FARGO Recap: “The Heap”

     June 3, 2014


Perhaps the best part of Fargo‘s “The Heap” was the lack of Malvo (more or less).  Having done his damage in Bemidji, Duluth and Fargo, he seemingly left the scene (after one final word to a certain hospital patient).  Since then, things have been allowed to develop in the wake of his chaos.  “The Heap” gave a long-range look at that fallout, and set up some familiar scenes, but from a new perspective.  Hit the jump for why time is the distance between cause and effect.

fargo-the-heap-kate-walsh-martin-freemanFargo may have set up Molly and Gus as protagonists, but the show is really Lester’s, thanks to Martin Freeman.  After struggling for so long, Lester committed a murder (and aided in two more) that seemed to set him free.  Since then, he’s been having the time of his life.  What started with a new dryer turned into a new style, a new wife, and a new infusion to his career and well being.

Malvo, in one of his brief appearances during “The Heap,” gave another extended “let me tell you a disturbing story and pretend that it’s not” monologues to Mr. Wrench, about a bear who chewed its own leg off to escape a trap.  He didn’t live long, but he died free.  This seems to foreshadow Lester’s particular run in a post-Pearl world.  He did terrible things — consenting in a hit, murdering his wife, implicating his brother — yet these acts have set him free.  With Molly on his trail, Lester may not have long with his freedom, but it looks like frankly he would say it was all worth it.

The time jump halfway through the episode also finally turned Molly into Marge from the Fargo movie.  Married to Gus and pregnant, Molly has apparently never lost her Carrie Mathison-esque obsession with the real crimes that happened in what is now a year ago.  There’s no follow-up in that time jump to Chazz or his family, but Molly still seems to believe there’s still potential to right this wrong.  In a digression regarding other law enforcement agents, Budge and Pepper, it again seems the crime is not destined to rest in peace.  Though sequestered in the file room after allowing 22 people to be murdered while they sat outside, the two rediscover that (very clear) photo of Malvo leaving the scene of the massacre, giving it thoughtful pause.

Lester, for his part, doesn’t yet see any of this coming.  But he does, at the end of “The Heap,” see Malvo, fearing finally that all he has built could be in jeopardy.  One thing Fargo does well is create a world that’s connected without feeling insulated (like, say, Hannibal, where no one seems to exist except about five core people).  The radius of Bemidji/Duluth/Fargo has always felt very small, with characters from each overlapping with the others.  Having Malvo around doesn’t feel unexpected, just like Bill’s Sudanese foster child being found in Phoenix Farms (Stavros’ chain) rather than anywhere else also seems like a natural part of this world.  Things are all connected, nothing can be fully escaped.

fargo-the-heap-bob-odenkirk-allison-tolmanDespite the time jump, though, “The Heap” didn’t really move forward much except to show the progression of Lester’s personal life.  Like the marriage of Gus and Molly, it all feels inevitable. Fargo seems to exist in a universe geared towards predestination, with all of its inhabitants trudging dutifully down paths created for them.  Even when Malvo arrives and supposedly shakes things up, all he really does in Lester’s case is lightly goad him towards something he’s always been capable of, but never had the will to accomplish.  One year later, it’s not that Lester’s changed, it’s that he’s the person he has always wanted to be.

The real problem with “The Heap” though is how disjointed it felt.  Despite Lester’s forward motion, which was genuinely interesting to watch unfold (like when he stood up to the Hess kids and stapled their faces), everything else felt stagnant.  It’s a problem Fargo has had since the beginning.  Also, there are so many lingering questions, like what happened regarding Don’s death?  Did the police ever realize or look into the fact he was set up?  How did Stavros react after the death of his son and right hand man?  And what about Chazz and his family, not to mention the fate of Wrench? (Is he plotting, or has he teamed up with Malvo?)

The answers to most of these questions will probably play out over the next few weeks, but Fargo‘s sense of pace remains off.  The show seems to be obsessed with not being beholden to plot points to define episodic arcs but, heck, sometimes, just like Malvo, you do need to circle back to move forward.

Episode Rating: B

Musings and Miscellanea:

fargo-the-heap-keegan-michael-key-jordan-peele– What “The Heap” really did was just spend a lot of time building up the background of Bemidji, mostly through Bill. The assault-rifle cake, the Sudanese foster child, and his continued blocking of Molly when it comes to letting her take meaningful cases — it all shows what kind of town Bemidji is to live in.  And the result is: no one should want to be there.

– Lester had a great episode, from clearing out Pearl’s things and reinventing himself, to taking charge and agency of his own life.  Too bad it’s all built on blood and lies!

– Molly, you really need to learn to be satisfied with assault rifle frosting.

– ”You don’t cheat on Miss Hubbard County!” – Kitty.

– Super underrated part of this show: Russell Harvard as Wrench.  I want a spin-off just staring him.

– Verne should have known better than to give a poison ivy bouquet.  Or a bouquet of anything that doesn’t bloom, really.

– ”22 people did get killed while we were sitting in the car but … We’re ok, we’re alright.” – Budge.  Key and Peele are not given enough to do in this show.

– Good for Gus, being a mailman and making skunky beer.

– “It’s me, is the point of the story!” – Bill, regarding the trials and tribulations of his refuge.

– Budge: “What’s a cemetery with no bodies?”  Pepper: “Condos.”

– “All good things, Lester, you deserve” – Kitty.


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  • World’s Finest Comments

    How is it even legal for television to be so good these past few years?!

  • Daniel O’Reilly

    I’m not really a fan of the fast forward (one year later…), but in this case, where else could the show go? Literally everyone had been brought to a standstill and there was nothing to move forward except time. So okay. At very least it feels like Noah Hawley earned the time jump.

    I could definitely go for a Wrench and Numbers prequel series. Oddly, there are really no shows on tv about hitmen. Plenty of shows have them in supporting roles, but there are none specifically about them.

    Key and Peele are going to help Molly crack this thing finally. Wait and see.

    Did we ever actually get to see the assault rifle cake (other than the slices being eaten)?

    The picture in Lester’s office of the couple on the beach was more than a little reminiscent of the picture of the beach in Barton Fink. And keeping with the Coen references, we had Malvo strangling a cop in a manner similar to that of Anton Chigurh, and then showing up in a hitman’s room unannounced, also very much in the manner of Chigurh.

    You really don’t want to mess with Lester and his stapler.

  • watching

    For me, the only relatively dead air in the episode was Key and Peele. Didn’t further the story at all… but hopefully a set-up for something down the road. Lester’s transformation was fascinating.

  • It’s James Cain!

    The Stephen Root cameo made it an A+ for me. Wonderful stuff.