Remember those Allstate commercials from a couple years ago featuring “Mayhem,” the guy who made bad things happen just because he could? I think that’s a good description of Fargo‘s villain (or is he?) Lorne Malvo (a brilliant Billy Bob Thornton).
If you are not yet watching FX’s new limited series (it’s 10 episodes), you should be. And this week’s Fargo episode, “A Muddy Road,” gives us more clues about the enigmatic psychopath Malvo, but asks just as many questions. Who is he? Uber-intelligent, but completely without discernable ethical boundaries (I’m sure he would disagree and tell us we simply don’t understand them), Malvo continues his mayhem, this time in Duluth. In the meantime, Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) continues to piece together the string of three murders in her town of Bemidji, Minnesota.
The episode opens with a flashback that explains the series’ opening scene: Malvo driving his car with a nearly naked man sequestered in the car’s trunk. Malvo spins out on an icy Minnesota road, and the man escapes, only to freeze to death in the frozen Minnesota winter. We now learn that the man in the trunk is (was) an accountant kidnapped by Malvo, who is paid muscle.
Malvo’s latest assignment is to find and eradicate the sleaze who is trying to blackmail another sleaze, that being the grocery king of Minnesota Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt). But, in a twist (and because both the blackmailer and the blackmailee are both idiots), Malvo decides to take over the scheme. In the aftermath, the blackmail demand has been mightily upped, and Milos’ dog becomes collateral carnage when Malvo needs to slip into Milos’ house to swap out his pain pills for Adderal! Got it?
Back in Bemidji, the guilty-as-Hell Lester Nygaard (a perfect Martin Freeman) is haunted by his deeds as the suspicious deputy begins to find cracks in his story. Lester had reported his car in the shop, yet, it turns up in Duluth–abandoned and impounded, but with a link to Malvo. Of course Lester has denied any knowledge of Malvo. Oops. And when police officer Gus Grimly places Malvo in Lester’s car over burgers and milkshakes, Molly seems to be heading down the path to capture. The only problem, of course, is that her boss Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk) keeps obstructing her police work, insisting that she lay off poor Lester, who after all, has just lost his wife.
Then there is the Hess family and their various retainers: Wife Gina Hess (Kate Walsh), as anxious to get her fingers (and possibly other body parts) on Lester as she is to get her hands on the insurance money due her after husband Sam’s murder, two sons, as stupid as the are cruel, and the guys at Sam’s trucking company who appear to be deeply into some rather nefarious doings of their own.
Part of me wonders if Sam’s murder (by Malvo) had been part of Malvo’s Bemidji agenda all along, and Lester seems to be a perfect dupe to have been swept into it. I also wonder about the significance of Lester’s hand injury; it’s growing worse by the week–still bleeding, clearly infected. And given the story this week (told twice) about a guy whose spider bite yielded a gruesome gross of baby spiders, I wonder if there’s some sort of connection there to be made as well. The hand injury has to mean something, and you don’t waste two scenes telling a strange and rather disgusting story about spiders swarming out of a bite mark unless it factors into some other part of the narrative. On the other hand Fargo is just so very strange, it might well be just a weird, quirky story.
And just who is Lorne Malvo? Yes, he is a psychopath, but a guy with an agenda, and clearly not that of his bosses or his clients. The episode ends with Malvo quoting the early chapters of the Book of Exodus: Moses’ rescue from the Nile, and his reaction to the treatment of the Hebrew slaves. His voice over accompanies an embodiment of the first plague: Milos taking a shower in his home while the water pouring over him turns to blood–planted there by Malvo. Why? Is it simply to further persecute Milos in the hopes that he will fork over the blackmail money? Or does he see himself as some sort of righter of wrongs? Or is he the embodiment of “Mayhem” and a living experiment in Chaos Theory?
Malvo seems just very blatant and sure of himself: kidnapping victim #1 in broad daylight with his colleagues all in attendance (and captured on CCTV), sneaking in and out of Milos’ house, certain that his client will be none the wiser, buying drugs off the street (out the back of a van), driving Lester’s car to Duluth, etc. Is he really that good? Or has he already slipped up, with a downfall awaiting him around the corner? He’s making a lot of enemies: Lester, his new client Milos, Hess’ organized crime colleagues, not to mention at least two police departments!
I’m also beginning to wonder about our new acting police captain, Deputy Bill Oswalt. Is there more to him? Is there a reason he doesn’t want Molly investigating Sam Hess’s murder too deeply? Hmmm.
Fargo airs Tuesday nights at 10:00 p.m. on FX.
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