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Fargo S01E04: "Eating the Blame"


Four episodes into its maiden voyage, Fargo may not quite be meeting the lofty expectations I set for it in my review of the excellent pilot, but it's still a leading contender for best new TV series of the year. I'm not really disappointed in the show, but I do get the feeling that it could be a little better than it is. For me, that's due to an on-off pattern in the four episodes we've seen so far. If you look at Fargo through the lens of TV.com's patented 4-Episode Test™, the first and third episodes, "The Crocodile's Dilemma" and "A Muddy Road," stood out as something special, while the second and fourth episodes, "The Rooster Prince" and this week's "Eating the Blame," were merely good. Fargo is an outstanding achievement thus far, but we're all still settling into the series, and the inconsistency (which in this case isn't a dealbreaker since we're comparing great and good) makes it hard to know what to expect going into each episode.

This is professional-level world-record-breaking extreme-to-the-max nitpicking here, but the idea of the 4-Episode Test™ isn't just to figure out whether a show is good or bad in its current state, it's an attempt to measure how good a show could be in the foreseeable future. And right now, I still don't know how to judge Fargo, because two episodes have been amazing and two have been good. Did the series pass its 4-Episode Test™? Hell yeah, with flying colors. But I'm struggling to determine whether it belongs in the highly gifted magnet school for hyper-advanced television shows, or whether it can just take honors classes at the local educational establishment. 


Here's what we do know about Fargo so far: It has one of television's best casts, it's shot beautifully by directors who each helm two episodes before passing the camera to the next guy, the dialogue is out of sight (except when it comes to Mr. Wrench, where it's exclusively in sight), and its sense of humor is more twisted than the AV cables behind my TV. It's the intriguing story of Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), a man who's been involved in two murders—one direct, one indirect. Hunting him down in the nicest, most polite way possible is Deputy Molly Solverson (a breakout role for Allison Tolman), who might be the only competent cop north of Minneapolis; that makes it especially frustrating to see her hampered by higher-ups who are afraid to shake trees for fear that an apple might hit 'em in the head. That's Fargo simplified. But Fargo is anything but simple.

Where Fargo falters ever so slightly—just a smidgen, really—is in its desire to stuff itself to the point where it needs larger snowpants. Lester was pushed onto his murderous path by the ever-peculiar Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton), who told Lester to stick up for himself and then voluntarily killed a man on Lester's behalf for no gain of his own. I'm still trying to understand why Lorne killed Sam Hess in the first place; if I was a hired killer I doubt I'd use my skills for charity. But hey, Lorne is most likely a sociopath, so with him, anything goes. 

Through Lorne's murder of Hess, we were introduced to Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers, a pair of men hired to catch whoever killed the big bully who had ties to the mob. So far they've mistaken two different men for the murderer—the second being Lester—and they're completely unaware that Lorne even exists. In the most auxiliary part of Fargo, we've had the chance to tag along with Lorne as he goes about his "day job," and his latest gig involves investigating whoever might be blackmailing Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt). This week, Lorne realized that Don Chumph (outstanding character name, played by Glenn Howerton) was behind the scheme, and apparently he got to the guy, because the effeminate and eternally bronzed physical trainer for Milos's wife is now helping Lorne take it on. Oh gosh, I haven't even mentioned Gus Grimley (Colin Hanks) yet, the cop from Duluth who managed to pull Lorne over and let him go before he learned that Lorne was a suspect in the Bemidji triple homicide. Oh, and there might be some romance brewin' between Gus and Molly.  


That's a LOT of plot and a huge paragraph to tell it. Normally that would sink a show, but here I think it's more like a dragging anchor that'll eventually get pulled up as we spend more time in this universe. Until then, I could use some of Milos's adderall to get the focus I need to keep up with Fargo. I'm fully invested in Lester's attempts to escape the murder of his wife, and I love watching him squirm as the dragnet cinches around him; that's what Fargo is to me. Lorne's blackmailing plot, not so much. For the last few episodes, it's merely taken him away from Lester, and watching the two of them interact was one of the joys of the pilot. ("You let a man beat you in front of his sons to teach them a lesson?") I'm sure in about a month we'll all have a laugh over this ("Hey, remember that time when Tim was too dumb to keep track of everything that was happening on Fargo?") because despite the stories feeling tangled right now, by season's end I'm sure we'll have a rich tapestry. Fargo is fantastic, but we might have to do an 10-Episode Test (patent pending) to decide whether it's one the all-time greats. 



