‘Fargo’ Season 1 Episode 2 Recap: “The Rooster Prince”

“Sometimes there is more than one right thing,” Gus Grimly tells his young daughter Greta in “The Rooster Prince.” Greta has a simplistic, black-and-white view of the world. If her father, a police officer, saw somebody doing something wrong, wouldn’t he stop them? Isn’t that the only right thing to do in that situation? It’s not, as Greta will eventually learn when she’s older and as Gus found out at the end of last week’s premiere.

Gus let Malvo drive away and go free because he didn’t want to run the risk of leaving his daughter without a father. For a police officer, that’s not the right thing but maybe it is for a concerned dad. Gus definitely thought so but now he’s not so sure and it’s going to grate on him for a while, but “The Rooster Prince” first has a lot of other work to get to.

After the events of “The Crocodile Dilemma,” the second episode has to deal with funerals/wakes, with Lester’s reactions, and with Molly’s investigation. Verne’s is especially heartbreaking because of his wife and it really fires up Molly more than before to find out exactly what happened, though Deputy Bill isn’t helping her out.

What I’m really enjoying about Fargo so far is the mileage it gets out of its small town setting. Everything seems pretty big there — the sweeping landscape shots and desolate highways — but when it comes to its inhabitants, Fargo is small. Everyone knows each other in Fargo and everyone knows each others stories. Deputy Bill is convinced that there’s no way Lester could be involved in the murder as anything other than a victim because he knew him from high school. In biology, they had to dissect a mouse and Lester fainted; a girl once got her period in gym class and Lester fainted then, too. Lester’s not a fan of blood or violence, not even in the smallest forms, and he’s too much of a shaky little nervous guy to be capable of murder. That’s what Bill thinks — plus, in this small town, there’s no such thing as a crazed serial murder; Hess must have died because he was involved in the “cutthroat world of regional trucking.” But on the other hand, everyone also knows that Hess used to bully Lester — again, small town — and when Molly learns this, through Bill, she knows that she has to follow this lead.

And that’s the other thing I’m enjoying about Fargo: Molly. There was some early criticism about Fargo last week because viewers saw it as more a story about Lester and Malvo than a story about Molly (and by extension, that any Marge-type character from the film wouldn’t exist) or saw it as more an antihero story than a heroine story. I bit my tongue because I had cheated and watched four episodes but I understood where everyone was coming from. Molly didn’t have much to do in “The Crocodile Dilemma” because that episode was mostly setting up both Lester’s and Malvo’s character and the central “mystery” (that isn’t so much a mystery; we all know what happened, we’re just watching the town’s police department catch up to us). But there is a lot more Molly here and it’s great.

There is a delicate balance within Molly that I love. She’s not the most graceful or smartest officer (though she could easily be seen as perhaps the smartest in the department, but is quiet about it) but she also isn’t, in any way, a caricature of a bumbling cop. Fargo doesn’t have her screwing up the case or fumbling around. If anything, her only problem is that she’s just unprepared for just how huge and heavy this particular murder case is — the whole town must be unprepared, though. She’s not as assertive as she could be and it doesn’t help that she gets shut down by Deputy Bill at every turn, but she’s definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Just look at the way she goes after Lester. It’s not aggressive but it’s confident. She just knows that there’s a lot more to his story but the power struggle between her and Bill is preventing her from getting closer to the truth. So when she runs into him in the drug store — that wound! — she continues with her “investigation” only to have him claim harassment and rushing out of there. She follows him to the car and he keeps playing up the role of the victim but Molly points out that he’s not the only person who lost someone. It doesn’t take. But another small detail I like: an aggravated Lester still politely asks her to watch her feet as he closes the door and drives away. (And did anyone else notice how boots are a common theme in Fargo?) Bill isn’t impressed by Molly’s work and takes her off the case.

It’s hard to really delve deep into everything that’s happening in these episodes. At times, it feels like a calm, slow episode of television but other times it rushes to introduce new characters and plots. This week Malvo is working on finding out who is blackmailing Stavros (Oliver Platt) and it turns out to be his almost-ex-wife’s trainer (Glenn Howerton, a bit out of place here). There’s also the introduction of two men tasked with avenging Sam Hess’ murder: the deaf Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard) and his partner Mr. Numbers (Adam Goldberg) who has to translate everything into sign language. They’re all dazzling characters almost immediately but I’m hesitant to get attached to any of them; at the end, Wrench and Numbers drill a hole into the ice to murder an innocent man that they confused with Malvo. No one is safe in Fargo.