The second episode of a new series is always a good indication of the direction the show will be going. The pilot is basically a pitch to the networks and to viewers, highlighting the characters and overall plot. However, the second episode is usually written and shot weeks later, after plenty of conversations and revisions. While Fargo’s pilot was a bit more focused, shocking and dark, the second episode “The Rooster Prince” is filled with the promise of what the show could be. There’s still that tone of dark comedy with characters that are compelling and fun, but the episode wasn’t near as entertaining. Still, there is so much potential for this show to be one of the best on the air. Here are a few of the best and worst moments from the episode:

Best: Guest Stars

With an already amazing cast headed by Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman, Fargo has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to its cast. The guest stars in this episode were particularly great. Bob Odenkirk plays Deputy Bill Oswalt, who is taking over for the newly deceased Vern Thurman. His character fills the bumbling police officer role perfectly. His description of Lester being chased on the playground by Hess until one of them ran out of gas was hilarious and delivered the way only Odenkirk can. Other guest stars included Glenn Howerton as a bronzer-using blackmailer with a ridiculous accent, Adam Goldberg as a hitman looking for Hess’s killer, David Carradine as Solverson’s returning father, and Oliver Platt as Stavros Milos, a supermarket king who uses Malvo’s services. This is exactly the type of show that will lure in amazing talented actors for small roles. Everyone has been utilized well so far and has yet to seem distracting.

Worst: Solverson’s Sloppy Investigation

Molly Solverson is as close to a good guy that Fargo has. Vern Thurman was her mentor and she is therefore emotionally involved in finding his killer. Her instincts are great. She’s the one who found the original clue that linked Hess to Lester (and inadvertently lead Thurman to his death) and is certain that Lester is a suspect in, at least, Hess’s death, if not his wife and Thurman. But she goes about it all in the wrong way. She harasses Lester, following him while he’s picking up a prescription and asking tough questions, despite his claim of having a concussion. While Solverson’s suspicions are right on the money, by harassing a man who just lost his wife and was allegedly attacked a few days before, she looks hasty and transparent. It’s almost a relief when she’s pulled off the case, like she’s being saved from her own idiocy. I want to root for her and her impeccable instincts but she needs to learn to be a bit more subtle.

Best: Everything Malvo Does

It’s only been two episodes and I’m already in love with this character. There’s something about Lorne Malvo that’s mysterious, terrifying, and hilarious. Every one of his scenes was the perfect mixture of funny and intimidating. When he goes to pick up a package, the man behind the counter asks to see some ID. “No,” he says, dryly. Later, when the man thinks the package is highly irregular, Malvo responds, “No, highly irregular is when I found a human foot in a toaster oven. This is just odd.” The best Malvo scene is when he is being threatened by Stavros Milos’s right hand man. As the man is spitting out threat after threat, Malvo calmly walks to the bathroom, takes off his pants, and sits on the toilet. He even takes out a book—and Milos’s book no less—to read while the bigger man sputters out his empty threats. Sorry, dude, but nobody is ever going to be as scary as Malvo. But nice try.

Worst: Malvo’s Blackmailing Case Continues On

Malvo takes on a case to find out who is blackmailing Stavros Milos. He figures it out pretty quickly by noting the bronzer on the blackmail letter that Glenn Howerton’s character has slathered all over him. The episode ends before Malvo can do anything about it. Was this case really compelling enough to stretch over multiple episodes? Maybe Malvo will turn against Milos or maybe he’ll just kill Howerton’s character. Either way it doesn’t really feel like it will make a huge impact on the show. We’re not invested enough to care one way or the other. I’m not saying that the show should be a case-of-the-week deal but this feels like treading water. It’s too early in the series to be stretching storylines further than they need to be when there’s so many storylines to be explored.

Best: Lester’s Hand

I loved the imagery of Lester’s injured hand. He injured part of his hand during the climax of the last episode. The injury isn’t serious and is just covered by a small band-aid but the show treated it like a serious malady. Whenever Lester got frazzled or upset during the episode, his injured hand would itch or he’d fiddle with the bandage. It’s more mental than physical. Lester is clearly mentally deteriorating and the injury is clearly going to be used as a manifestation of that.

Other Musings:

  • Thurman’s pregnant wife barely seemed upset. She was even lighthearted when talking to Solverson.
  • Thurman’s wife tells a story about a man getting killed by a hail stone after buying a slushee. Solverson: “What flavor?” “Strawberry.”
  • Lester once fainted when a girl got her period in gym class.
  • Malvo on getting his new identity: “I’m a minster apparently….” He does sign of the cross. “Have a blessed day.”
  • Grimly gets a few scenes that don’t amount to much. He chases a wolf for animal control, watches an Orthodox Jewish woman change from his window, and explains to his daughter why an act of cowardice is sometimes the best move. He’ll clearly be important later, but he was shoehorned into this episode.
  • Malvo has a recording of Lester’s phone call to him in which he admits that his wife is dead, says his name, and asks for Malvo’s help. That will definitely be important later.
  • Lester goes to stay with his brother, who last week admitted that he sometimes tells people he’s an only child. This will be fun to watch.
  • Lester lies about Malvo stealing his car by telling Solverson that it’s in the shop. This is such a transparent lie that when it screws him over it won’t be quite as entertaining.