A Look at Fargo- Season 1, Episode 7: “Who Shaves the Barber?”

Last week’s explosive ending left us with many questions: what would become of Deputy Solverson’s fate?  Would Lester successfully set Chaz up for murder?  How would Malvo react to almost being caught?

This episode had the task of answering those questions, but also progress the storyline without dwelling too much on last week’s episode.  What we got was a solid episode that, above all things, showed the further evolution of Lester’s character as he slips into madness.  Additionally, Malvo’s thirst for revenge has no bounds and Solverson slowly realizes she may be one of the few rational and sane police officers in maybe the entire state.

The episode begins in a hospital as Gus Grimly awaits the news of Molly Solverson’s fate.

Juxtaposed against this are Chaz, Kitty and Gordo having breakfast.  Before heading off to school, Gordo grabs his backpack, unaware of what’s inside.

Who Shaves the Barber- Gun falls out of Gordo's backpack at school

When Gordo arrives at school, two of his classmates roughhouse and knock over Gordo’s backpack.  A gun slides out from the backpack and across the floor.  That’s not how show-and-tell works, Gordo.

Back at the Nygaard residence, a knock at the door interrupts Kitty’s vacuuming.  Bill and other officers arrive with a search warrant.  Kitty calls Chaz at his job with the news that Gordo’s been arrested and that cops are searching their home.

Chaz arrives just in time to find Bill opening his gun stash and find the damning evidence that implicates him for the murder of Pearl Nygaard.

Who Shaves the Barber- Lester tells his own version of what happened on the night Pearl was killed

So let’s go to the other Nygaard brother for a moment.  Lester sits in holding until Bill arrives.  Bill, not Molly.  Lester wonders why she isn’t present- hey, if she’s on your case, consider this a blessing, Lester- but since she was, you know, shot, she’s unable to be present for this.  Lester puts on his best performance and is completely and utterly shocked to know about the items found in Chaz’s home.

Bill sympathizes with him, he really does.  He knows that Lester has pined for Pearl since their school days.  But Lester is just distraught at this news.  As he tells Bill, what happened is that he knew that Pearl and Chaz were having an affair, but he loved her too much to do anything about it.

On that fateful night, he heard Pearl tell Chaz that he’s not even half the man his brother is.  Lester wanted to say something, but he was just so doggone afraid.  Bill lets Lester know that if Chaz is guilty, he’ll have the book thrown at him.

As Lester leaves, Chaz watches and rages at his brother from his cell.  Lester just smiles in silent triumph.

Who Shaves the Barber- Molly in snowstorm flashback

We then flash back to last week’s snowstorm.  Molly navigates through the blizzard and comes face to face with Lorne Malvo for a split second before something else grabs her attention.  She fires two shots and downs someone, but then someone downs her.

Who Shaves the Barber- Gus with Molly in her hospital room

Solverson awakens to find Greta in her face.  Sheesh, Greta, personal space, much?  Gus has his daughter leave the room before he fills Molly in: Malvo escaped and the assault rifle-wielding man she shot is in intensive care.  He then admits to shooting Molly by accident in the middle of a blinding snowstorm.

Oh, and she’s down a spleen, so there’s that unfortunate news, too.  Gus suspects there will be an inquiry later, meaning that he’ll lose his badge after confessing to shooting a fellow officer.  Molly doesn’t take it too hard.  After all, she could just as easily have shot Gus.  Hell, she probably would have been a better shot, too.

Lester returns to his residence and calls a cleaning service about tidying up his home.  He gets far enough to mention that there’s blood in the home before the cleaning provider hangs up the phone.

Who Shaves the Barber- Mr. Rundle in swimming pool class

In Reno, Nevada, we revisit Mr. Rundle, played by Brian Jensen, as he heads to Rundle Realty.  He’s unable to sit in his office chair, though.

Who Shaves the Barber- Malvo in Mr. Rundle's chair

It’s a bit occupied.  Lorne Malvo would like to know why Rundle has a pin in every state except for Georgia.  Well, Rundle had a Korean wife who spit on him during sex.  Not sure what that has to do with Georgia, but we’ll just accept that for now.  Malvo then inquires as to how someone managed to find him.  Rundle denies any involvement.  He’s also not about to get involved with someone’s private affairs, and if someone is coming after Lorne Malvo, then it’s personal.

So Malvo leaves Rundle with two options: between the two of them sit two phones.  One calls an ambulance and the other calls a hearse.

We don’t know what Rundle chose, but we do hear a woman scream as Malvo leaves Rundle Realty.

Who Shaves the Barber- Molly pays a visit to Mr. Wrench

Back at the hospital, Molly meets with the man she shot, who turns out to be Mr. Wrench. Of course, since he’s deaf and doesn’t have Mr. Numbers to translate for him, their conversation doesn’t go very far.  Despite the possibility of jail time, Mr. Wrench won’t cough up any information that Molly may need.

