Like Daniel Day-Lewis‘s method acting or Meryl Streep in an Oscar-seeking role, Nick Offerman is a modern master in one specific niche—playing drunk.
Maybe it started after Parks and Rec’s uninhibited dancing Ron Swanson became the stuff dreams (meme ones, at least) are made of. But when asked how he got a guest gig on The Simpsons as an inebriated sailor, Offerman told TV Guide about the writing room’s thought process: “Hey, you know who’s a great drunk jackass? Nick Offerman!” Punk band Fidlar noticed too, and Offerman once infamously played a 40-ounce swigging woodworker pissing all over LA in their video for “Cocaine.” In fact, the concept was his idea.
But all of this was merely prequel. Offerman’s true contribution to Great Moments in TV Drinking came Monday evening in the latest episode of Fargo. As freedom and justice-loving car mechanic/army vet/only-lawyer-in-town Karl Weathers, Offerman finally received the blurred spotlight he deserved in “Rhinoceros” (S2 E6). Faced with a North Dakota mob family coming to wreak havoc in rural Minnesota, the actor stumbled effortlessly through all the right stages of being over-served.
Appropriately, it all started at the VFW. In this small town Valhalla of turning one on, Weathers holds court as usual. At this point, Offerman is in full on drunken collegiate mode—espousing on history, humanity, and law like a tightly-wound philosophy major after turning in that final thesis. (“No Sonny, they just called themselves plumbers, but they were a special investigative unit inside the White House…”)
Without giving too much away, Karl’s legal mind is soon needed at the sheriff’s office. And although he can recognize he’ll need a driver, his (intellectual) beer muscles will not be deterred. “It would appear I’m a little unstable, but I am sound in mind and body and ready to run circles around the inferior minds of the Rock County Sheriff’s department.”
On the scene, Offerman transitions into stage two of drunkenness—sloppy incoherence. He communicates with his client in convoluted signals due to his paranoia about NSA-levels of surveillance (in a 1970s rural setting). He exits abruptly and appears ready to enter the recognition and acceptance stage of this alcoholic journey. In fact, the last words he says to his client? “I’m slightly inebriated.”
Of course, circumstances force Weather to immediately turn around. Short of breath, he falls on a bench near the entryway. When the sheriff checks on his well-being, our man is seeing clearly. “It’s possible I soiled myself.” So after a coffee and some further bench rest, Offerman masterfully lands in the final stage of perfect television intoxication: pre-hangover enlightenment. The verbosity flashed earlier now has a purpose, and he’s able to reason with the meanest of mid-westerners in a way he may never have if stone sober.
Still, perhaps the “piece de resistance” of this drunken tour de force is the aftermath. We don’t see the morning after, we merely end with the continuation. Weathers is back at the VFW, and he’s not telling stories about his most recent conquest—he’s recounting the Korean War. It’s as riveting for us as it is for the onlookers who soon exclaim, “you sure know a lot of words, Karl.”
“I’m an esquire kid, a barrister, defender of the common man and the mis-accused,” Weathers says, beer in hand. He opens it, and it would be the last sound of the episode, except Offerman finally allows his character to have one fleeting moment of reflection: “Heh.”