‘Fargo’ Episode 2 Review: “The Rooster Prince”

By April 22, 2014
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There’s something about FX’s new limited series “Fargo” that feels too cinematic. This isn’t a complaint, mind you – Noah Hawley does a great job in echoing the look and vibe of the original Coen Brothers masterpiece. This is what makes “Fargo” stand out from every other show currently (ever?) airing on FX. I compared the series to “Breaking Bad” last week and I stand by that comparison as AMC achieved cinematic excellence with that Vince Gilligan-helmed series. Even with their bottle episodes, you felt like you experienced something. In “Fargo’s” second episode “The Rooster Prince,” the domino effect that started on that chance meeting between Lester Nygaard and Lorne Malvo continues. And even though nothing earth-shattering happened, there was still plenty to experience.

The episode opens on another car driving on another long empty highway amidst an expansive snowy backdrop. It’s pretty evident right away that the two odd characters in the car are from that Fargo crime syndicate briefly referenced last week.

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How odd are these characters? Well, first off, we have The Hebrew Hammer…err…I mean “Mr. Numbers” (played by the always awesome Adam Goldberg). It’s always a pleasure seeing him on screen and the fact that he is who he is and his character is named “Mr. Numbers” gives me hope that things are gonna get crazy in the coming episodes. His partner in the passenger seat is “Mr. Wrench” (played by Russell Harvard). These two are distant echoes of Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) from the 1996 film. The biggest difference so far is that Mr. Wrench is deaf and communicates through what looks like caveman-style sign language. Given Adam Goldberg’s character acting repertoire, I’m only going to assume his Mr. Numbers will echo the neurotic nature of Buscemi’s Showalter in coming episodes.

We quickly find out that the two are on a mission to find the one responsible for Sam Hess’ death in episode one. They visit the deceased man’s workplace and talk with Hess’ old friend Max Gold, who immediately describes the strange visit by Lorne Malvo. So Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench have a lead, and Molly Solverson has a hunch.

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In “The Crocodile Dilemma,” she began to suspect Lester’s involvement in the recent rash of murders in town. Now, amidst the grief in losing Police Chief Vern Thurman, she’s even more set on connecting the suspicious Nygaard to the violence that’s hit their small town. The issue here is, being that this is a small town, everyone knows everyone – and Solverson’s new Police Chief is Bill Oswalt. Oswalt is a perfect character for Bob Odenkirk to play and not only is he bumbling in his own right, he is also a bit timid just like Lester Nygaard. The concept of Nygaard somehow being connected to the murders throws Oswalt for a loop as he recalls when they were kids, Lester was known to pass out at the sight of blood. In episode 1, we saw Oswalt puke at the sight of blood; it seems he doesn’t believe Lester could be driven to murder since they both share this weak constitution.

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Unfortunately for Solverson, she is now obligated to follow Police Chief Oswalt’s lead. The conversation Solverson had with Thurman last week alluded to her own rise to leading the department. This actual turn of events feels like foreshadowing and seems to push her forward on her own hunch and investigation. Unfortunately for her, the insistent questioning of Nygaard pushes Oswalt to re-assign her elsewhere due to Lester’s formal harassment complaint.

Everyone in “The Rooster Prince” seems to be investigating someone. And while the first two I mentioned involve the murders that happened in last week’s episode, we find Lorne Malvo on an assignment of his own. In a very Coen Brothers-esque scene, we see Malvo at a mail room picking up a package. He refuses the employee’s request for identification and won’t give out his name. But he insists there is a package waiting for him addressed to “Duluth.”

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The man behind the counter suggests this interaction is highly irregular.

No, ‘highly irregular’ is the time I found a human foot in the toaster oven.

You guys, Lorne Malvo is my new favorite TV bad guy. Thornton makes Malvo into this amalgamation of strange, evil, and fun, which makes everything he does on screen so captivating. The package he receives sends him to investigate the alleged blackmail of Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt), aka The Supermarket King. And with Stavros, another quirky (and shady) character has been added to the “Fargo” tapestry.

FARGO - Pictured: Oliver Platt as Stavros Milos. CR: Chris Large/FX

Malvo’s investigation leads him to question Stavros’ wife and he happens to catch her in the middle of her fitness routine. This is where Malvo meets her newly bronzed trainer Don Chump (played by Glenn Howerton) and yet again, another strange character is added into the mix! While we don’t quite know where Malvo’s assignment is leading him, there are signs pointing to Chump’s involvement.

Oh, and how about that scene in Malvo’s hotel room? He’s confronted by Stavros’ old bodyguard who wants him off the case. How does Mr. Lorne Malvo reply? Well, by dropping his pants and using the toilet right in front of the man. So, that happened.

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I’ve gone all this way without really discussing Lester Nygaard. It’s very interesting to watch Martin Freeman play Lester, since the character is a murderer. He’s walking the line between elation and grief. Freeman’s talent at conveying this emotional honesty adds a layer to the show that mirrors the line “Fargo” itself walks between absurdity and utter darkness. We see Lester dealing with the aftermath of his decision and he has a hard time going into the basement. His brother offers him a place to stay and soon the concept of putting his house on the market isn’t a bad one. Last week he punched his brother in the face and this week he’s is moving into his house. These are desperate times in Lester’s life.

Another minor character in the series is Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks). He’s a police officer in Duluth who had a very brief but chilling run-in with Lorne Malvo during a routine traffic stop in “The Crocodile Dilemma.” Grimly is a man who is seems to be struggling with his responsibilities as single father to his daughter over the violent possibilities his job may pose. It’s pretty safe to predict that Gus Grimly will be running into Lorne Malvo again, right?

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The episode began with Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers, so shall it end with them as well. You see, they found a man matching the description of Sam Hess’ killer but it turns out to be another brown haired dude with a head wound. Their mistake noted, the two drag the poor sap out to the middle of a frozen lake, drill open a hole and proceed to drop him in head first. It may not be a wood chipper, but it’s still quite early!

What did you think of episode 2 of FX’s “Fargo”? Let me know in the comments below, won’tcha?

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Aside from throwing words onto your screen here, he has written for the likes of FEARnet, Examiner, Dread Central and MTV Movies Blog. And yes, he was Percy on VR Troopers.
  • Sean

    I really was looking forward to this series, and the first episode didn’t disappoint. I was hoping that would only be the start of a rapid decent into a twisted rabbit hole. Instead episode 2 definitely leveled off a little bit to introduce the secondary characters. It’s ok though, that just leaves a solid foundation for the crazy later.

    • I agree. It wasn’t as crazy but since we only have 10 episodes to work with, an episode like this is necessary.