Fargo episode 8 review: The Heap

Things appear to have settled down this week, but can the situation hold? Here's Michael's review

This review contains spoilers

1.8 The Heap

There’s a certain folksy fatalism at the heart of Fargo, a sense that, for most of the characters, a belief that some things are just meant to be. It’s there in the fables and homilies that provide each episode’s title, it’s there in the plotting (how much of the current state of play owes itself to Lester’s chance meeting with Malvo?) and it’s there in Bill Oswalt’s remark that ‘you shouldn’t question the universe, because things just work out’. 

If they do, they don’t necessarily work out for the better, no matter how comforting they first appear. That seemed to be the general theme of this episode, an instalment that took us forward a year and gave us some time to see how the implications of recent bloodbaths played out in the long term.

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For Molly and Gus, now officially and expectantly a couple, things are generally good albeit not in equal measure. Gus has left the force (probably for the best) and is working in his originally planned career as a postie. That cosy, simple homelife is pretty much all that Gus ever wanted, a straightforward existence in which the biggest challenge is remembering to pick up a bottle of red sauce on the way home. Molly, however, is not so easily contented. Always a better cop than Gus (indeed, better than all her colleagues with the possible exception of the deceased Vern), the untied strands from the Malvo/Nygaard case continue to haunt her and represent an itch that now has just two episodes to be scratched. There were a couple of scene transitions that director Scott Winant used to tease or even torment us. The slow track away from Gus in his patrol car and the steady one downwards from Gus and Molly in bed both seemed to suggest that some kind of malevolence was about to be pulled into view, but it never came. It was a great piece of playful filmmaking that conveyed a lot more than it initially appeared to. How long will we have to wait until another such tracking shot actually reveals the demon hiding in the darkness?

Not too long, it would seem. Lester’s spotting of a disguised or transformed Malvo in that Las Vegas bar was just such a moment (not to mention another example of one of those coincidence/not coincidences that this show delivers so well). Lester has adapted rather better to the new realities of post-Malvo life, not batting an eyelid at his sister-in-law’s tales of woe or assertively slapping down the remnants of the Hess family and winning the affections of his new wife in the process. His acceptance speech passed like a dream, the sort of practiced off-the-cuff addresses that we all secretly believe we can make, confident and naturalistic. It’s a league away from the jittery, eternal victim Lester we first met all those episodes ago and a mark of Martin Freeman’s not insignificant talents that he can so successfully make both personae so different and yet recognisably the same guy. The subtleties of the main performances are one of the elements that have made Fargo such a success and which keep us invested in the characters through every forgivably credibility-bending coincidence. 

That appearance of Malvo confirmed our suspicions that the universe hasn’t finished working things out for any of the leads and that a few more twists remain before this tale is seen through. Little hints such as Malvo’s rather sporting liberation of Wrench, an act that must surely come back to bite him on the backside (and he’s normally so careful too), or the usefully bored agents Budge and Pepper, the last near-witnesses to Malvo’s antics suggest that there are several areas in which this current settlement may yet be blown apart. Precisely how this will happen remains up for debate, as does the question of whether or not Lester or Malvo will be permitted to ‘win’. It all depends on what kind of working out the universe has to make.

Read Michael’s review of the previous episode,Who Shaves The Barber? here

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