NOTES


– What I'm hoping happens with Lester and his interactions with Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers (at the end of this episode, he was stuck in a jail cell with them) is that Lester is forced to rat out Lorne. That will once again tie Lester and Lorne together, and the sooner we come to a showdown between Lorne and the two hitmen, the better.

– How long until Milos gives up the cash? He seems like a stubborn man who might hold out through all the signs of Lorne's Rapture. And maybe I missed something, but why hasn't he had more meetings with Lorne since the blackmailer upped the price?

– Bill (Bob Odenkirk): Lovable small-town cop with old-fashioned values, or boneheaded dinosaur? 

– As some of you have noted in the comments, the case of money found by young Milos in the opening was a clever tie-in to the film and a smart way to establish timelines. Steve Buscemi's character left the case behind in the movie, and Milos presumably found it some 18 years ago (Fargo was released in 1996), buried in a snow pile by the side of the road. Sorry I left it out initially; it's been almost 20 years since I've seen the movie. 

– Lester is dealing with two persistent reminders of his dirty deed: his still-bloody apartment and the buckshot embedded in his hand. But it's the hand wound that's an ingenious "ticking clock," as it's beginning to get infected. He'll have to see a doctor soon, and that will mean explaining how the shrapnel ended up in his hand. 



Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 12/14/2015

Season 2 : Episode 10

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I kinda agree with what your opinion of the show. All these stories would at some point converge but right now it's slow.

Just one small correction: the movie told a story that had happened in 1987. The series tell a story that has happened in 2006. So, it's 19 years between the two (and the money).
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I think you totally got it with "I'm not really disappointed in the show, but I do get the feeling that it could be a little better than it is". I think the problem is that there are not enough characters a viewer can root for. Most are despicable and/or risible. Other than Molly in her search for justice, the show does not present with any way to engage emotionally with the show and as a result it comes off as a cold show. This show is coming off as a bit of a bully, putting everybody down, even Molly comes across as a bit of an underdog with that old sherif putting her down. In the end one almost feels like rooting for Lorne in a slightly sick way...

I will keep watching and sure it is beautifully shot and acted, has fab music too but so far i do not care much for any of the characters (other than Molly) so I am not really invested and could stop watching any time.
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Who are those two guys that tried to kill Lester?!
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I think Lorne is a freelance professional hit-man who does 'pro-bono' work for fun. He likes to currupt people.

Bill is definately a boneheaded dinosaur. That's why the dead sherif told Molly that she should be the one to take over after him.
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Not sure what more you would want for a show. I know you said you're nitpicking but how could every episode be a five-star classic? This show and its characters/cast are amazing thus far.
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I disagree with this review.
This episode was not only good, it was great !
Why ? Because you never know what's gonna happen but everything seems logical.
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Why is everyone so confused about the timeline of this show? It says at the beginning of every episode that it is set in 2006. It said that the year was 1987 right before he found the money by the side of the road. Where's the confusion?
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Maybe slightly worrying that the show is good when directly or indirectly referencing Coen stuff. I mean the dumb trainer, Brad Pitt in Burn after Reading surely?
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Bill (Bob Odenkirk): Lovable small-town cop with old-fashioned values, or boneheaded dinosaur?


He's a boneheaded small-town cop AND a lovable dinosaur :)
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I am also enjoying the references to other Coen brothers movies. maybe its just me, but i'm sure that i spotted the drifting cowboy from "the big lebowski" sitting in the diner, behind Mr Numbers and Mr Hess?
he certainly looks very similar :)
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I feel really stupid right now. While watching one of Lester's scene, I actually thought to my self "You know, William H. Macy will be perfect in that role". I completely forgot that he actually played the same character in the original movie
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Oh Sheriff Bill is even worse than just incompetent, which I am taking just from this week's episode, I'm sure he is likely just tied in to the mob that Hess was (I too can't wait for the showdown between Lorne and the hitmen, because I am pretty sure at least when Lorne kidnapped that frozen body guy they were all working for the same entity).

I have always interpreted Lorne being sort of like Hannibal and likes sending chaos in order (like with the motel owner's son) to get a kick out of it, but Lester is kind of like his Will (going with my Hannibal connection). And he likes that he left such a bomb back there in Bimidjie. I actually think it will be interesting because Gus still has to go deal with the dog at Starvros' place, but Lorne might deduce that Gus is talking to someone and it won't take long for him to figure out that Molly is the brains of this operation.