Who Shaves the Barber- Lester hears about Gina Hess' claim being denied

While Chaz is transferred to county jail until the trial or he makes bail, the happier Nygaard brother heads back to work and is ready to start anew.  Unfortunately, there’s bad news: Gina Hess’ claim is being denied because Sam Hess stopped paying the premiums on their policy.  While saying this over the phone would be safer, Lester offers to do it in person.  How thoughtful.

Who Shaves the Barber- Molly's crime web

Gus arrives at Solverson’s room with flowers, only to find her drawing a literal crime web that connects everything that’s happened in the past few days.  Granted, all of this is based on hunches, but Molly figures that Hess’ company was tied to organize crime.  When he was killed, someone in Fargo sent Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench to find out who killed him.

And if Lester had been bullied by Hess and then met up with Malvo, there’s a possibility that Lester hired Malvo to kill Hess.  But to cover up his tracks, Lester then sent Numbers and Wrench after Malvo, which would mean Lester knew that Malvo was in Duluth.  Bit of a stretch.  Lou arrives to take Molly home, but Molly tells Gus to keep his chin up.  After all, they’re winning.

Who Shaves the Barber- Federal Agents Bill Budge and Webb Pepper, played, respectively, by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key

We then cut to Fargo, North Dakota and are introduced to Federal Agents Bill Budge and Webb Pepper, played, respectively, by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key.  And if I didn’t know any better, I’d think this was a sketch from Key & Peele, because they are, right now, probably the worst federal agents ever, as they discuss sandwiches and random experiments instead of maintaining their focus on the Fargo mob they’re monitoring.

Who Shaves the Barber- Lorne Malvo walks past federal agents with machine gun

They also don’t notice Lorne Malvo walk pass them, in plain sight, with a machine gun in tow and enter a building where he massacres everyone in sight.  All right, one ends up through a window and onto the pavement.

And only then do Agents Budge and Pepper pay attention.  When local police arrive on the scene, they try to explain the scene, but Malvo is able to make his escape.

Who Shaves the Barber- Lester and Gina Hess drink

Lester heads to the Hess household, where Gina awaits him.  She’s home alone, as her sons are at a game she couldn’t be bothered to attend.  She drinks to her incoming fortune, but Lester tells her that there are a few more things to work out.  He tries to warm up to Gina and avoid explaining the reality of the situation.

So yeah, they screw and Lester gets the ultimate payback on Sam Hess.

Who Shaves the Barber- Molly learns that Chaz Nygaard, not Lester, has been arrested

Lou drives Molly to the police department and she comes in to talk to Bill, but he’s not there.  The woman there lets her know that the case is close to being open and shut: Chaz Nygaard has been arrested for the murders.

Solverson heads out and snow starts to fall as a mix of anger and sadness wash across her face.  I can’t help but wonder if she realizes she’s surrounded by idiots.

How do I sum up the general trend of this episode?  Maybe descending into madness works due to the losses characters face.  Fargo has shown us that it only takes a moment to turn the mundane into crazy.  Malvo has been able to bring out the crazy, darker sides in people that had been buried within them all their lives, sort of like the alien symbiote from the Spider-Man series.

The episode also focused on how good characters like Gus and Molly strive to maintain their humanity when coming up against a force they don’t fully understand- a man who believes in a world without rules.  This belief clashes against the police force, which is obligated to its core to abide by rules.  So much so that Bill is just happy that the gun Gordo brought to school wasn’t loaded.

We want to assume the best in people and believe that they are, at their core, good, but Malvo’s mere existence challenges this notion not just through his actions, but bringing out the worst of those around him.  Much like the shotgun pellet in Lester’s hand, Malvo has infected those with good intentions to commit horrible actions and driven them to desperate acts.  Or, in the case of Chaz, they’re dragged into situations they wanted no part in.

Who Shaves the Barber- Lester leaves Chaz in jail

Lester is becoming what Malvo drove him to and he’s becoming a man who lives by no rules.  As of now, he believes that he’s escaped justice by painting himself as the victim through his strong sob story.  His entire ‘confession’ was well acted by both Martin Freeman, but also Bob Odenkirk as the cop who just wants to believe the good in Lester, but also have someone validate his drifter theory.

Chaz said last week that Lester isn’t right in the world, and he’s probably right, so Lester is removing himself from the world by believing he’s a man who can’t be caught.  He believes what he’s doing is perfectly fine.  Sure, there’s something to be said about a man who frames his brother for the murder of his wife and then goes to have sex with the wife of the bully who tormented him.

