Oh, Noah Hawley, you clever bastard. “Eating The Blame” is only the fourth episode in this saga, this peculiar Fargo adaptation, but it is a stunning episode of television. I’d also say that it could be a make-or-break episode for viewers based on that early reveal which, for the sake of those who worry about spoilers, we’ll discuss under the cut.
The show has been shy about its Fargo film roots so far, existing in the same town but never making too explicit references to the movie. It has opted instead for some subtle references, including last week’s shot of Stavros’ painting of the red ice scraper which turned out to be a hell of a lot more than just a clever wink at the Coen Bros. Now Fargo has blown past simply acknowledging the film and become a full-on sequel — which some clever Internet sleuths have predicted it would be; and they call it an Idiot Box! Admittedly, I was skeptical about this connection the first time I watched “Eating The Blame” because I had eagerly raced through the four episodes and was so enthralled by the idea of this being a totally separate entity. It felt weird to bring in the movie, especially at such an odd point in the series. I suspect this could end up being a problem for some viewers who, like me, didn’t want the two worlds to collide.
That said: I liked it so much more this time around having rewatched the first three episodes slower, on a weekly basis, and really getting to know the small town folk. Plus, I appreciate the slyness of it all and the deft plotting that makes me know this show is on the right track. It was a brilliant reveal in that cold open: young Stavros praying for mercy, curiously spotting that glint of red sticking out amongst the white snow, and finding the money from the movie.
The iffy religious themes that are all over this episode — Stavros’ early “God is real” proclamation that was mirrored by the end; the continuation of the “plagues” brought upon Stavros from god-like Malvo; Malvo pretending to be a nerdy, super Christian minister to fool the cops — were all welcome, all surprisingly fitting. The former Bible nerd in me has been especially geeking out about the plagues and the way they show turned that biblical horror into this smaller, terrifying torture for Stavros who, as Don puts it, better get right with the Lord.
And there’s so much more in “Eating The Blame!” Gus happens to spot Malvo and arrests him on the spot but Malvo is nonplussed and barely expends any energy convincing the other officers that he’s not the guy and that Gus is completely wrong. Malvo goes free — but not without stopping to offer Gus a riddle! What is this guy’s deal? — and Gus is sentenced to desk duty (which seems like a step up from dealing with dead dogs? I’m not sure of the hierarchy of a small town police force). Billy Bob Thornton is absolutely fantastic in this whole sequence but it’s really all about Molly and Gus for me. There are parallels between the two and their respective town’s police force. Molly is shut down by Deputy Bill who takes over and doesn’t let her go deal with Malvo; Gus is shot down by his own colleagues and doesn’t enter the interview room, nor do they listen to him plead his case. Yet they are going to be our heroes — Molly more so than Gus.
There’s some interesting bits with Lester, too, whose hand is becoming too swollen and disgusting to ignore — this is the scariest part of Fargo, by the way, and I could barely look during that scene where he inspects it. The hit man Misters throw him in a trunk and prepare to toss him under the ice water but that taser he picked up last week comes in handy. Lester is awful but I can’t help but love his dumb cleverness, like when he punches a police officer in order to get a ride in the cop car, a ride away from the men who are trying to kill him. But — and this is a scene that depicts why I’ve come to love this show so much — the Misters are just as smart, staging a fight to get themselves also thrown in jail, right in the same cell that Lester is in. What an ending!
Fargo started off strong but now it’s starting to get really intriguing. There are plagues left, Lester’s haunting wound, and a blizzard coming to the town. Everything is only going to get colder.