Television: ‘Fargo’: The Slender Man, Seduction and Lorne Malvo

FX Networks

FX Networks

Last month, two 12-year-old girls from Wisconsin were accused of subduing and stabbing a classmate. They reportedly explained their actions by referring to Slender Man, a tall, reed-thin, dark-suited and faceless character that has fueled online interest. The duo suggested they wanted to serve and please this entity – to curry enough favor so that he’d take them into the forest to live with him.

Let’s fine tune that location.

Slender Man is alive and well in Bemidji, Minnesota and, by all accounts, he’s using the fey and wizardly manipulative Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) as his conduit.

If the horrific and real-life stabbing in Wisconsin was, indeed, a direct or indirect result of two youngsters being in thrall to a mythic creature, then it’s worth taking a look at the hold that Malvo, like Slender Man, has on just about everyone who crosses his path.

The fluid mythology of Slender Man, whose prototype seems to go back centuries, includes a few givens. He’ll gravitate towards a victim for no specific reason. He’s passive aggressive. He’s not adverse to relentlessly stalking those who’ve endured tragedy and causing them physical debilities. He’ll repeatedly invade their homes or pop up on their travel routes. When he kills, victims vanish without a trace. If death isn’t in the cards, victims may suffer damage to their personal and professional lives. In other words, the incessant fear of meeting up with the child-hunting, Slender Man figure is as much of a mental and emotional torment as an actual face-to-face confrontation.

The “Fargo” narrative, in retrospect, hews remarkably close to Slender Man lore. From the start, doormat insurance salesman and henpecked husband, Bemidji resident Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) has been once again bullied and beaten by a nemesis childhood acquaintance. In the local hospital’s emergency room, Lester happens upon a stranger, a scrawny but imposing Lorne Malvo who, through his creepy gaze, insistence and seemingly otherworldly powers, elicits a green light from Lester to end the bully problem permanently. It’s as though Lester has unwittingly become an acolyte, as does, further into the story, Stavros and even Gus.

As in the myth, Slender Lorne starts turning up in these people’s lives. Sometimes, the visits are beneficial, such as his prevention of Lester’s arrest for killing his wife, Pearl, and giving Mr. Wrench keys to the handcuffs. This week, in the first season’s penultimate episode, “A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage,” Malvo’s impending appearance – which Lester surely knows is coming – is a murderous one, eliminating Lester’s new wife, Linda. (En route to Lester, Malvo savors indelibly imprinting images of death and ghosts onto the minds of two young children.)

How will Slender Man innuendos play out in the series’ final episode? Prior to second wife Linda’s murder, Lester had, through his Faustian bargain with Malvo, reinvented himself personally and professionally. However, he has now crossed Malvo by not “forgetting” him during a sensitive meeting in Las Vegas – Slender Man mythology is also associated with victims’ memory loss – and getting out of his path. Malvo, targeting Lester, has instead offed Linda. And, in making that ruse possible, Lester has become as manipulative as his archetypal seducer, a Neptunian figure that has successfully blurred and rendered useless Lester’s moral code.

Under no circumstances does Lester yearn to join Slender Lorne in a fantasy forest sanctuary. However, Lester is in so deep with Malvo, and Malvo’s influence so penetrating, that our Insurance Salesman of the Year may be sucked out into the wild like metal filings to a magnet. Count on Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman), incapable of duplicity and impervious to seduction, to see the forest for the trees.

Astrology Television Rating: ♆ (Neptune)

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