However, that’d be putting things in our idea of a civilized world.  Lester doesn’t see the world we do anymore.  But rather than be super crafty about it, he’s digging his way out of one situation and into another while still making careless mistakes, as I’m sure Gordo remembers his brief run-in with Lester and Chaz knows that Lester wasn’t kidding when he talked about being abducted.  Oh, and punching a police officer just to get yourself arrested wasn’t exactly smart, either.

Who Shaves the Barber- Lester giving it to Gina Hess

In his own world, Lester is untouchable, but I can’t help but wonder if he feels he deserves the reward of having sex with Gina Hess or, for now, escaping justice.  He’s the happiest he’s been in a long time, so he’s reaping the benefits of being slimy and underhanded.  And the picture frame of Sam and Gina Hess falling from the wall was a nicely added visual punch.  At this point, even if it’s pity sex, Lester sees himself as the victor and nothing can stop him.

Who Shaves the Barber- Molly tells Gus that they're winning

And nothing can stop Molly Solverson, either.  I’ve never lost a spleen, but I can’t help but wonder if everyone who ever did made as quick of a recovery as Solverson did.  However, she was a bit sluggish both in her movement and words.  Despite that, her spirit remained undeterred.  She’s the polar moral opposite of Lorne Malvo and Lester Nygaard in that she believes in a world with rules.  Hell, maybe that’s how she got this far in her police career without having to shoot someone- she just went by the book.

Again, though, I feel she pieced together the entire matter a bit too fast for my taste since she’s relying on guesses.  They’re smart guesses and she’s not far off, but I still find it too convenient for her to get it all right that quickly.  She has great detective skills, no doubt, so I must wonder how she hasn’t moved higher up the police food chain yet.  I would just want to know where she picked up her detective instincts, given how this feels like a small town with little to no crime.

Who Shaves the Barber- Everyone's duped by Solverson

But even after she believes she’s pieced the matter together, Lester is still one step ahead of her.  Tolman’s performance in that final scene was great, as she shows a blend of barely contained rage, sorrow and anguish all at once.  She actually can’t believe that Lester fooled the other officers that easily.  Chances are she is the only competent cop around.

Who Shaves the Barber- Gus Grimly in the hospital

Gus certainly isn’t feeling all that competent this week.  He wants to do the right thing, but he’s so doggone inept.  That’s not on purpose, but he’s trying to do too much on his own.  He and Molly plunged blindly into a snowstorm with no idea of what to find, which led to Grimly’s mistake.  He shows clear remorse for his actions and I did like the direction during the open scene where Grimly sitting in the hospital is played in reverse, as if he wants to undo the past.

Since Gus hasn’t had his gun or badge taken away, I assume Molly is the only one who knows that he shot her.  That should change, as I hope the two don’t just try to brush that aside.  This is probably the best chemistry I’ve seen between Allison Tolman and Colin Hanks, by the way, particularly when Molly tells Gus to keep his chin up.  They’re two of the few good people in a world filled with evil and they can’t help but show the occasional optimism.

Who Shaves the Barber- Lorne demands to know who from Fargo hired the ambush

Then there’s Lorne Malvo, the doer.  Thornton is ruthless in his portrayal of this cold killer.  He’s not unstoppable, as we saw last week, but he’s pretty damn durable.  We know what he wants because, like his conversation with Mr. Rundle proves, he just flat out says it and doesn’t make threats.  He promises.

Who Shaves the Barber- Lorne Malvo's massacre

We’ve seen Malvo murder already that if we didn’t see it actually happen, we could still get the full effect.  It’s what made the machine gun massacre feel more memorable.  Things like the woman screaming or the gun clicking instead of firing told us everything that we needed to know as everyone inside the building was helpless to Malvo’s machine gun.

But I don’t think his troubles are over now that he’s murdered the folks who sent Numbers and Wrench after him.  The only minor qualm I have with the episode is how Don Chumph’s execution isn’t mentioned.  Sure, it wouldn’t have added anything, but given the way he went out, I’m surprised no one in the police department even references it.

Who Shaves the Barber- Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key as Federal agents Bill Budge and Webb Pepper

As for Key and Peele, I do want to know how useful they’ll be at this point in the series’ run, given how there are only about three more episodes.  I’m sure they’ll be funny, no doubt, but I’m interested about their involvement.  Great start for them, but I’m looking forward to more.

“Who Shaves the Barber?” was a good follow up to “Buridan’s Ass.”  Lester demoralizing himself to cover his tracks and Malvo killing to survive and stay ahead shows how these two operate through their own subverted morals.  Justice has been slightly sidetracked, but like Molly told Gus, the good guys are winning.  We’ll see.

2 thoughts on “A Look at Fargo- Season 1, Episode 7: “Who Shaves the Barber?”

  1. Pingback: Fargo TV Series Who Shaves The Barber Recap | Film Encounters

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