A Look at Fargo- Season 1, Episode 3: “A Muddy Road”

Mental note: keep an eye out for spiders.

With “A Muddy Road,” we see Lester backed into a corner before finally letting loose some aggression, while Lorne shows a cruel side to Stavros Milos.  In the middle of all of this, Deputy Solverson feels she’s closing in on Lester’s possible involvement with the murders before possibly getting the luckiest break she’s received yet.

A Muddy Road- Phil McCormick, just another day at the office

The episode begins at an office building, where the unsuspecting Phil McCormick, played by Dave Trimble, is just at his desk, staring at his aquarium screen saver.  He gets an unexpected visit from Lorne Malvo, who drags McCormick out of the office by his neck tie and into the parking garage.  Malvo pulls out a blade and orders McCormick to disrobe before getting into the trunk of his car.

A Muddy Road- Phil rests against tree after escaping Lorne Malvo's car

That evening, as McCormick awaits his fate, things go awry and the car is brought to a screeching halt.  McCormick uses this as an opportunity to escape from the car trunk and run into the night.  He eventually settles against a tree, where he eventually freezes to death.

A Muddy Road- Deputy Molly Solverson takes statements from Phil's coworkers

Sometime later, Deputy Molly Solverson arrives at the office to collect statements from some of Phil’s coworkers.  The officer there lets Molly know that they have the security tape, which shows a clear view of the man’s face.  McCormick’s clothes were also found in the garage.

A Muddy Road- Don Chumph tells Lorne he intended to start a Turkish bath with the ransom money

At the Squat Fitness Foundation, Lorne pays a visit to Dennis- I mean, Don Chumph to tell him that he got bronze on the ransom note.  The two discuss the matter in a closet, where Chumph admits that he wanted something from Stavros Milos.  Lorne questions the specific amount of money, to which Chumph tells Lorne that he wants to start a Turkish bath.  However, there’s the question of how Chumph learned about Stavros’ money in the first place: Helena.  So as it is, Don doesn’t know why he’s blackmailing Stavros because he’s going off of someone else’s story.  No matter.  He’ll answer to Lorne now.

A Muddy Road- Officer Gus Grimly tells his lieutenant about the stolen car

In Duluth, Officer Gus Grimly recounts his run-in with the mysterious man and decides to run the license plate.  The name and face of one Lester Nygaard pop up.  Needing to talk to the chief, he asks Molly, played by Tammy Roberts, about the lieutenant’s whereabouts.  He’s in the john.  So, like anyone else would, Gus enters and tells the lieutenant about the car.  Soon enough, the lieutenant emerges and asks Gus why he pulled over a stolen vehicle and only let the driver go with a warning.  He tells Gus that it’s up to him to find it, but he’ll also have to admit that he screwed up.

After replaying Pearl’s voice in his head, Lester shows up for work.  His boss explains that he must pay a visit to Gina Hess, Sam Hess’ widow.

A Muddy Road- Gina Hess straddles Lester

When he shows up, the Hess’ brothers continue the family tradition of heckling him before their mother, Gina, played by Kate Walsh, tells them to bugger off while she deals with the insurance man.  Lester presents forms that Gina needs to sign, but she’s just interested in money.  It’s only when the two get deep in conversation that Gina recognizes Lester from the funeral.  She begins flirting, telling that he should start dating.  Before I can even complete the thought, she straddles him with her leg, showing off some of the moves she picked up as a stripper in Vegas.  It’s enough of a distraction that one of the brothers shoots the other in the butt with an arrow.

While Gina attends to her sons, Lester spots two figures watching him from afar.

A Muddy Road- Lorne buys adderall

Elsewhere, Lorne buys some adderall from the back of a man’s van, a man whose also selling products in the event that a zombie apocalypse hits.  Too bad The Walking Dead already ended for the season.  This guy would have made a perfect extra or member of the Terminus group.

A Muddy Road- Molly catches up with old friend

At a restaurant, Molly meets up with an old friend, played by Catherine Forbes, and the two catch up.  She now lives in St. Paul and divorced from her husband, Ted, after he had sex with his physical therapist.  Charming.  She eventually settled on a man named Roger until he got a spider bite and one night, in the middle of coitus, they find out that the spider had laid eggs in his neck.  And guess what happened to pop out of Roger’s neck that night.