I do wonder if at some point in time that Molly will realize that she has no real avenues to pursue (though I have to say if presented with real hard evidence I think the Duluth police might actually listen to her) that she reaches out to the state police or the FBI.
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I reckon we are seeing Lester grow as a human. The Lester in Episode 1 would never have distracted his bro to steal a taser thingie, much less use the taser thingie on a big mean old thug hitman.
This is what Lorne Malvo is about, he is trying to wake up the sleeping ninnies and let them know that buying into the BS the predator class hands out is a one way ticket up shit creek sans paddle.

The only really bad thing Lorne has done is the death of the insurance clerk. We all assume it was a hit but if it was what was the slicing off the clothes and the road trip in the trunk for? Maybe he was gonna scare the living beejus outta the bloke & in doing so convince him to get outta Dodge for good. Who knows, I have no doubt that we will discover what was going on that night at some stage.

This brings me to the absurd whinges about the dog's demise.
Firstly it is a TV show so we can be sure that the hypocrites from the humane society will have ensured no harm befell any real 'doggie' in the making of the show.
I say hypocrites because the same people who complain about dog abuse are very often the same people who mutilate dogs to make their own lives more comfortable. These so called dog lovers think nothing of ripping off a dog's testicles, wrenching the ovaries out of an adolescent female, or crushing the voicebox of a dog they believe talks too much or too loudly.
Dog lovers eh?

How would you like to be permantly silenced by some much larger & more powerful creature, & still be expected to loyally listen to the stupid big thing's BS without answering back?
Worst of all many of these so called dog lovers make money inbreeding dogs into ridiculous parodies of animals that are so far removed from a dog's natural state the wolf, that the dog is incapable of living independently free of human domination.
Imagine having such a twisted & incestuous lineage that you can't breathe unless your slave owner forks out for rhinoplasty (british bulldog) can't even walk properly without extensive operations on your hips (hip dysplasia common to just about every 'pedigree breed') knowing your life is gonna be short and painful due to athritis just because your owner wanted a dog with the correct shaped ears (correct for looking at but not so hot for using to hear shit with).

End of rant.

Back to the show which is OK I thought last night was one of the better ones -there is no doubt that the current fashion for sticking 57 seemingly irrelevant plots into every TV drama means that wading through the set ups for exposition or climactic occurrence can be hard work, Fargo at least tries to use a bit of humour to get the audience through the slow parts.

Anyone bored by the cop shop scene should ponder this. If these cops incompetently let real doers go because the doer is smarter than them, yet they still manage to keep arrest rates up sufficiently to keep the federal grants flowing, who are they catching - not real doers but all too often anyone they can find who is less smart, or less aware of the grinding machinery of 'justice' than they are - that is who; and that is not an issue confined to television.
Even the slow bits of Fargo are horribly relevant to our existences.
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Thank you, for what you said about dogs.
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Great thoughts there! I've mean bemoaning Lester's lack of character development, but you make some excellent points as to how Lorne has started this transformation within his characters, and how we've seen him evolving ever so slowly over the first four episodes.

Interesting point about the justice system, too. It's often difficult, or even seems irrelevant, to take situations presented on television and film and apply them to the real worlds. Like you said, by doing it here, the possible subtext the writers wanted to present comes to fruition. Great insight.
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This review is written by someone who thought that all 8 episodes of 'True Detective' where perfect so I'm not taking his reviews seriously from now on.....
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The best part of the show is Billy Bob. His trickster chaos character is so entertaining.
Do you really think this is better than True Detectives? I like Fargo but TD was much better imo.
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It would be absolutely fun to watch the conversation between Rust & Lorne lol
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so true!
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This show has me saying something I never, ever thought I would say: Fargo is worth watching just for Billy Bob Thornton.
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Who said this series was better than True Detective, certainly not @TimSpot, ne LOVED True Detective. Anyway, if we're throwing honest opinions around, I think Fargo is much better, but I guess it comes down to a matter of taste. For one, I find that a great series needs to be able to balance humour and drama effectively, and True Detective sparsely did that, whereas Fargo is masterful at doing so.
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Tim said it was the leading contender for the best new TV series of the year
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Fargo the TV series is a very clever way to remake a movie from decades ago. It pays tribute to the original by having the same setting and idea but tell its own story.

The money case in the show was another good example of paying tribute.

I agreed with Tim. I loved episode one & three. I rate them as one of the best TV episodes ever but not so much with episode two and four. This 4th episode was slightly better than two though.

Billy Bob Thornton is killing it in this show. I never liked him very much in the movies but he should get a nomination for his acting here. This week he was again fantastic playing the "minister".

I do agree with others here that they need to make the other characters more interesting. Right now Molly and Lester seems a little one dimensional. I keep waiting for them to make Lester more clever and brave.

