TV Review: Fargo – Season 1, Episode 4 “Eating the Blame” (USA, 2014)

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We begin to sink ever deeper into the mystery surrounding our characters in Episode 4 ‘Eating The Blame’, and as predicted some of their motivations become clearer as they start coming head to head in a battle of wits.

Whenever watching Fargo you are constantly reminded of the isolation and the fact that it’s cold, so cold that it seems it lives in its own perpetual winter. There’s snow, snow, snow and more snow, and the beautiful opening sequence once again handled by the directing/cinematography team of Randall Einhorn and Dana Gonzales leads us into our flashback. 19 years prior after breaking down on the side of the road with his wife and young son in the car, Milos Stavros prays to God to save him and get him out of the mess that is his life. His prayer is seemingly answered when he happens to stumble upon a suitcase filled with money. Flash-forward to the present and Stavros is becoming more agitated, thanks to Lorne Malvo’s sinister schemes and manipulations that are quickly ruining his sanity and his life. Gus Grimly manages to arrest Malvo but his charges don’t stick when Malvo utilises his fake identity and some sneaky alibis to walk free. Whilst poor Lester Nygaard ends up on the wrong side of Mr Numbers and Mr Wrench but he manages to briefly escape their clutches before ending up stuck in a jail holding cell at the end of the episode with the two of them.

There’s a critical scene in this episode where Grimly confronts Malvo as he’s exiting the police station and challenges him to his bald-faced outright lying of who he was and what he had been doing. Malvo in true snarky style answers him with a riddle “Why does the human eye see more shades of the colour green than any other colour? Figure that out and then you will know the answer”. Later on Malvo’s riddle is answered by Molly Solverson saying that it’s due to predators and us evolving from monkeys and having to be able to see predators in a jungle. Whether it was purposeful or coincidental, this entire episode has a very cat and mouse feel to it. From Malvo tormenting Stavros, to Mr Numbers and Mr Wrench kidnapping Nygaard. Our dominant hunters are out for blood and our hapless victim or our struggling police officers are desperately trying to outwit them.

Billy Bob Thornton’s Malvo is the real standout in this episode, from a couple of awkward swipes of his hair, buttoning up his shirt to the top button and putting on a pair of oversized spectacles and tweaking his accent slightly he suddenly “becomes” Pastor Frank Petersen. Watching him snap back and forth between Malvo and Petersen is unnerving but exciting. Malvo is bordering on omnipotent, he seems to be two or three steps ahead of everybody as his plan slowly unfurls. In contrast to this is the hapless and awkward Grimly, was it luck or part of the plan that Grimly arrested Malvo? Either way his attempt at capturing him fails because Malvo is just too clever for the young police officer. Surprisingly though it’s Solverson who we start to see is the one that could throw a spanner in Malvo’s plan. She’s clever enough to look outside the box and determined enough to keep going despite all the roadblocks that keep getting in her way. When Grimly turns to her for the next step as the episode draws to a close we see that it’s now her turn to take charge.

One of the other charming aspects of this series is its setting. The towns of Bemidji and Duluth are small quaint little places, with average people living their day-to-day lives. Yet in amongst that we have this rag-tag group of people who have all ended up in a ridiculous crazy mess. The irony of it all just makes it even more amusing. The scene between our two hit men Mr Numbers and Mr Wrench having a heated but silent sign-language dialogue amongst all the other diners at Lou’s Cafe is a wonderful example of this juxtaposition. The awkward furtive glances from other patrons to the two strange men, these people don’t know what’s going on and they clearly don’t want to, but their curiosity gets the better of them.

Frustratingly though with this series we’re given only one or two answers each episode to the multitudes of questions that keep being raised. Why is Malvo so intent on tormenting Stavros, particularly since it’s not part of his original orders? Why is Police Chief Oswalt so insistent on dismissing all of Solverson’s work? Why hasn’t Lester gone and gotten his now disgustingly infected hand looked at? Is Don Chumph really that stupid? How did a deaf guy like Mr Wrench become a hitman? We can only sit back and wait and see what writer Noah Hawley has in store for us as we reach the half-way mark of the 10 episode series.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Fargo airs on SBS 1 on Thursday at 9:30pm and is also available On Demand via the SBS website.