Fargo Review: “The Six Ungraspables” (Season 1, Episode 5)


We’re now halfway through Fargo‘s debut season, and while the story has expanded considerably, all roads still lead back to the shocking events that kicked off the show’s inaugural hour. While last week’s episode, “Eating the Blame,” managed to shake things up and throw us a few curve balls, “The Six Ungraspables” slowed things down a bit, and managed to bring the various plot threads full circle.

One thing this series manages to do exceptionally well is tether all of its moving parts to the fateful night that Lester Nygaard killed his wife Pearl, which set in motion a series of events that are ultimately far beyond his reach and out of his control. This episode title in particular refers to a Zen koan about the value of taking responsibility for one’s actions. We saw that koan play out in various parts of the story this week, though each character seems to encompass a different aspect of what that really means. On one end of the spectrum, you have Lester himself, who begins to admit his sins, either under the threat of torture in a jail cell, or under a feverish state of regret in the back of an ambulance.

Elsewhere, we see Gus Grimley continuing to buckle under the weight of his mistakes and the seemingly impossible task of fixing them, while Milos Stavros is falling for Malvo’s blackmail schemes and giving himself willingly to the wrath of God. There are no major detours this week, and all of the stories have a feeling of inevitable convergence. The pieces are all still in place, but the strands of the expanding narrative are slowly being pulled back to their point of origin. In fact, the threats are becoming more clear, the desperate are growing more reckless, and the events are now shifting toward the final run of episodes.

Much like last week, this week’s episode begins with another flashback, this time showing Lester purchasing the shotgun that would set all of the series’ events in motion. We’re reminded of the kind of man Lester is, easily persuaded into buying a shotgun, even though all he came in for was a pair of mismatched socks. Or, perhaps he’s smarter than all of us, knowing a good bargain when he sees one.

In what may be the series’ most impressive sequence to date, we see Lester take the shotgun home and find a safe place for it (after being chastised by Pearl, of course). Thereafter, we jump ahead in time as Lester grabs the gun the night of Pearl’s murder and sets it in the bathroom. Then, we see Malvo grab the gun, and take it into the other room where Chief Thurman is talking to Lester. Malvo fires twice, and we focus on one of the pellets as it leaves the 12 gauge, goes through Thurman’s chest, and hits Lester’s hand. Soon, we see the wound worsen as time jumps ahead to the present day, finally settling on Lester sandwiched between Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers in a jail cell.

The sequence itself doesn’t give us any new information, but the way it’s edited gives it an eery, dream-like quality. Long pauses and close-ups while dialogue is spoken out of frame, and then the slow-mo shot of the pellet hitting Lester’s hand are all handled expertly and convey a feeling of dread. Wrench and Numbers pressure Lester for information about the man who killed Sam Hess. Reluctant at first, Lester gives up Malvo’s name after a bit of interrogation. This is the first step toward’s Lester’s redemption, if such a thing can be achieved at this point.

In any case, he passes out after Wrench and Numbers are released, only to be found by Molly and Bill who call an ambulance. As a matter of fact, Lester’s wound continues to act as a literal and subliminal reminder of the events that instigated this chain of events. Lester gives Malvo’s name to Wrench and Numbers, then half-confesses his involvement in Hess’ murder to Molly while sedated in the back of an ambulance. Once these things take place, Lester’s hand is given the chance to heal; perhaps subliminally telling us that the wounds afflicted so far may finally be on the mend.