Well, this episode he did punch an office to get away from Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers.

One thing about the review though.

Lorne already realized that Don Chumph was blackmailing Starvos last episode not this one.
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people here must have really "seen it all," or so far lived exciting lives to be bored by this show.
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I turned it off when Lorne killed the dog - that was a deal-breaker for me
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I didn't stop watching as they didn't actually kill a dog, but it definitely recieved it's first strike.
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That's the show's only misstep for me so far. I was really hoping Milos would walk out to find the dog chewing the heck out of a really big bone, but no such luck.
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I Hope to "God" This Is Was A Set Up Piece

How Can An Infinitely Great Show Of Actors And Cinematography Seem To Drag. Usually shows I like - Fargo included - keep my eyes on both the screen and how much more time is left. Somewhere about the 27 minute mark of E4 though, I found myself wondering why I was so bored. I am sure Lorne's police arrest will look important later; but it was not compelling viewing. Everyone watching that segment of screen time, knew Lorne was going to get out of it on purpose. Lester? Yes I know his hand is a ticking time bomb. But how many times can we watch him looking at it and wincing. We know Molly will someday prevail, but all we got last night was more status quo she is not being regarded seriously.

Clever Tie Back To The Movie Fargo? Initially it seemed great. And I had to remember the show Fargo takes place in 1987 (less we wonder how a suitcase of money would not be seen in summers gone by since the movie). But it seemed like a desperate plot device to make up for what was going to be a less-than noteworthy episode.

Speaking Of Plot Devices. The plague. Another case of bringing something to a table that was mostly bare. "God" and Bible are either going to be an ingenious red herring or something that makes the show as apocalyptic as Zombies. I hope it is the former. Because the latter isn't why I am watching the show. The show is supposed to be a crime drama (True Detective) placed in the middle of winter with simple folk. Not a drama that is ethereal.

E4. If this was a set up piece, E4 will be forgiven. But E4 did raise some worrisome doubts. One's that I hope are misplaced.
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also, the show takes place in 2006. the viewer is only reminded of that every time they watch the opening sequence of every episode. are you really paying attention?
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Come on now. Obvious flashback. Did you not get that with the show informing the viewer it was 1987 and the grocery store owner being a different, younger version of himself?

Obviously he came across the ransom money shortly after it was buried. I didn't think it was that difficult to put together.
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The flashback took place in 1987. I assume shortly after the movie ended but before the snow melted.
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I don't see the hype to be honest, it's an alright show but it's just not grabbing me. the pilot felt so long and dragged out and none of the characters are that interesting. if it was a full series I probably would have quit on it by now but it's only going to be 10 episodes so I'll atleast finish it out.
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I dropped the series after episode 3, there's just not enough sense to the successful characters, and the driving force seems to be catching Lester who really just isn't interesting or slippery enough as a villain to watch get caught. It makes everybody fools, and I just wasn't engaged by that.

I do agree that it has a very good cast, and it is shot beautifully, that's something I can get behind.

But while the first episode had me fully on board with Lorne Malvo and then he slowly got sillier and dumber as episodes 2 and 3 progressed, until he finished episode 3 with some of the most ridiculous, unbelievable, and patently stupid behavior. I loved that Lorne's unique brand of ethics drove him to stalk and kill Sam Hess, even using the Hess twins' against each other to avoid being identified. But his turning on Stavros Milos just didn't feel authentic.

I like Molly, but the more we see her, the more one-dimensional she feels -- in part because her main antagonist isn't Lester or Lorne but the new sheriff she was supposed to have replaced who is the flattest character in the series. So the stuff with her and Gus really feels like it has a hollow foundation.

Hey there, Tim, uh... you didn't review the 4th episode there, buddy. Just so ya know, okay? Alrighty there.
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Basically unwatchable. So bad. Wow, terrible.
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"unwatchable"? Really? If this is unwatchable, then what, pray tell, do you watch?
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Pray tell, what I watch currently are Hannibal, Orphan Black, Louie, The Americans, Legit, Silicon Valley, Mad Men, Person of Interest, Veep and I also recently have enjoyed House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Justified, True Detective, Sherlock Broadchurch, Banshee, The Fall, Rectify

Got any issues?

