[Review] - Fargo, Season 1 Episode 6, "Buridan's Ass"

Courtesy of MGM

If last week's episode felt like a season finale, as I thought certain parts of it did, than this episode absolutely felt finale-ish. Everything that the series has been working towards came to a head, concluding some story lines, killing a heck of a lot of people, and leaving a few narrative threads dangling over a cliff. The episode offered some tense moments towards the end, as the storm moved in and blanched the world.

But the rest of it was just more of the same of what we've gotten from Fargo thus far. The best analogy for Fargo would probably be a stationary bicycle: it peddles and peddles and sweats and sweats, but the progress it makes can't be measured in distance traveled. It's just burning calories, which if that's your thing, then you are welcome to it.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that haven't seen a mess this big since '96, maybe even back to '93.

The two big developments that happened this episode both involved master plans: Malvo set his in motion, and Lester hatched one of this own. And Lester's was the far more interesting of the two. Malvo's storyline, as I've said every week, seems like little more than an excuse to keep Billy Bob on the show while Gus and Molly hunt him down. The execution of his final plan, which is just as complicated as he wants to extort a sizable chunk of money from Stavros, isn't really much of a plan. He's driven the man half insane, believing that God is punishing him for his sins, but from Malvo's perspective it is an awful lot of work just to blackmail someone. Else, the show has established Malvo as a particular kind of evil, who delights in the delicate unraveling of civility, and exposing the raw nerve of human nature. But it is still a lot of work for very little reward. Or, in Malvo's case, absolutely no reward.

I get that a hallmark of the Coen's storytelling is the ending without an ending. No grand finale, or great conclusion, everyone looses or at least comes out in a wash. But in serialized storytelling, there does need to be some point to what is happening, for the audience to remain engaged. Thus far, Fargo hasn't done a fantastic job at keeping me engaged, and frankly, after seeing Malvo's grand design play out over the last half dozen episodes, only to result in... some philosophizing? A renewed (but misplaced) sense of faith? Malvo walks away. Will he attempt to return, and claim what he wanted in the first place (which is now completely out of his reach), or just destroy Stavros completely? With his sights set on Fargo, I doubt he'll give Stavros any more thought. There is anti-climax, and there is this. That might seem a harsh reaction, but the series has done little to earn the benefit of my doubt.

Lester's reactions since his wife's death have shown that, when put in a corner, he's a far more resourceful and assertive man than anyone has ever given him credit for. This week, his desperation drove him to his greatest display of villainy yet. Rather than risk suffering the perfectly reasonable consequences of his horrible actions, he hatched a daring escape from the hospital, acquire every piece of evidence that would seal his own fate, and use it to implicate his brother in the murder of his wife. It's a ridiculous notion, as the timeline would almost certainly exonerate the brother from real suspicion. But the gall of Lester's actions, for little more than a slight of honour, that he is willing to cripple his own family by even implicating him, shows how far gone Lester really is. He has completely given over to self preservation, regardless of the cost to others. The most telling scene was when he caught sight of his nephew's image, stared long and hard at it, and all it stirred in him was an additional level of corruption to heap his brother's way.

The blizzard scene was probably the most effective the series has done so far, if marred by the obviousness of the CGI, which resulted in a blurred haze surrounding each actor. But the subversion of the 'dark basement' scenario, everyone grasping in the brightness searching for their targets, was a great set piece. Malvo's apparently effortless slinking to survival, as Numbers and Wrench close in, as he uses the environment to work for him reminds us that he is himself a force of nature, not some witless human. That he brought a premature end to Numbers, to this point my favourite character on the show, will certainly personalize Wrench's quest to see Malvo killed, and galvanize Fargo in their actions. Of course, none of that matters to the other stories, as Gus and Molly (whose relationship might take a bit of a less harmonious turn, seeing as he shot her) were never once aware of Malvo's presence in the bloodbath. Number's identity might turn their heads towards Fargo, but the distance the writing is keeping the separate narratives at is frustrating.
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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.


  1. Øyvind Mo23 May 2014 at 16:54

    Despite my low expectations, I enjoyed your review. What's with the fish, though?


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