Fargo Ep. 1.09 “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage” a wildly effective penultimate hour

fargo 1.9

Fargo Season 1, Episode 9 “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage”
Written by Noah Hawley
Directed by Matt Shakman
Season finale airs Tuesday, 6/17 at 10pm ET on FX

 

In a world where the devil runs amok around America, killing dentists and mobsters, scaring little children and old men alike, Lester Nygaard is the most evil presence around. It’s taken Fargo awhile to build to this – nine hours, exactly – but it finally comes to light, in an hour where Lester’s pride refuses to let him walk away and enjoy his spoils. It’s not enough to be recognized and assisted by the devil, not for ol’ Lester, who walks up to Lorne Malvo in a Las Vegas hotel bar and insists he knows who he is. After repeated, obvious attempts by Lorne not to reveal such a truth (after all, six months of work was on the line), Lorne asks Lester a very, very familiar question:

“Is this what you want?”

Back in the pilot, this moment was the equivalent of the devil offering Lester an apple – and knowing he wanted to eat every last bite, the “old” Lester ran away from the darkness within himself. However, that darkness has consumed him over the last year, starting with the murder of his wife, coming full circle when he knowingly sends his new wife (poor, poor Linda from the insurance office) into the Nygaard Insurance building to be murdered by Malvo. This time around, Lester may be able to answer Lorne’s question (with an emphatic “yes!”) – but he’s still unable to accept the consequences, attempting to shirk the responsibility of what he’s done by avoiding it at every possible turn. His unwillingness to act has turned him into a despicable creature, one more despised than the Devil himself – after all, the Devil sure knows how to make choices, something Lester’s complete inability to recognize continues to have rippling effects on the world around him.

And with Malvo back in Bemidji, and time’s running out for Molly to Solverson this case – and it’s that knowledge that drives the tension at the heard of “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage”, an episode titled after a riddle (told in-episode by Agent Pepper) where a farmer has to get the three titular objects across without the natural food chain taking over. In this episode, those creatures (and a vegetable) can stand for any number of things, but they specifically apply to Lester, who time and time again tries to line up himself, his wife, and their trip out of town, only for his careful facade built over the last year come crashing to the ground. And there’s no saving himself this time around: the blood-red wings behind Malvo remind us that he’s the Biblical fallen angel, the personification of humanity’s underbelly and the master of seduction: it’s time for Lester to pay his cost to the Devil, just as every other character – major or minor – has throughout the series: Chazz’s constant belittling of his brother got him a life in prison, Budge and Pepper got stuck in the file room for allowing a massacre to happen,  Lester’s wife emasculating him at every turn led to her death – and most importantly, Lester’s implicit deal with Not-Frank Peterson has led to his own reckoning, the pile of shit waiting at the end of the twisted rainbow that is Lorne Malvo (“Aces!”).

For an episode that is essentially re-gathering itself before the finale, “A Fox” relies on the tension of knowing how evil Lorne and Lester are, creating dread in every scene from the most innocent (Lorne approaching Lester’s old home), to the darkest (Linda’s conversation with Lester before arriving at the insurance agency): the hammer could drop at any time on Lester, Molly, the FBI agents, or Lou: and “A Fox” makes sure we feel that impending presence of Malvo, just waiting for the moment where the screen explodes into chaos once again.

It makes for another exquisite hour of television, one that doesn’t need to manufacture short-term drama while everything moves into place for the finale. In fact, things almost move into place during this hour: just a few seconds here or there, and Malvo’s slice of pie at Lou’s Diner becomes something entirely different. But as we’ve seen before, there’s no easy path to the truth, be it one within ourselves we fail to recognize, or something external like Molly’s sprawling mob conspiracy, and “A Fox” makes this point in many ways, none more clear than its title: don’t do things correctly, and all the eggs you’re juggling will coming crashing to the floor before you even have time to react.

The titular riddle also reminds us this episode is about the journey, navigating the waters correctly to make it to the other side in one piece: and right now, it seems clear that nobody is going to make it out of Fargo‘s first season in one piece. To some degree, they’ve all sinned throughout this first season (even Molly; remember when she search Lester’s house with no warrant?), and as much as they try to put the horse before the buggy and keep everything in order, Malvo remains a fox among a lot of rabbits and cabbage, able to swallow anything in sight without a moment’s hesitation. Whatever it may be, we’ll see in “Morton’s Fork” – after nine absolutely breath-taking episodes of television, I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

 

Other thoughts/observations:

– if there’s a season two, I’d be really happy if it starred Lou and took place in Sioux Falls. It wouldn’t even need Billy Bob – set forty years in the past, it could be a younger actor filling the role. Or him: the devil’s shown his ability to change his appearance this season numerous times.

– Hey, Gus saw Malvo again! I wonder how many more times he’ll deliver mail to that house and have an epiphany.

– BEAR TRAP. Chazz has a BEAR TRAP in the box of hunting stuff he gave Lester. What better way to catch a self-proclaimed “animal”?

– holy shit, I thought Lou was going to die. Speaks to how well the show is written that I was sweating bullets when a minor character’s life was in danger.

– Lester Nygaard is one dirty fucking human being. Him sending in Linda is one of the single most despicable things I’ve ever seen on television. It’s brilliant.

 

— Randy

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