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‘Fargo’ Season 5, Episode 6 Recap: Deadbeats and Broken Dreams

To the many reversals of Coen character types in this season of “Fargo” — Dot as a lethally capable Jean Lundegaard from the movie, Roy as a malevolent Ed Tom Bell from “No Country for Old Men” — let’s add one more: Lars Olmstead, the layabout husband of Indira Olmstead, this season’s indebted, nonpregnant spin on Frances McDormand’s Marge Gunderson. Marge’s husband, Norm, has a dream, too. He paints a mallard for a competition to get on the 20-cent stamp. He loses to his friend, but gets on the three-cent stamp, which Marge celebrates in the film’s touching denouement.

But unlike with Lars, Norm’s ambitions are a not a drag on his wife. On the contrary, he makes her eggs and gives the prowler a jump. They enjoy a lunchtime fricassee together. In the end, snuggled under a blanket against the howling cold of the rural Midwest, they look forward to their first child. If anything, it is Marge who experiences a bit of wanderlust when she leaves for the Twin Cities to investigate the case and puts on makeup to meet with an old classmate for drinks. Ol’ reliable Norm will always be there to support her, but perhaps Brainerd, Minn., and its brown-gray buffet casseroles aren’t enough for a sheriff of her impeccable instincts.

Indira is too good for Lars; that much is clear. When he comes stumbling inside from another night sleeping in his garage of broken dreams, he rages at Indira for not supporting him like a proper wife. The scene isn’t remotely persuasive, because there has never been any suggestion of why these two were ever wedded in the first place. He is trying to bring about a traditional marriage where, based on all available evidence, one has never existed. He runs up debt as a jobless nincompoop who imagined himself first as a rock drummer and then as a PGA Tour pro, and she takes double-shifts at the police station to work down their debt and to supply her man-child with Frosted Flakes. His gall in this moment is unmitigated, and it is also unbelievable.

Yet the crude engineering of this scene does feed into a larger theme of the episode and the series itself, which has become about united women carving out a place for themselves in a world where the best men are dim and the worst are thoughtless and abusive. Indira’s fight with her husband, who somehow expects her to exchange recipes like the other wives at the country club, serves as a catalyst for her to reconsider her position on Dot. Given what Indira has been able to piece together, Dot is no longer the cop-tasing miscreant in the back of her cruiser but an abuse victim who is scraping and clawing to maintain the happiness she went through hell to achieve. That’s a woman worth fighting for.

Lorraine doesn’t come around to Indira’s line of thinking naturally, which is what makes her the most intriguing character on the show. Her instinct is to support guys like Roy Tillman, because she considers herself tough and unapologetic and tends to think of society in terms of winners and losers, many of whom owe her company money. When Indira slides a thick file detailing Dot/Nadine’s documented abuse by Roy, Lorraine pushes it away. “People who claim to be victims are the downfall of this country,” she says. In her mind, Dot is still the impostor who has married her only son.

Yet Roy, for all his swaggering power plays, has made it easier for Lorraine to change her mind. He only knows one way to deal with women and that’s to assert his power over them, by his authority or by the back of his hand. There might have been an angle he could have taken to get Lorraine to help him get his ex-wife back and solve her own daughter-in-law problems in the process. But her distaste for Roy and her meeting with Indira have started to alter her thinking about Dot, who isn’t the type of “victim” she lives to harass with onerous consolidation deals or threats of litigation.

In the framing scenes at the Tender Trap, the strip club that gives this episode its title, one small detail stands out. When Roy confronts Vivian Duggar, the mustachioed banker “with a girl’s name” who’s selling his business to Lorraine, he brings up the fact that he’s violating a dancer’s restraining order against him. The irony is pretty rich, given what we know about Roy’s treatment of women, but it brings these men into dramatic alignment. When Lorraine uses her power in the end to ruin Vivian’s life, it serves as a coming attraction for things to come. She’s still coming around to the idea of “victims” being legitimate, but she lives to flex.

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