Fargo (FX) Review “The Six Ungraspables”

Fargo (FX) episode 5 The Six Ungraspables (5)

More so than any other episode so far, “The Six Ungraspables” felt like a short film by the Coen Brothers. From the opening scene with its folksy tune reminiscent of Oh Brother Where Art Thou? to the heavy use of parables, at the midpoint of Fargo we paused for the characters to ruminate while the action around them escalated by chance. The Coen brothers’ film I was most reminded of is one of their under-appreciated gems, A Serious Man. In the midwest set film an average man, Larry Gopnik, finds his life unraveling suddenly with his health, family and home coming into jeopardy. The film’s central question is, is there meaning in Larry’s turmoil, is it an act of God, or is everything random and meaningless? Is life just a series of coincidences carrying us onward to our final destination?

Gus gets late night advice on this very subject from his weary neighbor in the building across the street. His neighbor relays the story of a rich man who gave everything, including his own life to help abate the suffering in the world. The question posed at the end of the parable is, was it worth it? As Gus realizes, there is still suffering in the world, but that was not the point. The story is really about the kind of person we choose to be. Gus had Malvo, and he knows Malvo is guilty, but because he chose to put the needs of his family first, Malvo walks free. Now Gus can either choose to do whatever it takes, including possibly giving everything to stop this one man, or he can go back to his old life. Taking Malvo from the world will not end all suffering. In the grand scheme of life, Malvo is just one wolf. There are always more wolves. But in order for Gus to live with himself, he has to stay on this case, otherwise the guilt will eat away at him for the rest of his life.

The more these characters try to escape their paths, the more life catches up with them. Lester’s hand with its buckshot finally went septic. His secret comes out just as he is in jail and Molly has found enough information to convince her dim boss that Lester is a viable suspect. Because he did not have his hand treated before, it becomes the thing that traps him. He is in a hospital room with a guard at the door now; an animal trapped and cornered– which also happens to be the most dangerous kind.

As for Malvo, he is slowly beginning to see Gus as a threat. Malvo spots Gus out in the snow looking for him as he drives Stavros home after picking up the blackmail money. Stavros is another man damned by his own beliefs. His religion is his weakness (along with a drug-addled mind, thanks to Malvo) and he now believes he is being punished by God, a force so insurmountable he can only give into Him if he wishes to protect his son and his empire. All the while, Malvo believes he is the only predator in this story. This is the identity he has built for himself. Gus is an easy threat to take out since his daughter is his weak spot and Malvo knows this.

But Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers are on his trail now. They are wildcards in this game. We don’t know if they are willing to give their all for a job, we don’t know where their breaking points lie or even if they are part of a larger plan or just two more agents of chaos in a chaotic world. As we enter the final stretch, Fargo asks us what we believe– is the world a place with rules or is it a place of happenstance, and what is our role in it? Does Gus have to keep pursuing Malvo? Do Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers have to avenge Sam Hess? Will putting Lester behind bars bring Molly or her chief’s family any solace? Is giving everything really worth it if one person’s everything is just a tiny ripple in the grand scheme of life?

In order for the story to propel forward, the answer has to be yes. We know there is a divine hand at play here: the hand of the writer, and oh, is he ever crafting one gorgeous parable out of the lives of simple people living in an unfathomably complex world.

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