Lester's heartless plan is set in motion while Malvo seeks revenge and Key and Peele make their debut.

By Amber Ray
Updated October 06, 2015 at 06:38 PM EDT
Credit: Chris Large/FX
S1 E7
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  • FX

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.

Lester twists the facts to place Chazz at the crime scene. He says he came home and overheard him and his wife arguing in the basement, with Pearl saying, “you’re not half the man your brother is.” Lester has thrown the line his wife told him — the one that really set him off before he murdered her — back in Chazz’s face. Lester says he heard the sound of the deathblow, and went downstairs to find Chazz saying it was an accident. The doorbell rang… and now Lester has Bill hanging onto his every word. He’s actually giving Lester lines. “Vern?” Bill asks.

Lester says Chazz told him to “take care of it” while he went in the back… “Where you kept the shotgun,” Bill says, giving Lester another out. “Where I kept the shotgun,” Lester says, admitting (falsely) that he should have known Chazz might grab it. He says he should have told Vern right away what happened, that Chazz had killed Pearl and was still in the house, but “I was afraid, like you said,” Lester tries. “Bill, if you think that makes me guilty of something then I want you to throw the book at me. Put me in jail. ‘Cause I loved her.” And now Bill is actually crying over Lester’s act. “You know, Pearl, despite all… she was… my wife.” Lester pretends to shed a tear, too.

Bill exits the room, Lester behind him. He walks past the holding cell; Chazz sees him and begins to scream. “Lester! What did you do?!” And Lester smiles as he walks out a free man. Chazz, meanwhile, will be transferred to the county jail until the trial or until he makes bail. But Lester won’t be free for long if Molly has anything to say about it.

She wakes up in a Duluth hospital to Greta and Gus in her room. Turns out Grimly did shoot her, but not before she got a shot off at Wrench, who is upstairs in intensive care. If he hadn’t been behind her, gun at the ready, she would have been able to take down Malvo, whom she had in her sights after he murdered Numbers. Grimly shamefully admits he was the one who shot her and caused her to lose her spleen. “I’ll get you a new one, I swear,” he says. “You better,” she answers.

Grimly says he’s going to confess and he’ll probably lose his badge, but Molly sticks up for him: “You said yourself, blizzard and white-out conditions.” Grimly says he’s been messing things up from the start, which isn’t false. Molly’s dad walks in, and Grimly excuses himself.

“Guess we both got bullet holes now, huh?” asks Molly. Her dad sits down, grabs the remote, and puts on the hockey game. This is a father and daughter who talk about everything, and now there are no words. The rumors that she took down a guy with an assault rifle are spreading. “Proud of you,” he says, squeezing Molly’s arm.

Soon enough she’s up and walking; IV pole in hand, she heads to Wrench’s room. It’s a sorrowful exchange — Wrench finds out his partner is dead and realizes he may be going to jail for a long, long time, while Molly meditates on the fact that she shot someone and realizes, because he’s deaf, there are pieces of information Wrench may not be able to provide her.

As a viewer, it’s a relief to see Wrench hasn’t been killed off (at least not yet). He’s one of the series’ most fascinating characters, both as a deaf person, (a category rarely portrayed in pop culture) and in his method of operation. Though brutal, he is careful in the way he approaches his job, and wants to make sure it’s done correctly. And while he didn’t give her any information in the hospital room, is it possible he knows enough about Lester and Malvo that he can cut a deal with Molly later?

Speaking of Malvo: He is on a rampage. He takes a little side trip to Reno, where his home office is located inside of a “real estate” office. He’s looking for answers: Why did Fargo send two thugs after him? He doesn’t like the non-answers the boss is giving him. No, the office did not order them. No, he cannot tell him who to question in Fargo.

Malvo gives the man a choice: One phone on his desk calls an ambulance, another calls a hearse. The phone he’ll pick up depends on the answer he receives. “Who do I talk to in Fargo?” he asks one more time. We don’t know what was said. Malvo leaves, a woman inside the office screams, and he calmly walks away. What will the consequences of his actions be? Does an entire organization now place a target on his back?

It’s no matter to Malvo. He heads to Fargo, North Dakota, where the crime organization that sent Numbers and Wrench to Bemidji has just finished lunch at their favorite Asian restaurant. (Good grief, that Australian guy is still running his mouth.) Cut to two investigators — played by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele – sitting in a car across the street, monitoring the group’s activity.

