‘Fargo’ Becomes a Tremendous Suspense Thriller With Penultimate Episode “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a…

By  · Published on June 11th, 2014

‘Fargo’ Becomes a Tremendous Suspense Thriller With Penultimate Episode “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage”

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This week, for the penultimate episode of Fargo, I’d like to start with the title. I normally leave that for the end of the recap, but for once I found there to be a very clear meaning as it relates to the plot of the show. The name of tonight’s installment, “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage,” is one variation of a classic riddle that most of us probably heard in elementary school. I don’t have to state the idea behind it, because for the second episode in a row we got to hear Agent Budge (Keegan Michael Key) lay the title’s origin out directly. The main thing is it’s about trying to keep predators away from prey (or more simply, keeping one thing from another thing that the first thing would eat) while transporting them all together. Similarly, the premise of this episode involved multiple situations where characters kept nearly coming into alignment where one of them would have been killed.

That caused this to be the most suspenseful episode yet. Especially after some new characters were eliminated rather quickly (so much for my excitement with Stephen Root’s joining the cast, though he was good while he lasted) and this being so close to the end of the show, it just seemed more deaths could come at any moment. I took it as though showrunner Noah Hawley and director (and former child actor) Matt Shakman were dealing with their own variation of the riddle, where they had to maneuver the characters around in ways to keep them alive through to the series finale. Sadly, at least one little rabbit was dropped in the vicinity of the fox, and the episode therefore ended with one more murder. It was the sort of suspenseful moment where the outcome is easily foreseen and we’re just waiting for it to happen. I’m really glad it did happen, too, as opposed to there being a cliffhanger.

The best scene of the episode was another sort of suspenseful moment, one not so predictable. That’d be the scene between Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) and Lou (Keith Carradine) that’s depicted in the image above (of course, the characters were never positioned the way they are in that promo still). I’m not the only one who was worried about Lou being shot, right? It was such a drawn out interaction, and it sort of reminded me of the part in True Romance when Christopher Walken is interrogating Dennis Hopper and you’re just waiting for the latter to be killed because he’s not providing anything of value and seems to be hiding what he knows. I’m sure it’s more of a tribute to something by the Coen Brothers (is there a scene like that in Miller’s Crossing maybe?), but as I’ve proven in my recaps thus far, I haven’t been catching all the references in this show.

I recognized Root’s utterance of “Friendo,” at least. But that’s an easy one.

On top of the tension between Malvo and Lou in that scene, Shakman also constantly cut to Molly (Allison Tollman) as she was driving toward her father’s cafe. Would she witness his death? Would she get there at the wrong time and wind up dead herself? Could we have gotten a really big surprise in Malvo being taken out by Molly or Lou? Oh, and we heard Agents Budge and Pepper (Jordan Peele) were also heading to the same place. They just needed uber-paranoid Lester (Martin Freeman) aiming for the spot, too, to make it a convergence of characters akin to another part of True Romance. But the surprise Malvo death definitely wasn’t going to happen. Apparently he is indeed the Devil, or just the trickster serpent from the Bible. Or he or the show want people to think he might be. Lou’s apple pie was the best Malvo has had since the Garden of Eden, after all.

If he’s not a supernatural figure, Malvo is at least one of the most wicked humans of all time. Not for the way he sadistically relished in killing Root’s character and the two others, one of whom he’d apparently been in a relationship with for a while, just because the shocked look on Root’s face was worth the losing out on bounty money and the past six months of his life. More so for the way Malvo scares the children living in Lester’s old house. What an evil bastard. At that moment, he was like one of Thornton’s “Bad” movie characters (either from Bad Santa or Bad News Bears) amped up on the inappropriateness and lessened in the comedic intention of the behavior.

But might Lester be even worse? He knowingly sent Linda (Susan Park) to her death. He presumes that Malvo is in the office. She’s wearing his coat. He tells her to put her hood on, making her even more easily mistaken for him. She was baited in order for Lester to save himself, for a little while longer. Maybe this is where we’re supposed to accept that Lester is becoming just like Malvo. They’ve both murdered one of Lester’s wives, though each man was also a catalyst for the other wife’s death, too. And they both took part in killing their own significant other in this episode. Lester obviously never cared that much about Linda, just as Malvo didn’t care for his dental assistant turned fiancee (Helena Mattson). There’s still an inkling of humanity in Lester, though, evident in his reaction to seeing Linda actually killed.

I wish we had gotten to know Linda as a character more throughout the show so that her death had more of an impact for us, too. Or should we have a similar attitude to Lester, where we didn’t care that much about her but then it still smarted a little to see her become an innocent victim in all of this? Lester has to pay for her death more than Malvo does, and so I’m still putting my bet on Malvo surviving the finale but Lester being killed. Probably by Gina, of all people. At this point, I’m kinda only expecting his death in the last episode. Nobody else is really deserving that fate as far as how their narrative and character development has gone lately. Well, the FBI Agents haven’t been very interesting so they’d be very easily disposed of without much complaint.

Share your own predictions for the finale below. Not just for who’ll live and die, either. For instance, I hope and guess that Molly somehow finally becomes Chief. She deserves that even more than Lester deserves to die.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.