After last episode's one-year time jump, Fargo built up Lester Nygaard into a booty-slaying, insurance-selling macho machine. And his transformation from shoulder-slouching, speech-stuttering pushover to widow-banging, forehead-stapling office king to all-around alpha dog instantly became the most fascinating part of the series.
In the final moments of "The Heap," Lester's manhood was put to the test when he randomly encountered the man who made him—Billy Bob Thorton's Lorne Malvo—in a Vegas hotel bar, and for one infinitesimally long moment, we hung in a beautiful state of pondering Lester's next move. Would he cower before the killer who inspired him to stand up for himself, or was he so bloated with conceit that he'd try to steamroll the guy? Or as a third option, would he engage Malvo as a proud student, eager to show how far he'd come?
After some in-your-
face-mouth dentistry and an update on Malvo (he's "aces," thank you much), we got the answer to that question in "A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage." Lester sauntered over to Malvo with a smooth "Wassssup?" clearly wanting to show his mentor how much progress he'd made since his nose bled all over the place that one fateful day in the emergency room. After Malvo played coy and pretended that he didn't recognize Lester (I still kind of wish that the gent Lester confronted had turned out to be the real Billy Bob Thornton), Lester reasserted himself, ultimately starting his nightmare all over again. When Malvo asked him, "Is this what you want?" and Lester answered in the affirmative, Malvo shot his three compadres—including his new fiancée and his dentist co-worker played by Stephen Root—in the head.
It was at this point that Lester understandably changed his tune from the ferocious bark of a big dog to the whimper of a scaredy cat. I mean, Malvo just capped three people in a Vegas hotel elevator because Lester blew his cover. And Lester's evolution hadn't reached a level where he could stay cool in the face of a triple homicide. Obviously Lester didn't have much choice but to run.
But Fargo had a choice, and I'm not sure it took the most interesting path. After their little skirmish in Vegas, the rest of "A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage" focused mostly on Lester scampering away from the mere thought of Malvo, and ultimately from Malvo himself. Lester was reduced to the wimp we met at the start of the series, and with only one episode left, it looks like he might remain that way. I don't know about you, but I was preparing myself for more of a showdown between Lester 2.0 and Malvo as the two fought for the spot at the top of the food chain. But Lester backtracked quite a bit as he realized that he'll never be the same caliber of psycho as Malvo; rather than continuing his Walter White trajectory by going from being a nobody to being the danger, he retreated like a puppy with its tail between its legs. It's too bad, because I was getting into that. I wanted to see Lester go from prey to predator.
Lester still has time to turn this around and show off his newfound guts, though. Given that he sent his wife into his insurance shop as a decoy and watched Malvo blow her brains out, it seems he's still willing to go to some really messed-up places for his own gain. However, knowing how he craftily framed his brother for Pearl's murder makes his decision to send Linda in on a suicide mission seem more like cowardice than cunning. Was the Lester 2.0 we saw in the previous two episodes a sham? Or does he just know that Malvo is the one man he'll never be able to top? We'll find out next week.
– Wondering how to solve Agent Budge's riddle about the fox, the rabbit, and the cabbage? The man takes the rabbit across the river in the boat and drops it off. Then he goes back and gets the fox, and takes it across the river. Before he leaves to get the cabbage, he grabs the rabbit and takes it back with him, and then he exchanges it for the cabbage. That means he's in the boat with the cabbage while the fox is on one side of the river and the rabbit is on the other. He leaves the cabbage with the fox, then goes back one last time for the rabbit and brings it across. Voila! Now he still has to worry about the fox eating the rabbit and the rabbit eating the cabbage, but at least he's on the other side of the river.
– Malvo is now pulling six-month-long cons? Hmm...
– It's always great to see Stephen Root in anything, but seeing him play a sleazy dentist was amazing.
– I still laugh every time I see Key & Peele on this show, and I'm excited to see them in the fold with Molly. Hopefully they'll play a big role in the finale.
– How alpha is Malvo? He ordered sparkling water from the waitress and then walked out before it came.
AIRED ON 6/17/2014
Season 1 : Episode 10