The Key and Peele pair’s easy rapport as partners is on display here as they bicker over fast food. Malvo walks by, directly in front of them, and pulls out an automatic weapon. They don’t even notice. Malvo breezes into what appears to be Fargo Crime Syndicate HQ. Mayhem ensues, though we only hear the chaos within.

The entire scene is shot from the exterior, panning across and up the building as Malvo shoots his way through underlings and henchman on his way to the third floor to confront the boss. The device works so well because previously, we have witnessed the kind of savage violence he’s capable of (case in point: his setup of Don Chumph’s execution). So our imaginations are primed to dream up all sorts of goriness as we hear shots and groans and the agony of men dying. As Malvo makes it to floor 3, a man goes flying through a window, finally grabbing the attention of the FBI agents below. Did Malvo accomplish his mission? We’re guessing yes.

The agents are stunned; Pepper tells his partner to call it in, while Budge can’t quite seem to function. That annoying Aussie was the guy who took a spill onto the sidewalk. Budge wonders if they should pretend they just arrived on the scene. Pepper tells him to shut up, and when the cops arrive, that he’ll do the talking. They go over details with the police: shots fired, the shooter’s still in the building. But of course Malvo isn’t still inside — he’s standing at the corner, listening in. Pepper says they’re going in and asks for backup as Malvo walks away, undetected. More and more it’s looking like Molly is the only person who can solve this case.

Unable to rest, she’s working on the clues, plotting out the evidence in a graph she’s writing up on the window. Grimly walks in with flowers and tries to help go over what they know. For one, Bemidji PD is no help — Bill’s busy with the Gordo gun incident, and what she heard from the home office “didn’t make much sense anyway,” she says. Of course it didn’t — it was all a figment of Lester’s imagination. Molly shares new information on the “deaf fella,” and though she thinks it’s a stretch, she gets his connection to the case correct — she guesses Numbers and Wrench were sent by the Fargo crime syndicate to investigate the murder of Sam Hess. She believes Lester got bullied by Sam the day of the murder, and that Lester met Malvo at the hospital. Malvo was hired to kill Hess (wrong, but close enough), and when the Fargo thugs started asking around, they got to Lester, who pointed to Malvo, which led them to Duluth.

“So Lester knew Malvo was here in Duluth,” says Grimly. “That’s ammunition to go back to Lester.”

“Oh, you betcha,” says Molly. And her dad — to the disappointment of Grimly — arrives to take her back home.

In Bemidji, his “confession” behind him, Lester decides to move on with his life. He tries to hire a cleaning service to take care of the bloodstains that still mar his home, but the guy hangs up on him once he discovers he’s being asked to tidy up the scene of a double homicide. Regardless, Lester feels like he’s on a roll, thinking he just got away with murder and all. He drives to work and says he wants to “start fresh.”

Bo Munk agrees to give him the widow Hess case, but it’s not pretty — she won’t be receiving any money since her husband stopped paying the premium. “She can’t yell at me, we’re in the same boat,” Lester reasons. “So I figure I tell her, she has a good cry, otherwise it will be claws out.” And suddenly, Lester is able to convince everyone of whatever he wants. He decides to go in person “to give her a shoulder,” and whistles on his way out the door.

Naturally, Mrs. Hess doesn’t take the news well — all she wanted in that relationship was the money anyway. Lester decides to take advantage of the situation and play the man he was never given credit for being. He tells Gina he wants a drink, he comments on how nice she looks today (boobs popping out of her robe). Lying again, he tells her a skilled middleman such as himself can help her make sure the insurance company writes that check. “It’s all about knowing which palms to grease,” he says, “if you get my meaning.” And then they’re having sex, Lester using so much force that the bed is knocking into the wall. She says he’s hurting her; he stares at a novelty photo of Sam and Gina in Western getup. Lester gets his revenge. Can his win be long-lived?

Before going home, Molly asks her dad to stop by the Bemidji police station. The officer at the front desk seems to be surprised she’s alive. Molly asks where everyone is; they’re celebrating because they caught the guy who shot the chief. No, not Lester — it was his brother Chazz, who was having an affair with his wife, beat her with a hammer, then shot the chief. “Lester covered the whole thing up cause of Chazz’s temper — you know, ‘the fear factor,'” the officer says.

Molly is floored. “Where? That’s not…” She needs to talk to Bill, but he’s over at Bernard’s with the other police… Molly looks lost. She stops in the middle of the parking lot, unable to move any farther. She starts breathing heavily and looks like she might start to cry. Is the only cop who has it together going to have a total breakdown?

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An anthology series Inspired by the 1996 Coen Brothers film of the same name.
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