Fargo Review: “The Rooster Prince” (Season 1, Episode 2)

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Lester’s anxiety is only heightened by the fact that deputy officer Molly Solverson is slowly piecing the puzzle together. Lester’s facts don’t all add up, and there are too many loose ends that no one seems to notice but her. The string of strange murders can’t be a coincidence, and all roads lead back to Lester.

In a show chock full of psychopaths, murderers, and liars, Molly offers a beacon of hope in the darkness; the most pure character in a cast full of the misguided and the morally corrupt. I sincerely hope that her keen detective skills don’t get the better of her (after all, that’s what killed Vern Thurman), because she stole the show this week and held her own against the fantastic comedic talents of Odenkirk and Freeman.

The scene were Molly confronts Lester at the pharmacy was incredibly tense, and was perhaps the highest point in the episode. While some moments were either too run down with comedy that didn’t quite stick (like the Kara-Tea joke), or thrown off by strange musical cues, this scene was flawless and managed to raise the tension to unbelievable levels.

While many shows focus on the “whodunit” of a murder, Fargo has managed to tell us that right up front, and display the evidence in all its glory, right before our eyes. As an audience, we know exactly how close everyone is to either getting caught or figuring it out, and seeing the shuffling of the jigsaw pieces is very exciting.

What this episode did more so than the pilot (or perhaps with less subtlety), was allude to other Coen Brothers films. The scenes with Malvo felt very much like Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men, especially when he bullies and torments a mail clerk into giving him a package. When he meets with Stavros Milos, The Supermarket King of Minnesota (Oliver Platt), it was highly reminiscent of The Big Lebowski, right down to the briefcase and ransom note made from magazine clippings. While Easter eggs and nods are acceptable, I’m a bit worried that Fargo may begin to draw from too much of the Coens’ work. Hopefully they find a better balance as the show goes on.

I should also mention that while Billy Bob Thornton is an actor I’ve never liked very much, he completely shines as Malvo, giving the show an additional layer of mystery and strangeness that completely fits within the Coens’ world. I’m interested to see where his story goes, and what sort of damage he causes along the way.

While “The Rooster King” added some new characters and expanded on the foundations that were built in the pilot episode, it still manages to fall short on delivering the same authentic and engaging experience. Don’t get me wrong, it was still highly enjoyable and many of the elements introduced have me incredibly excited for what’s to come, but hopefully as Fargo goes on, it won’t rely so heavily on quirks and will instead find a better balance of tone and pacing. With only eight episodes left, I suspect that things should fall into place rather quickly. Something big definitely seems to be on the horizon, and I sense a larger game at play here. We still have yet to see how all of the characters or pieces fit together (Colin Hanks is a definite outlier), but I absolutely cannot wait to find out.

Additional Observations:

  • The final scene was absolutely brilliant, and shows exactly why Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench belong on this show. Dropping a man into a hole freshly drilled into the ice? Wow.
  • Best line of the night: “What he lacks in common sense he makes up for in self esteem.”
  • Stravos sitting right beneath the crown symbol was a great stylistic choice, as well as Lester standing next to his wife’s insufferable inspirational quotes like, “Everything happens for a reason.”
  • The music in this episode was all over the place, and continued to take me out of the scenes. I much preferred the music from the pilot, that was more of a variation of the film’s haunting theme.