tv review – FX’s Fargo, episode 1.8

‘The Heap’ had a surprise up its sleeve: halfway through the episode the words “One year later” appeared on screen, basically skipping over much of the aftermath of last week’s Fargo outing. It was an unexpected turn, quite a jarring one too at first, but likely a necessary move to bring this miniseries’ arc to a fulfilling conclusion. The previous Fargo outings were mostly about Lester’s transformation and his endeavors to not get caught; now that that’s been wrapped up it did make sense that the show wanted to show us where this would not only lead Lester, but also the other characters. Unfortunately the result wasn’t as fluid as the other episodes have been: the first half of ‘The Heap’ concluded the storylines surrounding the Bemidji and Fargo murders, and the second half set up what’s to come. It felt clunky, a bit cheap and, for the first time, like something a TV show would do. It took me out of the story, and it wasn’t until the last scene that ‘The Heap’ really won me back.

While that may sound harsh, ‘The Heap’ wasn’t a bad episode by any means. The dialogue crackled like it always had, the characters were still as wonderful as before, but… the episode just didn’t offer viewers anything new or unpredictable. Lester’s turn was in full effect from the start of the episode where he told Gina Hess and her boys off (armed with a stapler), and after Lester had turned on his coworker with this particular course of action it was only logical that Lester would hook up with her and that he would become better at his job additionally. And that’s exactly what happened: these two characters got married and one year later Lester won the award for best insurance salesman of 2007. After Malvo’s touch Lester did not only become a more despicable and ruthless human being, but also an incredible successful one (or invincible one, like I argued in last week’s review). This transformation from dweeb to a forceful and smooth-talking maniac was thrilling to watch, but the downside is that, during ‘The Heap’, it also made it very easy for the audience to see where the story was headed. The fact that ‘The Heap’ dipped a little too much in the cliché pool here and there didn’t help matters either, especially regarding its female characters: apart from Molly every other woman on the show is either wooed by money or power, a turn of events that could be attributed to the seemingly supernatural perks of Lester’s change, but it still comes off as a bit hokey.

Talking about Molly: she finally gave up openly going after Lester to offer Verne’s widow peace of mind and to pursue her own happiness, which meant that in 2007 she’s married to Gus, who’s now a mailman, and that she’s pregnant of his child. She did have an entire room dedicated to her Lester hunt though, so she’s still a threat to him. Especially since her scenes were mostly about her trying to settle into this quiet life, something that didn’t come easy to her: it was beautifully illustrated that she wants more and that she can’t let the Nygaard case go. Then again: we didn’t expect her to because her whole arc has always been about the fact she’s a brilliant and dogged deputy who will stop at nothing to see a case through. Therefore the development of her story was entirely unsurprising and went through many of the same beats we’ve come to expect from her story. Additionally it was uncanny how much Molly is resembling Marge now, the character from the Fargo movie, even though she spoke some of Marge’s lines before in other episodes. While it isn’t a bad thing and many viewers not as familiar with the 1996 movie will not even notice it, I personally feel that the show works best when it does its own thing. I loved the fact it tied in the film’s events to this narrative, but the copying of characters is something I don’t like, because, again, it takes away from the show’s freshness.

The last scene, like I said, was great though. Lester went to pursue a young lady in Las Vegas after having sent his wife to their hotel room, but the woman wasn’t the only person he found in the hotel bar: Lorne Malvo was sitting at a table, chatting with a man and two women, looking like he’s done very well for himself since the last time we saw him in 2006, killing a police offer in a hospital restroom and freeing Mr. Wrench. Malvo wore a nice suit, his hair was well-groomed and he behaved in a relaxed and casual manner, something we didn’t see from the character before. The scene made you wonder what exactly happened between the first half of ‘The Heap’ and the second part; did he take over the Fargo crime syndicate and are he and Mr. Wrench working together now? We’ll surely find out soon with only two episodes left and, based on this final scene, it’s also rather likely we’re in for the Malvo vs. Nygaard showdown we’ve all been waiting for. How Molly and FBI Agents Budge and Pepper (who have spent an entire year working in the file room by this time) are going to be dragged into that mess is anyone’s guess though, but a team-up seems likely.

On a final side note: what the hell happened to Stavros Milos? I’d sure like to find out.

‘The Heap’ was an uneventful episode, its clear purpose to set up the last two Fargo outings. The way it went about it was entirely unsurprising though, lacking much of the thrills and humor we’ve come to expect from the show. 7/10

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