A Muddy Road- Stavros Milos finds King's body in the snow

Lorne pays a visit to Stavros’ home.  After some breaking and entering, he pours some of the adderall into Stavros’ pill container before going back outside.  When Stavros finally makes his way to the end of the hallway- after just calling King the dog’s name over and over again- he heads outside and, next to a ransom note, finds King’s dead body lying in the snow.

A Muddy Road- Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench pay Lester a visit

Back at work, Lester continues to pick at the wound on his right hand before receiving an unexpected visit from Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench.  The two say little, but they do at least let Lester answer the phone.  He learns that his car has been picked up in Duluth and as soon as he provides the proper documentation and $150, he can come and pick it up.  The pair begin asking about Sam Hess, but then-

A Muddy Road- Molly Solverson pays Lester ANOTHER visit, about insurance policies this time

-yeah, Solverson shows up.  But she’s not there on police business, despite still wearing the police coat, but hey, it must be cold where she is.  At least, so she tells Lester.  She’s just been thinking about her father and wants to buy an insurance policy.  While the two talk, Molly sort of, but not really, drops her folder and out spill various documents, including a photo of the surveillance picture that shows Lorne Malvo’s face as clear as day.  Lester, not exactly a master of subtlety, stops in surprise.  He suddenly realizes that he needs to close up for the day.

A Muddy Road- Stavros Milos rants about ransom note to Lorne

Stavros rants to Lorne about King’s death and the ransom note, but Lorne wants to know who else knows about the money.  According to Stavros, no one, but he still wants his dog’s killer found.  To make things easier, Lorne suggests that he move in since problems can arise at any time.

A Muddy Road- Gus and Greta Grimly look through mugshots

Gus overlooks mugshots with Greta before admitting to her that he screwed up.  He has to call the jurisdiction where the crime took place and let the folks over there know that, due to his mistake, a criminal got away.  Greta suggests that he do it in person.

A Muddy Road- Solverson tells Oswalt about Lester's reaction to the photo

Molly shows Bill the surveillance photo, in addition to telling him about Lester’s reaction to the picture.  Mistake, there.  Bill’s just super-ticked about that and continues to tell her to lay off.  Because that worked so well the first time.

A Muddy Road- Gus Grimly arrives to talk about Lester Nygaard

When Gus and Greta show up, he mentions the missing car belonging to Lester.  Molly is conveniently right there and her day is suddenly better made as she brings Gus to her desk.  He talks about his patrol that night and how he had a bad feeling about Lorne.  He defends what he did by telling Molly that he didn’t know about Lorne or that the car was even stolen until after he ran the plates.  Molly asks Gus if he checked the license and registration when he first ran into Lorne, which he didn’t because Lorne threatened him.  He’s remorseful, but Molly suggests that the three have dinner together.

They head to Lou’s and make small talk of how odd it is for Lester to not report his car stolen.

A Muddy Road- Lester makes the biggest hole

Lester asks Chaz which gun makes the biggest hole before firing rounds outside and letting off what must be tons of stress.

Lorne, meanwhile, leaves Stavros’ for the day just as Stavros, still popping pills, steps into his shower.  All goes well until blood starts raining from the shower head.

Fargo is really settling into its groove and firmly establishing its identity in ways that set it apart from the Coen Brothers’ film, while still retaining some of the same elements that made the film great.  The key characters are Lorne, Malvo and Molly, while everyone around them is affected by their actions.  The exception may be Gus Grimly, as his meeting with Molly may increase his involvement with the investigation.  And the show’s direction really helps you tell who is where, never becoming too confusing or haphazard as an excuse to shove as many characters as possible into an episode.  Rather, side characters play integral roles to help expand the plot or, as would be the case with anything related to the Coen Brothers, provide some dark humor.  And I’ve yet to feel the drama and comedy felt imbalanced.  The humor feels natural, and is aware when it approaches a threshold, such as with the spider eggs story.

A Muddy Road- Lester notices Lorne Malvo in Deputy Solverson's surveillance photo

Lester can feel the walls closing in around him.  He still feels wracked with guilt over what he did to Pearl, as evidenced by him replaying Pearl’s voice in his head.  The fact that he’s constantly recalling the negative things she said about him shows that the two did not have the strongest of relationships.  Not really a fair thing to say, since we only had the pilot to go off of when learning about Pearl’s personality, but the fact is that the two clearly had a strained relationship.

