The FX series “Fargo,” inspired by the 1996 Coen Brothers film, is based in northern Minnesota. As northern Minnesota’s leading pop culture, news, entertainment, iron mining and invasive species blog, MinnesotaBrown is here to review the show through Minnesota eyes. Now, to this week’s episode:
Fargo’s Episode 5: “The Six Ungraspables” briefly takes us back to a simpler time when Lester (Martin Freeman) was just a sad sack whose wife thought he was a loser, and then rushes up to answer some questions from previous weeks. It’s another builder; a pot-boiler; better regarded for its style than its plotting. As usual, I grade elements in the show on the following descending scale: Oh, ya!; Pretty Good; Could be Worse; and, “Interesting.”
For the first time, we are greeted with an opening sequence that does not show a bitter, forlorn northwestern Minnesota winter. Instead, fields of grain sway in the breeze as old time country gospel plays. Yes, folks, Minnesota is a land of cinematic wonder all year round. Oh ya!
Coen Bros. fans can’t miss the various tributes TV’s “Fargo” pays to its founding brothers. The opening music and pastoral flashback seems ripped from “O Brother Where Art Thou,” while the fact that the music becomes background muzak in the sporting goods store reminds one of the seminal grocery store chase scene in “Raising Arizona.”
Anyway, we learn that Lester bought the shotgun that would be used in the murders on a whim a while back, when he was buying socks at a tired old sporting goods store. From there we are reintroduced to the grisly crime that set off this adventure in the premiere, and flash back to the present, where we left off last week. It’s a pretty stunning sequence, very artistic.
A few notes on the gun and the forensics of this situation:First off, did anyone else notice the resemblance of Uri the shopkeeper to New England Patriots head football coach Bill Belichick? I’m just throwing that out there. (Hypothesis: Bill Belichick is the devil and Billy Bob Thornton’s Malvo is his archangel on Earth).
Second, $55 is a damn cheap price for a 12-gauge shotgun, especially when you throw in the pair of irregular socks that Lester came in to buy. Maybe you could pick up a used shotgun for that price, but that brings me to the final observation here: A $55 shotgun can’t put a pellet all the way through a man’s torso and into another man’s hand, the way it’s depicted in the art house slo-mo we see here. I always assumed that the pellet that hit Lester was stray from the main shot; but they took the time to show its merry journey through the sheriff and that’s fairly implausible. “Interesting.”
We’ve watched as several divergent plot lines wove closer and closer to an inevitable hail of bullets and “you-betchas.” This week brings that date even closer. The two Fargo hitmen, who have names (Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers, respectively) but not real names or need for them — a deaf brute with an active mind (Russell Harvard) and his probing, questioning, fast-talking partner (Adam Goldberg) — they’re in a Bemidji holding cell with Lester. The show mops up this dramatic scene quickly, with Lester giving up everything he knows about Malvo and the hitmen headed for Duluth for the brewing confrontation. Meantime, Lester’s infected hand lands him in the hospital.
In this episode, our protagonist Deputy Molly (Allison Tollman) finally convinces Chief Bill (Bob Odenkirk, why am I just now realizing that’s Bob freaking Odenkirk) that there’s something up with Lester’s story. That’s great, but in this sequence we see the chief obsessed with a coming snowstorm. BIG PROBLEM. While northern Minnesota police departments are involved in keeping people safe during blizzards, local police would never drive snowplows for a complex array of reasons.
Let’s start with the labor contracts. You really think the cops can drive the snowplows and the salt trucks and put the signs back up after they get run down by the snowplows and salt trucks? No way. That’s union city labor, and while they’re on coffee now, they’re going to be pissed when they hear about this. Secondly cops would insist on closing all roads until all plowing is complete. Be patient, this is an ongoing investigation of a 10-345, “Water Crystal Public Disturbance.” “Interesting.”
So, it’s re-established in this episode that Molly is the best cop in the show, and that she’s probably the only one who has the brains to line up a case against Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton); but can she, her Duluth cop pal Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) or anyone else, for that matter, every really capture and keep Malvo? One wonders.
Malvo cooly reminds us that the Roman Empire was “raised by wolves.” We return to the theme of predators and prey. “There are no saints in the animal kingdom, only breakfast and dinner.” Malvo is a damn good bad guy, and apparently a very well educated one. You’ve got to be versed in some old school Romulus and Remus to follow along at home. Pretty good.
A couple things I noticed about Gus Grimly this episode. When he’s at his apartment in a Duluth Jewish housing complex, he sees the guy across the way at night. The guy waves at him and then invites himself over to visit. This is a major breech of Minnesota/Midwestern etiquette, but nevertheless Gus allows it, which is very Minnesotan in its own right. Ultimately, Gus makes a new friend and has a meaningful conversation, but he’ll still dread this happening again. That’s the Minnesota way. Pretty good.
Side note: Duluth actually does have a small but vibrant Jewish community, though I’m not aware of there being a “Jew bus” such as the one depicted in the show.” Could be worse.
This episode was lighter on specific Minnesota references, but had some good examples of Minnesota dialogue. Molly: “She’s a severe woman with hard hair.” And Gus’s constant opener of “Here’s the thing.” Well delivered. You can tell Hanks and Tollman settled into the accents as shooting continued on these episodes. Oh, ya!
The shotgun pellet had traces of FABRIC still attached? Nutballs. No way. “Interesting.”
Either Molly is ridiculously strong or a production assistant removed the guts of that washing machine. Could be worse.
Molly wipes her snowy boots before entering a home for an illegal search. Oh, ya!
One stray observation on accents, whenever Colin Hanks says “Grimly” to answer the phone, it sounds like his dad calling the dog’s name in “You’ve Got Mail.” Hear it, for it cannot be unheard. Could be worse.
Episode ends with DEPUTY MOLLY SKUNK EYE, which is the harshest form of Minnesota rebuke. Lester was pretending to sleep, but he could feel that look. Oh, ya!
So, Episode 5, “The Six Ungraspables,” was a development episode. If you’re along for the ride you’re going to love this one, but less action for the more casual “Fargo” fan. Despite frequent specific inaccuracies about the show’s Minnesota setting, the general accuracy is shaping up to be very passable, in an artsy sort of way. EPISODE GRADE: Pretty good.