Are you warming up to the frozen desolation of the Minnesota prairie yet? No? Well Fargo episode 2, The Rooster Prince, opens with another stark, snowy landscape to help set the mood.
But something’s different this time. Here we get drums, frenetic percussion for the soundtrack as we follow a car driving along a highway. The driver has massive mutton chops and a fringed leather jacket; the passenger is bearded and bundled up in an overcoat, wearing black-framed sunglasses. What decade are we in?
It’s still 2006, and the small town of Bemidji is still rocked by the deaths of trucking boss Sam Hess, police chief Vern Thurman, and bullying wife Pearl Nygaard. The strange travelers arrive at Hess & Sons Transport, announcing themselves as sent by Fargo, aka, the crime syndicate overseeing Hess’ empire. They ask for Max Gold, whose exact position within the firm is still unknown to viewers, though he acts like a money man or lawyer. Ostensibly, he is overseeing the business since Hess is out of the picture.
The visitors: Mr. Wrench is the one who looks like he stepped out of some old Clint Eastwood film. He’s a big, intimidating man — and he happens to be deaf. He signs something to his partner, Mr. Numbers. Is he threatening Gold? Not exactly: Wrench wants to know why this town doesn’t have a library, Numbers translates. He thinks every town should have a library. Gold is taken aback. “I agree,” he says. “Tell him I agree.” This is a very interesting interrogation tactic.
Numbers gets to the point, saying they’ve arrived to find out what happened to Hess. Does Gold believe it was connected to “the business”? No…but there was a guy — not young, not old. He had a cut on his forehead and said he wanted to take a look at Sam, which he did, then left. Gold is obviously concerned these guys aren’t buying his story and desperately tries to sell himself as friend of Hess. “You’re gonna find him, right? The guy who did it?” he asks. Mr. Wrench slides a finger across his throat. In case his meaning wasn’t clear, Mr. Numbers says, “We’ll find him.”
It’s days after the murders, and the wakes for victims Pearl and Chief Thurman are being held. At the memorial for Pearl, her husband Lester — aka her murderer — is concerned with his hand. He has a flashback to the chief getting shot — in his house, by Lorne Malvo, with his shotgun. It appears a pellet lodged in his skin during the incident, or at least hit and injured him. [SIDE NOTE: Let’s talk about that shotgun. It has Lester’s prints on it. It has Malvo’s prints on it. Neither man concealed it after Malvo shot the chief. In the pilot, we see a cop taking the gun away from the Nygaard residence once the investigation begins. That’s some serious evidence that has not yet come into play….] Lester’s brother Chaz asks if he’s going to sell the house, and nonchalantly mentions how badly the cops turned the place upside down “looking for clues.” In the background, his son is playing with a toy gun — or what I hope is a toy, because we’ve seen the real weaponry Chaz keeps in his garage.
But Chaz’s words have Lester concerned. He returns to his house, the scene of the crime, and it is a mess. There are gloves and booties and even a coffee cup littering the floor — not to mention the awful bloodstain left by the chief, which still looks gruesome and raw. Lester walks to the basement — the place where he murdered his wife — and sees that bloodstain. He flashes back to the crime. Does he feel regret? Or is he retracing his steps to figure out if he did leave any clues the cops may have found?
Meanwhile, deputy officer Molly Solverson is mourning her mentor at his grave. His headstone lists him as “lawman, beloved husband and father,” which of course is the saddest thing ever because he never actually got to be a dad. Molly is giving his grave an “I’m gonna avenge your death” look.
She drives to his memorial and attempts to bond with Vern’s widow, who is going to have that baby any day now. They clumsily recall stories of death and cops injured in the line of duty. The new chief, Bill, interrupts, saying everything is in order for Ida’s due date, that everyone will pitch in to help her. Molly thinks this is a good time to ask about the case.
She has theories about Lester; Vern was on his way to interview him about the Hess murder before all hell broke loose and he ended up in a body bag, after all. Bill laughs off the idea — he remembers Lester from high school, he was weak. No way he killed Sam. The Hess murder must involve “the cutthroat world of regional trucking,” not some mild-mannered insurance salesman, Bill insists.
Molly isn’t convinced — and neither is Ida. Molly knew Ida would see the information as clues, not coincidence. At the widow’s insistence, Bill finally agrees to go see Lester. “But I do the talking,” he says.