What happens when a wolf feels cornered? He attacks, viciously.
Malvo has always been Fargo‘s lone wolf, stalking his prey, toying with the weak, eliminating those who dare challenge him. (Notice all of the wolf/predator imagery throughout the series?) A car accident brought him to Bemidji and into the life of Lester Nygaard, who has taken Malvo’s twisted sense of justice and used it to reinvent himself as the kind of criminal who winds up getting his own Dateline episode.
Lester has become that “mild-mannered neighbor” who sets up his young nephew in a scheme to frame his brother for the murder of his wife. It was a devious plan — the Lester we met in episode 1 sure wouldn’t have had this much forethought — and watching it play out in episode 7, “Who Shaves the Barber?,” wasn’t easy. It was hard to watch because we know the truth; it was fascinating because Lester has now gone beyond can’t-get-caught survival mode and is fully embracing his new, cold-hearted persona.
It’s an average start to a normal day for Chazz, Kitty, and Gordo, who are trying to have “family time” while eating breakfast and reading comics and getting ready for work and school. (It’s here that we learn, courtesy of a news report on their TV, that Malvo isn’t, in fact, supernatural — those fish falling from the sky were courtesy of a freak tornado traveling over a lake. So in the end, Milos did lose his son due to an “act of God.”) “No funny stuff,” the bus driver tells Gordo as the camera continues to linger on the kid’s backpack. We know Lester put a handgun in there. We know the kid’s going to get caught, suspended, maybe even expelled. When the gun falls out after two boys knock over Gordo’s bag, everyone in the classroom holds their breath — and so do we.
The police arrive at the Nygaards’ house, Bill with the search warrant. Kitty falls to pieces; she calls Chazz with the news, and he’s so worried about what they might find that he doesn’t even hang up the phone as he runs out of his office, shouting, “I’m on my way.”
In the Nygaards’ garage, Kitty struggles as an officer tries to restrain her. She’s screaming at Chazz; this is all his fault. Bill breaks open the gun case as Chazz tries to justify his arsenal: “I’ve got permits for those.” The assault rifle hiding in the back will be more difficult to explain. Same goes for the hammer, underwear, and saucy photos of Pearl. Chazz hears the washing machine sound…
At the police station, Lester is called in and wonders if there is a development in the case. “Where’s the female deputy?” he asks, knowing Molly is the only one onto him. Bill explains that she got shot in Duluth. “I should be up there right now but then there’s this mess,” he says, disgusted. He likens the violence that has spread through his town in the last few weeks to the massive casualties that might be suffered when a boat sinks in India, or there’s an African massacre “with 12-year-olds with machetes.” Bill recounts the crimes closer to home: Three people murdered in two days, including the chief of police. Lenny has gone missing, and a cop has been shot. Now a kid brings a gun to school. For once, Bill is acting responsible and in charge.
Lester tries to act shocked. “A kid?”
“It was Gordo, Lester!” says Bill.
“My Gordo? Is he in trouble?”
Ruthlessness is now coming naturally to Lester. Bill says Gordo isn’t even the biggest problem. “We know you were in the room when Vern got shot. You got a shotgun pellet in your hand, same as killed Vern,” Bill says, and for a second, Lester thinks he may have to play defense here. “Was your wife having an affair?” Bill asks. “With Chazz?” Scratch that — Bill is buying into Lester’s supposed alibi, hook, line, and sinker.
Worse than that, Bill is feeding Lester’s lie. “I know how much you loved her,” he says, convincing himself of the false facts. Lester tries to look ashamed that his wife was cheating on him, but his plan is going better than even he probably imagined. “I know this is out of line but we all heard the stories,” says Bill. “She tells him it’s over and… we all know your brother has a temper.” Bill is actually making up the story for Lester at this point. All Lester has to do is embellish.