Fargo: 1.09 A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage
Fargo has taken two episodes to set things up for the grand finale, and in the penultimate episode things are starting to explode. “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage” takes all the careful preparation and lets loose with what it’s been given, finally releasing all the tension with a series of dramatic events and encounters.
As with so many of the best moments of Fargo, things are dominated here by Lester and Malvo, who last encountered one another in the very first episode. With the dynamic completely different between the two, the episode's tone is set by the scene where they face off against each other, cockiness against placid violence. This time, Lester refuses to back down when asked the simple, but terrifying question: "Do you want this? Yes or no?"
It’s a satisfying touch that Lester’s newfound courage, which has brought him so much success, now brings Malvo back into his life with disastrous consequences. Their game of cat and mouse is the heart of this episode and certainly provides the most drama.
On the other side of the story, there are further satisfying developments when Molly’s investigation finally starts to gain traction. FBI agents Budge and Pepper, after their previously ambiguous appearances, are the ones to give her that traction, and prove themselves a welcome inclusion. Now that the hunt for Malvo can truly begin in earnest, the season finale should hopefully accelerate even further.
A lingering complaint is that Gus is still badly underused. Given very little screen time, he feels distant from important events despite a potentially vital chance sighting of Malvo. The moral quandaries that first made his character so intriguing, however, are now barely visible at all.
What really makes “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage” so compelling is what it does with Lorne Malvo. By bringing him back into proximity with the rest of the cast, a stronger element of tension is introduced. He is such a dangerous personality that it feels like every passing encounter with him, be it by a major or minor character, be it by a villain or an innocent, could easily end with death.
By far the best scene of this episode is a perfect example of this, when Malvo goes into the diner owned by Molly’s father, Lou. Neither of them knows who the other is and their conversation is a chess game, both of them probing and questioning, trying to figure the other out. Though the conversation turns out to be innocuous, the question of whether Lou will survive it makes it one of the most powerful the show has provided.
The careful orchestration of the last two episodes was vital for setting up the situation in “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage”, but they never really contained the same excitement of the early episodes. Fargo began with chaos – with events spiralling out of control – and now that it’s returned to that chaos it has found its strength again.
The final episode of the series should be something special, if it continues in the same vein as this one. Fargo is a show that thrives on chaos, and on the possibility of death in every chance meeting. “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage” has forgotten the careful control of previous episodes and started things rolling again. If the momentum is maintained, there’s no doubt the finale will be superb. That’s not in question.
The real question is: who is going to survive, and who is going to fall?