‘Fargo’ Season 1 Episode 6 Recap: “Buridan’s Ass”

How high is the death toll on Fargo so far? It feels impossibly high for only six episodes and for such a quiet, small town. Fargo began with two important deaths, Peggy Nygaard and Sam Hess, that loom over the series. As Gus and Molly continue to investigate these murders (and get closer to solving them) and as Malvo works on putting the finishing touches on the original mission that brought him to Fargo, the more deaths that occur. “Buridan’s Ass” is a bloodbath in a blizzard.

“Buridan’s Ass” — titled after (another) paradox in which a donkey is equally hungry and thirsty, standing in between a bucket of food and a bucket of water, and will die because he can’t make a rational decision as to where to go first — finally brings us Chekhov’s blizzard that’s been mentioned a few times. It also brings Malvo’s blackmail plot closer to a set conclusion, though it goes very, very awry. He releases Don from the closet but then attacks and ties him up in the hallway, duct taping a gun to his hands and pointing him to the front door. Malvo has to meet Stavros but needs the cops to remain busy in case Stavros decides to call for help. He sets Don up, shoots at some innocent people outside of the house, and drives away, leaving Don to go out as suicide-by-cop — though the suicide isn’t his choice.

Things go as planned: Cops show up, trip a booby trap and respond to gun fire with gun fire — it’s basically a gun battle with only one side. When they burst into the house and find Don “holding” a gun, they shoot and kill him. And there’s the episode’s first death. Glenn Howerton always felt a little out of place here. Maybe it’s because his character was too comically dumb and too easy, or because I couldn’t really shake that It’s Always Sunny feel. Yet I still felt for Don when he died, perhaps because it was so drawn out. I knew what was coming but it seemed to last forever. And paired up with that beautifully haunting song? You got me, Fargo.

In the hospital, Lester’s feeling better (or at least claiming to) and is ready to go home but it’s not up to him or the nurses. There is a police officer sitting outside of his door and, as he learns during a visit from his brother, he is officially a suspect in the murder case. “There’s something wrong with you, Lester. There’s something missing,” Chaz tells Lester and I can’t help but reminded of Gus’ neighbor telling Malvo “You have black eyes. You’re terrible” in last wee’s episode. Both Malvo and Lester are incapable of keeping their darkness a secret, instead they betray themselves without realizing. The difference is that Malvo doesn’t seem to care — he knows he can always get out of it — whereas Lester still hasn’t fully come to terms with his murderous self, still half-believing that he’s in the right.

But cowardly and despicable Lester is also actually quite clever (remember when he scammed a ride to jail to escape a certain death at the hand of the Misters? Sure, it backfired, but hey, he didn’t die). He escapes the hospital by posing as his bandaged up roommate to sneak past the cop and doctors, then steals a car to get the hell out of dodge. I kept wondering what his game plan was here — to stay on the run forever? — but, once again, Lester surprised me.

Last week, Molly investigated the washing machine where Lester stashed the weapon but this week we realize she never actually found the hammer. Turns out Lester chose a new hiding place: behind that memorable poster still speckled with blood. Lester retrieves the hammer and plants it at Chaz’s place along with other “evidence” and sets up framing him for Peggy’s murder. He sneaks back into the hospital at the end, visibly proud of himself in a way that gives me chills.

That leaves us with Malvo, Stavros, and the money. With the cops busy at Don’s, Malvo heads to meet up with Stavros in a parking garage to retrieve the payment although, unbeknownst to Malvo, Stavros barely arrives at the garage before he decides to turn on, stating God has a different plan for him. But Malvo didn’t make it to the garage either. His car is rear-ended by Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench, who immediately begin shooting. What follows is a very violent and bloody scene, one that is both beautifully shot and hard to watch, but utterly transfixing from start to finish.

Malvo kills Mr. Numbers (rest in peace, Adam Goldberg, you were wonderful) just as Molly and Gus show up on the scene. It’s disorientating and the blizzard just adds to the tension; the snow is really coming down now, bright and blinding, and Gus can’t make out exactly what’s going on. Neither can we. Then comes the big shocker: Gus fires into the whiteness but ends up shooting Molly, who we then see slumped facedown on the ground. Gus has been so worried about indirectly causing harm to someone he loves (namely his daughter) that it never occurred to me that he would directly harm — or possibly kill, though no, please don’t let Molly be dead — someone he cares about. It’s a hell of a way to end an episode except, nope, there’s still more left!

God’s plan for Stavros involves him returning the money, burying it back into the snow (man, check out the familiar way he looks right and then looks left during the snowstorm) and marking it with the ice scraper. He’s not of the hook yet. On the drive back, fish suddenly start falling from the sky and when Stavros investigates an accident, he spots his son dead in a car. Stavros put the money back, but he can’t hit undo.