By Jeff Michael Vice
FARGO – Live-action comedy-drama developed by Noah Hawley, based on characters created by Joel and Ethan Coen; rated TV-MA; airs Tuesdays on FX; 60 minutes (approximately). Episode 1.6: “Buridan’s Ass” (original airdate, May 20, 2014). Directed by Colin Bucksey; written by Noah Hawley (10 out of 10)
The story so far: Nomadic, hired killer Lorne Malvo winds up in the frozen Northeast after crashing his vehicle into a deer. He’s left a trail of dead bodies in his wake, and not just that of the poor animal in question. Meanwhile, born loser Lester Nygaard suffers abuse – from not only his verbally demonstrative wife, Pearl, but also his childhood bully, local businessman Sam Hess. And Bemidji (Minn.) Police officer Molly Solverson suddenly finds herself thrust into the role of murder investigator, thanks to Malvo’s recent actions.
In this episode: Lester resorts to unusual means to escape police custody in the Bemidji hospital, where he’s been treated for his festering hand wound. Molly and Duluth Police officer Gus Grimly join forces, as they try to track down the stolen store van Malvo has been driving. And Malvo has finally had enough of Don Chumph, his dopey partner in crime in a scheme to extort money from local supermarket king/motivational speaker Stavros Milos.
The sixth episode of possibly the best new series of the 2013-14 season open with a sequence showing a chef killing a fish killing and then preparing it – a prelude to a sequence in which gangsters lunch, while discussing the fate of the man responsible for killing the connected Sam Hess (Lorne Malvo). And thus begins begins an ominous enthralling episode in which a supposed “Storm of the Century” swirls around Bemidji and other parts of Minnesota.
While the episode is slow somewhat show in the beginning, it gets progressively tenser and darker as it goes. And, hoo boy, what an ending.
In the continuing story line, Lester switches places with a heavily bandaged fellow patient, and then steals a vehicle to make good his escape, as he tries to remove some incriminating evidence and stay ahead of the persistent Molly.
And his onetime, brief ally, Malvo finally turns the tables on Chumph, whom he sets up to be killed by a SWAT team that believes him to be a neighborhood sniper. But Malvo could use a little help when mob enforcers Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers corner him during a traffic snarl – a result of the whiteout, blizzard conditions.
That sequence alone makes the episode worth watching … and makes its follow-up even more of a must-see. And if you were disappointing in the lack of killings since the initial episodes, there are a few shocking (and seemingly apparent) deaths in “Buridan’s Ass” that will leave jaws on the floor.
Thornton has dominated the series so far, playing a character that’s every bit as sarcastic as his beloved “Bad Santa,” yet considerably more sociopathic. He’s the creep you hate to love, and love to hate. (Seriously, Emmy voters, take notice!)
But Freeman, both repugnant and sympathetic as the milquetoast insurance agent, really excels in this episode, as do relative newcomer Allison Tolman and Hanks, whose characters seem headed toward a romance of sorts.
The episode was once again helmed by directed by small-screen veteran Colin Bucksey (“Breaking Bad,” “Burn Notice”), and as always, executive producer/show runner Noah Hawley provided the script. The quips and line exchanges come fast and furious, many of them laugh-out-loud funny. The better ones of these include:
“Luke, I am your father.” (Don Chumph)
“What’s with all the duct tape?” (Chumph)
“They said you were there when the sheriff was murdered.” “Well, heck, I think I’d remember that.” (Chaz Nygaard, then Lester Nygaard)
There’s something wrong with you, Lester. There’s something missing. You’re not right with the world.” (Chaz Nygaard)
“We’re police officers.” “You sure are.” (Molly Solverson, then an unnamed grocery store checker)
“Tell the kid I love him.” “Yeah, I’m not going to say that.” (Stavros Milos, then unnamed employee)
“God told you not to park here?” (Unnamed parking lot attendant)
“Here we are, we’re supposed to be people. To be better. To know better.” (Gus Grimly)
“Thought about it, the 60-40 thing doesn’t work for me.” (Malvo)
“That’s OK. I’d be insulted if you didn’t try.” (Malvo)
“I think we got him.” “Based on what, ESP?” (Unnamed Duluth Police officer, then Lt. Ben Schmidt)
“Heck of a lot of bullets for a fender bender.” (Molly Solverson)
Overall rating: 10 out of 10
The regular characters: Billy Bob Thornton (Lorne Malvo), Allison Tolman (Molly Solverson), Martin Freeman (Lester Nygaard), Colin Hanks (Gus Grimly), Bob Odenkirk (Bill Oswalt) and Keith Carradine (Lou Solverson)
Guest stars: Joshua Close (Chaz Nygaard), Adam Goldberg (Mr. Numbers), Russell Harvard (Mr. Wrench), Glenn Howerton (Don Chumph) and Oliver Platt (Stavros Milos).
You can read Jeff Michael Vice, aka Jerk-bot, at Cinephiled (www.cinephiled.com),where he writes movie reviews and film-related articles. He can be seen reviewing films as part of Xfinity’s Big Movie Mouth-Off (www.facebook.com/BigMovieMouthOff), and be heard reviewing films, television programs, comics, books, music and other things as part of The Geek Show Podcast (www.thegeekshowpodcast.com).