There’s a moment I keep returning to, from the first episode of the new season of Fargo. There’s a triple homicide at a 24-hour diner, and Minnesota state trooper Lou Solverson responds to the crime. A truck driver meets him in the parking lot, and they walk toward one of the victims: a waitress who tried to flee the scene only to be gunned down in the cold expanse of a Minnesota night.
“I left my rig there, I hope that’s OK,” the truck driver says, motioning to the 18-wheeler behind him, at the edge of the lot.
Solverson says nothing, but keeps eyeing the victim in the snow.
“I’m the one that called it in, see?” the driver continues. “Stopped for waffles. With the blueberries -- they come frozen this time of year, I know, but…”
Solverson pinches the corner of a large jacket draped over the waitress, picks it up and peeks underneath.
“I put my coat on her. It seemed only right.”
I love this scene because even though it’s meant to drive the narrative ahead, its obsessive attention to the just-right details also works outside the episode, revealing, in just a few words, the very essence of my people: the corn-eating flatlanders of The Great Middle. There’s the deferential greeting (“I left my rig there, I hope that’s OK.”); the need to fill all moments, even grisly ones, with small talk (“Stopped for waffles...”); and at last the embarrassment and shame over anything unseemly and the compulsion to cloak it (“I put my coat on her. It seemed only right.”).