At the same time, Lester also feels like a huge weight is now off of his shoulder.  He’s still adjusting to what Lorne said about the world not having rules.  His view of the world had been flipped upside down.  He can only devote so much time coming to terms with that while also having to watch his back when Deputy Solverson is on his case.  But when he fires rounds at the end, he’s definitely glad to be letting off some steam.

The problem with Lester is his lack of subtlety.  He’s not very good at being sly, which is why Deputy Solverson was so easily able to connect him to Lorne.  Whether it was his reaction to the photo, telling Molly last week that he felt harassed or how hesitant he becomes when Solverson pays a visit, Lester doesn’t have a poker face.  He has something to hide, but he doesn’t have a good way of hiding that.  Not out of character, but it’d be nice if he showed the tiniest bit of subtlety.  But hey, he got Gina Hess to straddle him for a bit, so he didn’t have a bad week at all.

A Muddy Road- Lorne confronts Don Chumph about bronze on blackmail note

Lorne, meanwhile, continues to amass power and influence through his now forged alliance with Dennis- I mean, Don Chumph.  I should stop doing that.  But anyway, Lorne again shows his lack of remorse through the murder of Stavros’ dog, King.  I mean, why the dog?  To get under Stavros’ skin?  It seems like Lorne accomplished that both through the blood in the shower and swapping out Stavros’ pills.  Now that he’s living so close to Stavros, Lorne probably won’t be suspected of committing atrocities he’s been hired to stop.  Clever move.

A Muddy Road- Lorne on surveillance

What’s not clever, however, is his abduction of Phil at the beginning.  While I enjoyed seeing the events that led up to the pilot’s opening, Lorne had to know that an office building would have security cameras, but he made no attempt to conceal his identity or remove the cameras.  He couldn’t be that naïve.  Did he do it on purpose?  Because as is, it looks like a pretty dumb thing to do.

A Muddy Road- Molly Solverson

Deputy Solverson also had a minor lapse in judgment with her plan to trick Lester.  Sure, it worked, but this doesn’t help her already hard relationship with Bill, since he wants to move on from Lester.  Though I’ll say this about Solverson: I appreciate that she’s a proactive officer.  Rather than just sitting on her thumbs and waiting for something for Lester to come forward, she seeks him out for more questions, even if it’s a giant inconvenience to him.  She knows that something is amiss and she’s just doing what she believes is the right thing to do.  That makes her a good cop, but also shows her willingness to challenge authority.  Like Frances McDormand in the original film, Tolman displays much confidence in her performance.  She can be kind and approachable in one scene, but turn on detective mode in an instant.

A Muddy Road- Molly Solverson at Lester's office after Lester recognizes Lorne Malvo

Like Lester, however, Molly isn’t all that subtle in her approach, either.  She approached Lester under the guise of wanting to talk about life insurance policies, but the timing of it is all too questionable, given how frequently Molly wants to ask Lester just a few more questions.

It’s also super convenient how she’s the only officer investigating this matter.  Given how Bill said she was off the case, I figured that someone else would at least approach Lester.  Heck, Bill and Molly seem to be the only active officers on the force.  I mean, it really is convenient that Solverson happens to be at the police station the very night that Gus Grimly comes over with information regarding the man she saw in surveillance footage.  It’s nitpicking, but small things like that are hard for me to ignore.

A Muddy Road- Gus and Greta have milkshakes with Solverson

As for Gus, though, it seems that he’s in a prime position to push Solverson’s case forward.  Grimly seems like another good cop, but maybe more hesitant and even a little scared.  He seemed embarrassed to say that he felt threatened by Lorne, but taking Greta’s advice to talk about his screw-ups in person shows that he’s willing to confront his fears head-on when motivated.  Not sure what will come out of his partnership with Molly, as it looks like she’s just trying to get information out of him.  The small talk was nice, but hey, you’ve got to break the ice somehow as opposed to just going straight to the questions.  I’m sure it’s the start of a beautiful friendship.

Just no stories about spider eggs during sex.  That mental image is now carved into my brain.

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