TV Review: ‘Fargo: The Heap’

Review by Joe Thompson

It’s Molly’s first day back at the station, and she’s set on confronting Bill with her theories about Lester’s guilt. This comes on the heels of the arrest of Chaz, Lester’s brother, while she was recuperating. Molly’s never been one for tact, and her direct approach ends up blowing up in her face. “That’s just how it is sometimes! You go to bed unsatisfied!” Bill yells at her in a moment of frustration, before calming down and spilling the details of Molly’s welcome back party.

“We don’t always get what we want” and “life goes on” could very well be the theme of “The Heap,” Fargo’s latest episode. Just past the halfway mark of the hour, “The Heap” jumps forward one year in time. (Side note: during the scene where Gus and Molly set up their first date, did anyone else think the camera was panning over to introduce some new awful element that meant the end for one of them?). Anyway, now Gus works for the post office (his dream job yay!), and Molly is still a deputy with the Bemidji police, now extremely pregnant and echoing Frances McDormand’s Marge Gunderson harder than ever. They have a sweet life and family, but Molly is still haunted by the Nygaard case, often calling the Feds to stay in touch and poring over her bulletin board packed with clippings and photos on the wall. That Lester and Malvo have seemingly escaped prosecution for their crimes weighs heavily on poor Molly.

Lester’s year has been quite different. We watch him slowly transition to a more confidant man, standing up to Gina and stapling the kids. His aggressive action catches the eye of office mate, Linda, to whom Lester is married when we catch up to him after the time jump. One year later, Lester is married to Linda, the office hottie, and successful, arriving in Las Vegas to accept the “Salesman of the Year” award. Lester looks slimmer, confident, dresses better, and it shows in how he carries himself in numerous sequences where he dominates silent conversations where he would have typically been in the background. I’m reminded of Malvo’s speech to Broken Nose Lester in the pilot, about being a man and handling his business. I think what we’re seeing here is Lester transitioning to someone more akin to Malvo, at least in Lester’s head. Because while Lester installs himself in the hotel bar, making eyes at a woman across the room, he spots a white haired Malvo at a corner table and he’s instantly channeling his old self again.

Besides the Hess stapling scene, there’s little left to like about Lester. His awful machinations in “Buriden’s Ass” and taking advantage of Gina last week have moved Lester into the category where I want him to get caught. The character has straddled the line between sympathy and horrifying, but it’s good to recall that this is a man who escaped justice for murder. Like Molly, arriving at the credits without Lester’s new life in peril leaves me unsatisfied. I’m looking forward to just how Malvo’s reappearance will affect Lester, or whether he’ll choose the wiser path and get the hell outta Dodge. Deep down, Lester isn’t the same kind of man as Malvo, and I think he’s in for a rude awakening.

Agents Budge and Pepper step up from the background and look to become major players as Fargo rockets toward the finish line. Relegated to doing the work of file clerks for a year after the Fargo massacre fiasco, the partners have grown complacent and jaded, but like much of the divine (?) coincidences on Fargo, they are reminded of the case that put them there. Whether this energizes them to make things better remains to be seen, but I certainly hope we see more of them going forward.

Fargo should be praised for subverting expectations about adapting such a beloved film, and delivering a show with such rich, human characters. Spectacle and changes are a large part of the plot, but Fargo’s main focus is its characters, easy to relate to and identify with. Acting talent and Hawley’s writing have created a television show just as engaging as the source material.

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