“Treading Frozen Water,” FARGO Episode 2 Review- ‘The Rooster Prince’
Oh, hey there. This review has lots of spoilers, don’tcha know?
Have you ever met someone, whether at work, school, or a terrible family reunion, who won’t proceed in what they’re saying until they’ve restated themselves enough times to make sure that you heard them? That’s what tonight’s episode of Fargo felt like.
The show opens in exactly the same way, with a car driving down a snowy stretch of highway with the same four or five title cards over it. We spend the first quarter of the episode really only restating things from the pilot. For anyone who paid attention to last week’s truly stellar pilot episode, it was honestly a little dull. What really drew me to the show as how quickly the pilot episode shuffled its pieces around and made a real statement and name for itself. Over the course of an hour, the principle characters had been introduced, shuffled around on their own little asides or adventures, and thrown back together in a way that both set up the most important elements of the entire series and declared to the world that it wasn’t going to play by the rules its feature film predecessor had set because Fargo the show as going to be its own thing and doesn’t care much for your rules, man.
“The Rooster Prince” felt less like the next installment of a killer series and more like the first ten minutes of a sequel. Everything revolving around the central plot itself tonight felt like waiting around for the end of the episode so Molly could be taken off the case, which would have made a killer episode intro but was bumped to the end because that’s how episodes of television are supposed to end. Our man Lester Nygaard, who I’m still convinced is the show’s true “protagonist,” has no real meaningful step forward. He moves in with the brother that he socked in the face last week, but doesn’t advance much. He makes no meaningful steps to avoid being captured, except for lying to the police, I suppose. He makes no mouse to Solverson’s cat. It just felt a little wet noodle.
I think I was just set up for something more exciting by the pilot. That was an hour that really covered some ground, took constant big strides towards an end goal, something that “The Rooster Prince” was really lacking. If the pilot was a superbly cooked steak that knew what it wanted and found a stylish way to get there, this second episode is a serviceable burger that certainly got rid of my hunger but won’t be something that sticks with me long into my years where I’m so old and boring that I’m telling my grandkids of a steak I once ate.
Perhaps it can be attributed to “Second Episode Syndrome,” where a promising show, fresh off of a pilot years in the making, must take its first step into a larger world of making its story happen on a weekly basis. There are always growing pains, as elements have to be reintroduced more into the form that we’ll see every Tuesday for the next eight weeks. This style doesn’t work as well for me, but it does… work. There’s just a noticeable absence of substance. There was nothing really to chew on. There was a death, sure, but it was of a hilariously insane person with a dumbfounding resemblance to Billy Bob Thornton. We didn’t even have any real time with him before he dies, so the moment where he gets dropped below the ice set to “Insert Poignant Song Here” doesn’t have much effect.
That particular sequence gets at a larger problem with this episode in that it feels like four different shows slammed together:
Oh, Eh, I’m Gonna Arrest Yah There
The first show is the Network TV Hannibal-esque Cat and Mouse Game between Lester and Molly. It’s fine, but we know exactly where it’s heading. Eventually, Bob Odenkirk and everyone else in Solverson’s life will be proven wrong and she’ll emerge victorious. For this to work (and it can, as it does so well on Hannibal each week), Lester is going to have to become much more of a threat. So far he’s only escaping through other people’s stupidity, and we’re going to have to be compelled by Molly’s pursuit of the nebbish man responsible for at least three deaths. Feeling for Lester is good and will make his ultimate downfall that much more effective, but right now he’s simply an annoyance, and Detective Solverson is getting lost and lessened because of it.
Surprise, surprise, the best scene in the episode tonight is the scene outside of the drug store where Solverson hounds Lester as he grows more and more frustrated and his composure begins to slip. It’s actual progression, and hints that the snow is about to hit the snow fan. Lester is almost certainly going to make some big steps next week to cover his ass, so perhaps this wasn’t all for naught.
Lorne Salvo, Postage Terrorist
The second show is the Showtime Drama About a Fixer, something like House of Lies or Ray Donovan, and it’s where Lorne Malvo is currently stuck. This plotline is the one that makes the least sense and feels the most out of place. You would think, the show being what it is, that we’d be more focused on the central set of murders, but there goes Malvo up to Duluth to death with Oliver Platt of all people, who is being blackmailed. Perhaps by a grossly tanned Glenn Howerton from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, because FX likes to keep it all in the family. Maybe I just had the wrong expectations for this show, but I don’t much find the plight of a supermarket emperor to be compelling on this show of murder and small town impotence. Maybe it’ll pick up the pace once Colin Hanks gets out of his show and into this one, or it (hopefully) won’t be around for long, but there is just not much to respond to in Duluth, Minnesota. Much like the actual Duluth, Minnesota. I love watching Billy Bob Thornton threaten his way through all of his problems as much as the next guy, but it needs some relevance, or ties to the main narrative, which either Colin Hanks or the semi-handicapped hitmen will provide whenever they decide to get involved.
Two Men Overcoming Adversity
The third show is potentially one of the more interesting, but is sort of wasted on a dead end this week. The Two Hitmen are fun, and have a really strong dynamic, even if it is just through exasperated sign language. These two could really work, and could pose another legitimate threat to Malvo, who is always annoying nine steps ahead of everyone else. I like the life and energy they bring, but, again, it’s hard to get too invested in something we already know is a dead end. We as the audience know that this is, indeed, not Lorne Malvo that they are killing. Things will probably spiral outward from this yet another death in the relatively small section of the upper Midwest in which this show takes place. What’s missing from this part of the show is suspense. The fella what gets himself killed because he carries a giant knife in his pocket doesn’t matter to the audience, so we don’t much care when he dies, and we also know that these two are way, way off base, so their relegation in this episode sort of feels like a way to show us that these two mean business without actually making them advance the plot any further. Again, this is the second episode, but I would have loved to see us take some bigger steps forward.
The Colin Hanks Show
Gus Grimly is the man in the midst of a moral quandary. His part of the show is a feature film plot unfolding slowly, as the cost of the choices he makes is more than dire. Every day he waits, Malvo gets further and further from his grasp, but all the time he knows that if he reports on this obvious murderer that his daughter will be put directly in harm’s way. You can see it on his face in every moment of his unfortunately brief screen time in the episode. I have literally no idea what’s going on with the Jewish family across the way, but I very much doubt that this is the last time we’re going to see them. So, the takeaway from this week’s episode… More Colin Hanks.
For anyone hoping for me to replicate my section at the end of last week’s review, sorry. This show now bares so little resemblance to the film of the same name that charting the differences won’t really do much good.
I don’t want it to sound like I now dislike Fargo, the Show. I think it can be quite good, sometimes great. It’s just in the growing pains of a new show and I have seen what it can achieve with its mind in the right place. I know it can deliver greatness, so I expect nothing less.
If the pilot is any indication, Noah Hawley is a hell of a writer, and it looks as if he’s going to be writing each and every episode. That’s nothing but good news right there.
“The Rooster Prince” is not a bad episode of television. It works, and there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with what’s at play here. It just left me a little disillusioned after how much I adored the pilot episode. But we’re barely a fifth of the way through this thing. I have no idea how there’s eight episodes of material left here, but I’m more than willing to wait and see.
Final Verdict: 6/10 Unfortunate Ice Fishers
Were you disappointed tonight, or was there enough here to keep you interested?
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