The Penultimate Fargo
God love those reader comments.
I was checking out a few articles to see if someone could explain the meaning of last week's episode title for Fargo. (“A Fox, A Rabbit, and A Cabbage,”) I understand it related to a riddle in the show, and I know what the solution of the riddle is. But how it related to the episode, I don't have a clue. The best I can come up with is that someone you have to juggle a lot of dangerous things to make things come out right.
Anyway, no one offered an explanation, though I did see this comment. I should note first that there are going to be spoilers about the series. You don't have to stop just yet -- I'll warn you when you do -- but a few general comments first. There is now one episode to go in the 10-part series.
I think the series has been spectacular, entirely written by Noah Hawley, and directed with the quality and pacing of a feature film.. Though there have been a few hiccups. Those come from the show being 10 episodes and needing a lot of twists and turns, and sometimes they and their explanations are far too deus ex machina and stretching credibility. We're put in a position of having to accept them, and generally do because the rest is so brilliantly done (though a couple "twists" I just don't buy), but I shouldn't have to justify plot points, that's the filmmakers' job.
The series doesn't copy the original movie, and tells its own story with its own character, but I've greatly admired how they drop in little signposts that are homages to the film, which provide comforting touchstones of familiarity for the audience. (In Episode 8, they had one such homage that had me whooping with appreciation. I won't give it away here, but I'll note reading a credit for the episode being "from an idea by Joel and Ethan Coen," and I am near-certain that that idea was the wonderful homage.)
Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman are tremendous. Thornton in particular has been great for his quiet, wry-smiling, almost friendly malevolence. (He basically plays the "Steve Buscemi role".) But Freeman's character (largely the "William H. Macy role) has the greatest change and development over the course of the show, and it's been a terrifically-deft performance. The little-known Allison Tolman (playing the TV series' version of Frances McDormand) has been wonderful in a low-key performance that's held her own with much bigger names.
But to me, the revelation has been Bob Odenkirk. Now, mind you, Bob Odenkirk is usually wonderfully -- but he usually plays Bob Odenkirk, the funny, largely untrustworthy goofball (as he did in Breaking Bad as lawyer Saul Goodman). But he puts a different turn on it here -- even to the point of wearing a hairpiece, making him less recognizable. Many of the Odenkirk traits are here, but it's a much more dramatic performance with a lot of shadings. He's a police chief, who has no business being chief, doing a solid job playing everything on the surface, by the book, and not wanting anything to to rock his safe, polite Minnesota comfort. And when his underling Molly (the Allison Tolman character) keeps pushing him to change his positions because she believes there's more going on, Odenkirk plays the role with a torn, frustrated, polite, friendly distress. He's been absolutely terrific.
Great too, as I noted here in my other posting on the show, is Keith Carradine, as police officer Molly's father. It's a very small role that could easily blend into the background, but he does it with such stature and majesty, that he may well be my favorite character.
I love a quote I read from series creator Noah Hawley who was asked by the interviewer if there was anything he felt comfortable telling viewers about the final episode next week. He answered -- "Hold on to your butts."
One episode to go. Which brings us in a few paragraphs to the "reader comment" and therefore the aforementioned spoilers. So, if you haven't watched the series, and you do plan to get the DVD, you can stop reading at this point. Otherwise, we move on.
Okay, so, here's the comment that one reader left after the discussion of Episode 9. (And I should note, that a few other people joined in on the discussion, not one of them saying, "Are you nuts??!!"
What he wrote was --
I felt sorry for Jerry (William H. Macy) in the movie. No such feelings for Lester anymore. He bludgeoned his 1st wife to death with a hammer, but even after that I admit I still felt some sympathy for him. She had berated him constantly. But last night was too much. It's time Lester paid the price. I
And all I could think was -- say what????!!! Just freaking WHAT?!!! No such feelings "anymore"!!!
In the first episode, as the correspondent notes, he bludgeoned his wife with a hammer. And then kept pounding her. But you still felt sympathy for him because his wife "berated" him. Y'know, guy, if the character was really that unhappy, he could have...well, I don't know, gotten a divorce. Me, I think bludgeoning your wife tends to put a crimp in the sympathy department.
But, okay, not for you. Fine, I get it. But this is Episode 9 -- with only one episode to go -- and you just finally lost sympathy for him? So, none of these other things bothered you?
His mistaken actions leads to the death of a guy he doesn't like, but he doesn't report it to the police.
His actions cause the death of the original police chief, whose wife is pregnant, and he covers up the death.
He frames his brother for murder.
He frames his 10-year-old nephew for carrying a gun into school.
He lies to the woman whose husband had been killed by his actions, about him helping her get his death benefits (he's an insurance agent and knows the policy lapsed and the benefits have been denied) just so that she'll sleep with him, and then he later shrugs and laughs at her when she finds out.
His foolhardy, reckless action causes three innocent people to get killed.
And then fearing he might be in danger for his life, he sends his new wife into his office wearing his coat, telling her to pull up the hood to disguise her further, where she is shot to death.
And finally this reader no longer feels sympathy for Lester.
Swell. Glad to hear you have a heart.
Yes, yes, we understand that poor Lester's life spun out of control, some by accident and most by his own doing. But...but, c'mon now. The point is to see if he'll be able to extricate himself from this hellish maze of death and destruction, or how he'll be figured out and get his comeuppance. Not that you're pulling for the guy, until with only one episode left -- you finally figured out he's not worth your sympathy anymore...
6/14/2014 09:05:28 am
My favorite Odenkirk moment was in last week's episode. His body language and facial expression after his conversation with the Feds was priceless. He managed to say so much while doing almost nothing. As for Lester, I didn't have any sympathy for him before the bodies started to pile up. However, the brother was so vile, I actually cheered when Lester's frame up was sprung. It was also the first time that Lester appeared competent doing anything. I can't even begin to figure out how the last episode is going to wrap everything up, even with an extra fifteen minutes. I agree with you about Carradine, but for some reason I keep getting flashes of the serial killer he played in an old miniseries called "Chiefs" in the 80s.
6/14/2014 04:54:53 pm
I've liked so many Odenkirk Moment that I don't know if I could single a favorite. (High on the list is when he goes to the dinner to tell Molly off, and he's SO angry, but too polite to show it.) But also high on the list is the one you note -- I'd certainly use that one as an example of what I meant by how subtle his performance.
6/14/2014 05:34:28 pm
"No matter how smarmy the brother was, nah, I couldn't cheer for him being set up to be convicted as a murderer."
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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