In Fargo‘s last episode, “The Heap,” I complained about the series’ fatalism, and how the expected outcome almost always occurred. The same was true in “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage,” but this time, Fargo did a great job of building up the suspense before the inevitable final scene. Just like in the premiere, Lester set something into motion he doesn’t understand, and can’t control. What that led to wasn’t a surprise, but the important thing was how everything played out beforehand. Hit the jump if everyone was alive when you exited the elevator.
At the end of “The Heap,” Lester, living large in a Pearl and Sam Hess-less life, with brother Chazz in jail, spotted Malvo in the final sequence. Was Malvo there for him, to ruin his life? (Or kill him?) It was clear, however, from the opening of “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage” that Malvo wasn’t there for Lester, and that when Lester approached him, it was like Icarus flying too close to the sun.
Instead of bowing out and resuming his newly charmed life, Lester chose an outcome that he felt spoke to his new, bold personality. No longer was he the brunt of the joke, the man retreating in fear; now he’s the one doling out punishments, and acting with confidence. Unfortunately, it’s at the wrong time, and with the wrong person.
Malvo gave Lester several chances to get out. He pretended not to know him, then told him to walk away. In the elevator, he asked him repeatedly if this was what he wanted. Imbued with this new (mistaken) confidence, Lester said yes, and found himself at the center of another crime scene.
From there, “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage” was really about Linda. Most viewers should have rightly assumed that Linda was a goner, but the how, when, and where of it remained a mystery. This is where Fargo really did some of its best work this season. Sweet, innocent Linda was being moved around and manipulated by Lester to her death, but how exactly would it occur? That suspense and feeling of dread around every corner made “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage” potentially the most compelling hour of Fargo yet.
As the season winds down, things are finally starting to come together. Feds Budge and Pepper, after a great scene that illustrated their desperation working in the records room, literally jumped at the chance to follow up on a lead in the syndicate murders. And with that, Molly got her due when they told her what great work she had done on the case, in front of Bill.
There’s some repetition from the past as well. Molly showed up to interview Lester about yet another murder he was a witness to, and Gus again saw Malvo, struggling with how he should handle that information. On the one hand, it would be a boon to Molly and the case she’s been doggedly working for over a year. On the other, it could lead to all of their deaths. That’s pretty much the choice Malvo offers to everyone: let it go, or take your chances with the devil.
Also, instead of relying on forced quirks to carry scenes, Fargo allowed for there to be a natural acting showcase between Billy Bob Thornton and Keith Carradine in Lou’s diner, where Lou started off warily friendly with Malvo, and then became very firm — yet still cordial — in his dismissal of him only moments before Molly arrived.
The most compelling and terrible moment came at the conclusion of the hour though, when Lester feigned a back injury so that Linda would go into the office for him — with his orange jacket on, with the hood up — and then watched as Malvo killed her. It was a plan he seems to have concocted from his home, which only ratcheted up the levels of despicableness. And of course, Lester is left with yet another encounter with Malvo, and another dead wife. He won’t be able to blame this one on Chazz. The end is nigh.
Episode Rating: A
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Stephen Root! So good to see you … oh of course. R.I.P.
— Also R.I.P. Linda. Gone too soon. I liked how she covered for Lester though. She was way too good for him, even before the murder.
— Gaius Baltar, eat your heart out. Lester Nygaard is the new top, “I’ll throw anyone under the bus to survive” character. (Plus, I always liked Gaius, bless him).
— Hmmm, so was that Lester on the tape Malvo was listening to?
— “So everyone was still alive when you exited the elevator?” – Molly.
— I want to know more about the massacre that Lou investigated in ’79 …