Now that we’ve moved on from the excellent pilot episode, the big question is: does Fargo continue to live up to the greatness of its cinematic predecessor? Oh, you betcha. Unfortunately, it does fall a bit short of last week’s debut, though it’s still by all accounts one of the best shows currently on television.
While “The Rooster Prince” may not have had as many blood-soaked surprises as “The Crocodile’s Dilemma,” it did manage to make matters even more intense for all involved, while helping set the stage for things to come. However, that stage-setting came at a price, as both the humor and mayhem weren’t as controlled or quite as polished this time around.
The episode opens with another stark, snow covered landscape, with a stretch of highway leading us to our destination. A car passes, and in it are two new characters: a man with large mutton chops in a fringed leather jacket, and a bearded, bespectacled man, bundled up in an overcoat. They are the deaf Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard) and Mr. Numbers (Adam Goldberg), respectively, and they’re on their way to Hess & Sons Transport, claiming to have been sent there from Fargo.
They are immediately reminiscent of the Steve Buscemi and Peter Stromare characters from the 1996 film. Wrench and Numbers have an interesting dynamic, and certainly like each other more than their cinematic dopplegangers, but at this point it’s too early to tell what kind of larger role they’ll play in the proceedings. They’re in pursuit of Billy Bob Thornton’s Malvo, and communicate only through some sort of sloppy sign language.
Meanwhile, the citizens of Bemidji are still reeling from the wave of homicides that have blown through their quirky small town. Lester Nygaard is at a memorial for his wife Pearl, and still has that bullet stuck in his hand. It’s a great visual reminder of what he’s done, and is obviously going to start getting worse if he doesn’t do anything about it. So far, the show has done a great job with details like this, which only helps build the underlying tension as things move forward at a seemingly normal pace on the surface.
The bullet in his hand helps keep Lester from forgetting what he’s done. No matter how well he lies about that night, or how uninterested in investigating him that Bob Odenkirk’s police chief is, the constant pain that wound provides is a relentless reminder of the truth.
Lester’s brother Chaz nonchalantly mentions how badly the cops turned his house upside down while “looking for clues,” which leads to a great scene where Lester goes through the residence, walking aimlessly between the scenes of the crime and the various rooms. Martin Freeman’s performance is absolutely wonderful here. He shows real emotion and regret, but at the same time I wonder how much of that is a facade. Does he feel bad because his wife is dead? Or is he more worried about getting caught, revisiting the basement to make sure he didn’t leave any clues for the police to find?