But by all means, keep your low, low, low standards. I don't mind.
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Nope, not gonna waste my time. You enjoy your shows and I'll enjoy mine.
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Probably Duck Dynasty and Real Housewives....
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Didn't Stavros Milos find the money 10 years ago in the show's timeline? It is set in 2006.
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19 years ago (in the show's timeline).
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The subtle humor is priceless! Love the show, love the characters - hope it is here to stay.
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I'm completely off board with you on this; this episode was awesome. This was actually the one that completely sold me - the humor reached a series high (I laughed so hard at those two chumps interviewing Lorne), the different stories are gaining momentum (Collin Hanks and Smart Cop are now completely convinced who Lorne is - and yes, my memory for names is that bad), the acting is as good as it gets and the show's shots are incredibly beautiful. But most of all, it's the dialogue. I could listen to random people have conversations on this show and I'd dig it. Hearing them say 'Jah' cracks me up every time!

I don't think we can judge this show on an episode-basis. More than any other show I've seen this is an episodic drama, despite every two episodes being shot by different directors. It has to many different stories to tell for every episode to be seen and judged on its own. And yes, I'm sure Milos will be connected to the 'main' story line in its own time.

The only thing that bummed me out about this episode was that it didn't have Sam Hess's wife and sons in it. Those guys are killing it.
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Loving this series thus far and I think it will not disappoint. The cast is superb. The humor always sneaks up on me. That final scene from last night's episode may have lasted 1 minute but I must have laughed for 10 minutes straight! My only nitpick would be Lester's hand wound. He was in the hospital, unconscious, and yet the doctors and nurses didn't check it out. Huh? Guess the hand wound will be Lester's downfall.
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I don't know if I say I love the show, hell, I might not even say that I like it, what I do have to concede is that it's compelling as shit. I say I'm not sure if I like it because I really don't know who the root for, on one hand Lester's so meek and mild mannered it's almost sickening, not to mention he killed his wife but his wife was an insufferable bitch, not a reason to kill someone in real life but in a tv show, well lets just say I'm not mourning the loss. Then we have Lorne, who killed a dog last episode, a cardinal sin in tv, but he's a really interesting character and his scenes are great. There are also the cops who obviously have the moral high ground but they're not really charismatic, cops in shows about criminals always annoy me because they're always getting in the way and causing problems, they keep the story from moving forward as I'd like it to so I'm not pulling for any of them but I feel like we're supposed to be. It's just confusing, but with all of that in mind it's never boring which is the greatest sin a tv show can comit, after killing dogs of course.
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You're not wrong. Molly is a doormat, Gus is a twitchy klutz (not un-similar to Lester), Bill is bling and useless, Lorne is sadistic, and I couldn't really explain what Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench are at this stage of the series. I can see how it's difficult to find someone to root for, but that's not something I always need in a series, and I've just loving watching things unfold (although I do hope Lester, Gus, and Molly evolve into more assertive characters as the series progresses, so that they at least can match the 'villains' of the story).
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All this talk about the bag of money from the film... I may just have to watch it again, which I don't want to do, it's no good compard to the series.
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'I'm struggling to determine whether it belongs in the highly gifted magnet school for hyper-advanced television shows' - it does, Tim, it really does.

I know there's still a lot of television to air this year, and that the series isn't even halfway through yet, but I just know that Fargo will go down as my favourite television series of 2014.
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After the pilot, I thought, it was nicely slow and deliberate . . . and I wondered if it could sustain itself. I'm thinking it can't.
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You found the pilot slow? I thought it was surprisingly fast-paced.
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Tim I think you misunderstand Lorne Malvo. He didn't kill Hess as an altruistic act for Lester. He did it because he just loves to kill. He is just more sadistic than the average hit man.

I suppose you could make the argument it is reckless, but I think it works.
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Lorne killed Hess because he likes his job and does 'pro-bono' work when opportunity presents itself.
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Lorne killed Hess because Lorne lives for chaos. He's not happy unless he's upsetting someone's apple cart.
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"Bill (Bob Odenkirk): Lovable small-town cop with old-fashioned values, or boneheaded dinosaur?"

Option 3. He's going to turn out to be connected with Lorne. His part has been too calculatingly reserved.
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Seriously?
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Great episode and yes I think it can be put up there with one of the greats.
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You forgot to mention the awesome tie-in to the film, with Milos finding the $1,000,000 (minus 40,000 or so) that Steve buscemi's character left behind.
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Fargo is one of my favorite movies. I think the show is holding its own with such a high standard to live up to. And the subtle nods to the movie are spectacular. I haven't watched this episode yet, but in last week's episode "A Muddy Road", does anyone else think that Milos got his money from the buried bag of cash in the movie? I can't think of any other reason why he would have that ice scraper framed in his office.
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Wow, I didn't even notice the framed ice scraper last week! You should catch up on the new episode, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised! ;-)
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