Fargo Review: “Buridan’s Ass” (Season 1, Episode 6)


Aw jeez, what an episode of Fargo. This show has only gotten better week to week, but “Buridan’s Ass” is by far the strongest hour yet. The work of the Coen Brothers has often walked the line of dry, witty humor and absurdity (The Big Lebowski, Inside Llewyn Davis, Burn After Reading) and the unbelievably macabre (Blood Simple, True Grit, No Country For Old Men). What their 1996 film Fargo accomplished, more than the rest of their impressive filmography, was a brilliant balance of both; offering us a glimpse at the darkest corners of humanity and the most wonderfully bright spots of the human spirit. The show has managed to accomplish much of the same thing, though its multi-episode structure has allowed the writers and directors to choose which side of the line they want to walk on from week to week.

The title, “Buridan’s Ass,” is another parable, about the paradox in the conception of free will. In it, a donkey finds itself in a situation where it is equally hungry and thirsty, and is confronted by a pile of hay and a trough of water, which are both equidistant from it. The donkey is caught in the middle and must choose between the two options. The paradox assumes that the donkey will always go for the closer option, and therefore never makes up its mind and dies.

So, my question for you, dear reader, is who is Buridan’s Ass in this episode?

Up until now, the show has managed to create a balance between good and evil, as each action the characters have taken has been met with equal and opposite reactions. This week, that balance begins to break down, and the direction of the show begins to lean more toward the side of evil than of good. Ironically, the show’s darkest and most harrowing moments happen in a sea of white, as characters both good and evil are forced to enter the blinding void, unable to see what their choices may bring, leading to disastrous results.