Fargo Review: “A Fox, A Rabbit, And A Cabbage” (Season 1, Episode 9)


I want to open this review with an apology. Not to you, dear reader, but to Noah Hawley, for ever doubting him. Last week’s episode, “The Heap,” left me a bit disappointed. The one-year jump was a bold move, but I didn’t see it for the genius move that it really was. After seeing “A Fox, A Rabbit, And A Cabbage,” I take it all back and hereby declare that I will never doubt Mr. Hawley again.

What Hawley has done with this episode is utilize the things that make that time jump so fascinating, from a storytelling perspective. Though we’ve now spent close to ten hours with these characters, this feels like a different story entirely. Most mini-series feel pretty straightforward, and deliver tightly constructed, compact stories. What Hawley has done with Fargo is take those tightly constructed storylines and allow them to grow, organically. We’re now nine episodes in but I feel like we’ve been with these characters much longer. By jumping ahead a year, we’ve been given a unique opportunity to view these people and their lives from a new perspective. Much of their lives have unfolded without our observation, and yet our relationship to them feels even more tangible than it did two weeks ago. I fear for their lives much more now that I ever did before, I am lifted by their victories, and horrified by their deaths in ways that I likely wouldn’t have felt otherwise.

Many of the episode titles have referred to paradoxes and parables, but “A Fox, A Rabbit, And A Cabbage” actually pertains to a riddle. The objects in question often have different names (for example, a wolf, a sheep and a cabbage), but the basic principle remains the same: Imagine that a man has a fox, a rabbit, and a cabbage. He needs to take each one across a river, but can only carry one at a time. If he leaves the fox alone with the rabbit, the fox will eat it, and the rabbit will eat the cabbage. How do you get all three across without losing any of them?

What Hawley has expertly done is translate the principle of the riddle into the narrative of the show, in order to bring all of the various pieces and characters back to Bemidji in time for next week’s (series?) finale. However, you can’t leave Malvo alone with any of them. What that causes is a fascinating and gripping shuffle of characters. Many of them have chance meetings that only last for a fleeting second. Molly walks into the backdoor of the diner just as Malvo is exiting the front. He gets into his car just as Agents Budge and Pepper get out of theirs. Gus spots Malvo on his mail route, but doesn’t realize it until later. It’s a frustrating and gripping turn of events, with tension that is only heightened by the fact that this entire story will soon come to an end. And if we’ve learned anything from the series so far, it’s that nobody is getting out of this unscathed.