Fargo – Season 5 Episode 9 “The Useless Hand” Recap & Review

The Useless Hand

Episode 9 of Fargo Season 5 begins in a desolate cabin in the wilderness. Staying true to his promise, Munch holds Gator captive. The “bunny” tries to tempt his captor with all sorts of ugly propositions. Drugs, sex, money; he offers them all. But the sin-eater does not take the bait. For in his mind, his next actions are clear. Munch uses a sweltered knife and gouges out Gator’s eyes.

At the Tillman ranch, the sun rises. And so does Dot’s will to survive. Munch referred to her as a “tiger” and those bad boys don’t give up.

Dot tries to reach for a nail hammered into the wooden frame at the top beam. She folds her collapsible bed and climbs atop. But her slight figure precludes Dot from making progress. This scene is intercut with Roy venturing out of the house. He looks ominously toward the room where Dot is being held, firm in his mind as to her fate. When Bowman asks what to do with her, Roy instructs him to “bury” Dot. He confesses that he hasn’t felt for any woman what he “felt for Dot.”

I don’t get this romanticism from an outside perspective at all. Do all abusers feel like this after years of butchering their victims?

Dot’s leg slips and the leg of the bed crashes into the wooden floor, making a crack. Dot desperately tries to kick it in and as Bowman enters, we learn she has succeeded. She uses the blanket to hide her handcuffs, which are still tethered to the frame of the bed. But panic sets in Bowman’s mind. He doesn’t see them, or bother to lift up the blanket. Underneath the floor, Dot finds a single nail and that will do the job for her.

Lorraine desperately tries Danish’s cell but gets no answer. The dead don’t speak. Indira, her new head of security, smartly dressed in a suit and pants, informs Lorraine of his last location. That is enough for the billionaire to “call in favours” and compel the State to ready a cavalry. Indira also phones Witt, who isn’t “far” – pun intended – from the ranch. It is now his personal mission to ensure that Dot makes it out safely from the battleground the ranch is going to become.

Why? Because Roy Tillman is a hard man for hard times. “America’s Sheriff” issues a call to arms on a live stream, beseeching rogue militia to join his “crusade” and defend their honour. Odin and his men also answer the call. Karen sets the children in a car and sends them away but stays back herself. Dot, who is well-versed with the topography of the house, uses secret doors and passages to get inside unnoticed. She makes it all the way to the bedroom and even manages to get a word in with Scotty and Wayne. But Karen holds her at gunpoint.

Dot cuts the phone, her hands in the air. Her breath trembles as Karen accuses Dot of “ruining everything” by showing up at the ranch. Despite her circumstances and abuse, one has to ask: what is wrong with this woman? Dot tries to distract Karen by talking about Roy’s “heavy hand.” She even propositions her to join forces and take him on. But as Karen is deciding, Dot snatches the rifle away from her hands and knocks Karen on her back. She leaves the house – with Karen’s phone – and turns on the stove in the kitchen.

Roy smells it instantly and sends his men to find her. He goes upstairs, armed with a gun, looking around in the rooms. He sees Karen, unconscious on the floor and just ignores her, walking by with no concern. He goes to Gator’s room and is revolted when he finds a duffel bag with the money he was supposed to give Munch. Perhaps he now knows where his son is. Dot makes contact with Lorraine and Indira and apprises them of the situation.

It is a special moment indeed as Lorraine finally declares she is on Dot’s side. The tiger is asked to hang tight as the police will triangulate her location using the phone. To hide, Dot uses the one place she thinks no one will look: the pit beneath the bathtub by the wooden tower. In her rush, Dot does not realize that she has left her rifle outside. Munch, meanwhile, puts a rope around Gator’s neck and begins the long walk from the cabin to the ranch.

Lorraine’s cavalry arrives – so does Witt, immediately approaching the man in charge and telling him about Dot. Witt is attached to a special tactical unit to rescue Dot, who is now at the top of the priority list. This is in part due to Lorraine’s instructions and the FBI agents Meyers and Joaquin claiming she is an important asset in their investigation against Roy. The sheriff makes it to the front gate, where he is given a chance to stand down. However, Roy has already made up his mind.

He is going nowhere and threatens the authorities with “death” if they hang around and engage. He sends Bowman and two more men to the exact same spot where Dot is hiding. Regardless of the rifle’s exposure, they would have found her. Roy, for all his big talk and manly claims, prepares a secret passage that will allow him to escape. As he is turning to leave, Munch shows up with Gator. He refers to the son as a “useless hand,” pointing toward his “forfeited eyes.” He throws Gator at Roy and vanishes into the thick white fog that engulfs the ranch. 

For all the foreplay and character buildup, in this moment of truth, Gator’s “hero” turns on him. Instead of picking him up or showing any concern, Roy concurs with Munch’s characterization, calling Gator useless and leaving him stranded. Roy simply walks away…a cruel creative choice that destroys the character completely. Witt and the team set off to find Dot as the trooper warns the soldiers not to “shoot at a possibly armed Dot.” 

Bowman and the others reach the bathtub. He points it toward the ground as they get it open. Dot picks up a large human bone – showing that there are more bodies ready to face him. It is a clear mismatch but God works in mysterious ways. He sends a “helping hand,” Ole Munch, to save one of His good ones. Munch kills the trio with ease and beckons “the tiger” to come out of the cage. She climbs up, helped by him. Dot thinks this is her end when he sees Munch. But he simply hands over the rifle to him and walks the other way. Dot has a new lease on her life and will perhaps make it out of the hellhole.


The Episode Review

I will come back to my point of Noah Hawley’s “increased ambitions” in the fifth instalment of Fargo. Episode 9 is the perfect encapsulation of this marked change in intentions that has given different outcomes than expected. The story is more black and white than ever before but perhaps it is a sign of the times. Roy’s “demonization” throughout is in stark comparison to how he was introduced. Sure, his actions reek of cruel monstrosity. But the one-sided arm twisting to separate the good from the evil is not in the Fargo traditions.

Karen’s character is also wasted to an extent. There was so much potential to navigate the disillusionment. Alas, it has also turned out to be pretty much a straight line. Munch’s transformation is also awkwardly achieved in the episode, even though it evokes nothing but cheers. The beautiful symbolization of the “hand” metaphor in the dying seconds is undeniably poetic.

These are the elements that make Fargo such an attractive cinematic delicacy despite the marginal pitfalls. However, the reign of populism is the unfortunate truth of our lives today.

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You can read our full review of Fargo Season 5 here!
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