Fargo (FX) Review “A Muddy Road”

Fargo (FX) episode 3 A Muddy Road (5)

Midway through “A Muddy Road,” an illegal pharmaceutical salesman offers to sell Malvo a zombie survival kit stocked with a machete, ammo and all of the other necessities needed to survive a zombie apocalypse. Malvo bluntly informs the man he cannot imagine zombies wreaking more violence than humans. He should know. He inflicts violence without real malice. For Malvo, killing is just something he does, like breathing or eating. His calmness is unnerving. He is capable of slitting a dog’s throat to get closer to his goal and dragging a man out of an office building by his tie with no one daring to stop him. Much like a zombie or a vampire, or any other creature that goes bump in the night, Malvo is a figment of our imaginations, a representation of all of the seemingly random acts of violence we cannot rationalize or explain.

Malvo is not a real monster, he is a human symbol for chaos. Real killers often look like Lester. They are unassuming, hiding in plain sight– a neighbor who is always a bit odd, the quiet person no one notices standing right beside them, the horror story waiting to be told simply because we cannot see or understand the psychology happening within their minds until it is too late. Molly understands this, she sees something in Lester no one else can, perhaps because she is “married to the sea.”

“A Muddy Road” used the stark imagery of a quiet office building and the silence of a snow covered Fargo to evoke the moments of calm before peace is shattered. Milos’ dog sees a deer in the forest and rushes out to catch his prey before meeting a predator far more dangerous than he is. Later Milos’ bath literally turns to blood thanks to tinkering from Malvo who has taken over the blackmailing sensing a bigger payoff. Meanwhile, Lester sits in his home surrounded by the false messages of joy his wife covered their refrigerator with and he can only hear the memory of the moments that led up to him shattering his own simple existence.

Fargo finds poetry in violence. From the score, to Malvo’s Biblical reading of the story of Moses juxtaposed against his efforts to drive Milos to the brink while Lester finally goes out shooting indulging in the euphoric power of using a gun “that makes the biggest hole.” They are strangely beautiful, unsettling final scenes. Like so much of the series, they tonally reflect the movie without copying it.

The indulgence in violence and the use of Malvo’s humor and the directorial techniques to undercut it would be problematic if not for the humanity of characters like Molly and Gus. Too often we only see the bad, but every story has heroes too and in “The Muddy Road” ours met. Gus came clean to his boss about letting Malvo go just as Molly discovered footage of Phil (her naked guy in the snow) being forcibly removed from his office by Malvo.

Molly is an outstanding character. Her sense of humor is even roughly in line with Malvo’s, erring on the dry side. Her jokes often miss the mark (with her companions, not with the audience), as if she is speaking a different language than everyone else around her. Then again, the people around her live lives that are out of sync with her own. She has an awkward dinner with an old friend who cheerfully recounts a story about baby spiders bursting from her boyfriend’s neck during sex. (Seriously, there is horror everywhere in this series.) Molly reacts with the most disgusted, creeped out “geez” ever uttered onscreen.

All the while, her focus is still on Lester and the murders. Her dedication to her work is unwavering and she refuses to let go of the Lester angle even if it does “really tick off” her boss. She casually allows Lester to see a picture of Malvo from the security camera to gauge his response and it is such a great gotcha moment even if Molly cannot haul him in yet.

Since her chief died, Molly has been in this alone. But Gus, at the impetus of his daughter, goes to Fargo to apologize in person. Gus is a nervous guy himself, but he is also steadfast. Molly’s initial reaction to him letting Malvo go is anger until she sees his daughter– in that moment we can see Molly seeing her own father/daughter relationship reflected back at her. That relationship sustains her just as it sustains Gus and his daughter. So in the midst of so much blood, threats and guns, we get this lovely dinner scene between Molly, Gus and his daughter. She recounts the story of the spider (minus the circumstances) and notes, “I don’t know if I want to live in a world where something like that happens.”

And therein lies the true beauty of Fargo. For all of its cleverness and pulpiness, it finds time for normalcy. The world is full of badness, but it is full of goodness too. Sometimes, you just have to drink a double milkshake, make a new friend and continue on.

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