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All the Brilliant Nods to the Coen Bros. Films in Last Night's Episode of 'Fargo'

By Lord Castleton | Fargo | November 24, 2015 | Comments ()

By Lord Castleton | Fargo | November 24, 2015 |


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“Believing we can tame things, that’s a problem, not a solution.” - Lou Solverson

(Largely spoiler-free conversation below. I refer to a few things that happen on this week’s episode, but don’t reveal the whys behind them or go into much detail.)

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt the way I felt at the end of last night’s episode of Fargo because I’m a Coen Brothers fanatic. This whole episode, while deftly and resolutely rolling the ball of plot forward, was a profound love letter to some of the Coen Brothers’ best movies.

We heard a cover of “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” which you might remember as the dream montage from The Big Lebowski.

We heard a cover of Danny Boy, which is from a gorgeous cinematic Albert Finney shootout in Miller’s Crossing. Likewise we got the “trees shot” from Miller’s Crossing, and the walk in the woods where Tom Reagan takes Bernie Bernbaum to bump him off.

We got the hallway shot from Barton Fink.

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LOOK UPON ME! I’LL SHOW YOU THE LIFE OF THE MIND!

We got the tone of a weary cop talking about a crime and gorgeous vista shots from No Country For Old Men.

We got a cover of the song “O,Death” from Oh Brother, Where Art Thou.

We get the wide open vistas and manhunt from True Grit.

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And we got an homage to the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse from Raising Arizona when the Kansas City Mob threatens to call in “The Undertaker”.

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With some of my other favorite shows, I have very different emotions. With Game of Thrones, for example, I always feel like I wish there was more. I don’t want the train to stop. With The Knick, I always feel a little relieved and exhausted, like I can’t take any more, even though it’s amazing and I want it.

With Fargo it feels like I’m stuffed and happy. It feels like a five course meal. It feels like I walked through a museum and I want to go back and walk through it again with all my friends and talk it out because there’s just so much. So much beauty. So much skill. No matter where you look across the landscape of television, people are fucking up and delivering kind of a half-assed product. Even shows we love have “filler” episodes. Fargo has none of that. It’s like a graduate thesis when everyone else is fingerpainting. I look at the energy and time people invested in a show like season two of True Detective and it seems insane. That show shouldn’t even be allowed on the same medium as Fargo. That’s how good it is. How pure and unabashedly brilliant it is. It’s why I keep calling it art.

Last week, we saw the captivating Bokeem Woodbine recite Jabberwocky. This week, we get a four minute montage to open the show set to Jethro Tull’s ‘Locomotive Breath’ that was so great I had to pause and catch my breath after it. Four minutes in. Juxtaposing Mike Milligan digging a spoon into a container of sugar for his coffee with various close ups on shovels digging through dirt to make fresh graves. It is at once spellbinding and violent and beautiful.

Mike Milligan quoting Camus and speaking French. Jean Smart’s Floyd playing the cops. Lou Solverson storming a room. The Breakfast King. Bear walking through the forest. Betsy Solverson coming to terms with her mortality and bravely getting her affairs in order - going as far as to think about who her husband should marry after she’s gone.

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If there’s any doubt that series creator Noah Hawley is a master, (and there absolutely shouldn’t be), it’s the scene where Betsy Solverson visits her dad’s house to feed his cats. The way that scene was shot and edited and scored. My god. It was all setting the audience up for a certain payoff that they were waiting for, cringing… And to find out what quiet turmoil her possibly impending death has wreaked on her stoic father? It’s just all so human and understandable and jarringly sad.

There was a big moment this week, a decision one character made that happened off screen, and if it goes the way it did in Miller’s Crossing, it’s not going to end well for that character. But we don’t know. Did he or didn’t he? Is Hawley winking at those of us who know how that scenario played out for Tom Reagan?

And so the circle turns. Revolutions, as Mike Milligan chuckles about. On Earth it means change.

There are three episodes of Fargo left. If you’re not watching it, you need to change that right away. Both for Coen Brothers fans and everyone else. We’re witnessing something rare and special and powerful.

Be part of it.


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