called chocolate.

      • Bhammer100

        Jeez. What an asshole comment.

        What shows do you like if you think you have so much better taste?

      • Aquartertoseven

        Breaking Bad, Firefly, Thrones, Rome, Spartacus, Chuck, The Wire, Dexter, Mad Men and Six Feet Under. Those are my top ten.

      • Bhammer100

        I like those too. Well most of them. Breaking Bad, Firefly, Wire and Dexter. Never seen Rome but I want to. Never seen Chuck, Mad Men (though I want to) and Six Feet Under. Saw the first season of Game of Thrones and found it incredibly boring. But I have a question about Dexter. I have the first three seasons but how far should I go? I heard it kind of goes to shit after season 4.

  • Ryan

    My only real issue was the fish scene.. I mean how in the hell? the logistics alone were just too much of a stretch for me to buy into. Now if they can give some kind of “how” in one of the future episodes, then okay.. fine. if not, then that’s gonna have to be my first major strike against it plot wise.

  • Daniel O’Reilly

    Some nice moments and surprises. Sad to see Mr. Numbers go. Molly definitely isn’t dead; there’s nothing to be gained from it (unless it’s further motivation for Gus. If that’s the case, it’s a real shame).

    Harder to believe than even the fish is that the hospital would be almost as deserted as the one Rick wakes up in on The Walking Dead. Somebody would be walking around and seeing Lester. Also, no grocery store would ever be without at least a manager on duty.

  • 80sRobot

    It’s getting confounding to me as to who Lorne Malvo works for, and what is this person’s agenda for messing with Stavros. It’s really looking like a vague supernatural element exists guiding things in the background, like what was in True Detective.

    • Ryan

      agreed. the whole fate thing at play, but the fish scene was just a bit too much imho. I hope they don’t push to far into supernatural territory.. Already got a great show called supernatural for that stuff.

  • Pingback: Fargo TV Series Buridan's Ass Recap | Film Encounters

  • John Bellina

    Can’t believe the Coen bros. allowed the show to rip off Paul Thomas Anderson so blatantly with the fish.

  • Wallysan

    Anyone catch the name ‘Lundigard’s’ parking lot? The name of the spot for the drop – named after Jerry Lundigard? Maybe the same spot where wade gunderson went to make the drop in the film. If so, that’s pretty sweet

  • 80sRobot

    What was the deal with the accountant — is there any connection or was that guy a separate matter?

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