Fargo: 1.08 The Heap

Last week’s Fargo felt like it might be winding up to something; it featured the resolution of several plotlines, such as Mr Wrench and Mr Number’s hunt for Lorne Malvo, Malvo’s blackmailing of Stavros, and Lester’s transition to villainy. What it has wound up to, however, is not at all what was expected.

When “The Heap” picks up where “Who Shaves the Barber” left off, a new arc of stories seems set to begin. With his brother Chaz imprisoned for his crimes, Lester is displaying a newfound confidence and bravery. Molly once again comes up against the stupidity of police chief Bill Oswalt, but seems set to start the next stage of her investigation on her own if necessary. Malvo has completed one sick game and another will undoubtedly be just around the corner as he frees Mr Wrench from police custody.

Which is why it seems very strange that, just as we are starting to get into these new plotlines, the show suddenly fast-forwards a year in the middle of the episode.

The transition is not merely surprising, but in some ways jarring as well. After all the build-up, Fargo has made us invest in the situation only to snatch it out from under us. You can’t help wondering whether the trick might not have been better played at the beginning of the episode – or even at the end of last week’s instead.

That being said, the unexpected shift does allow Fargo to rapidly rearrange its players. We see Lester remarried, seemingly something of a philanderer, winning Insurance Salesman of the Year. Gus now works as a mailman and is married to Molly, whose pregnancy is a clever, albeit obvious, nod to Marge Gunderson from the original Coen Brothers film. Malvo’s whereabouts and motives, on the other hand, are largely a mystery.

All in all, the jump forwards allows us a deeper look at the psychology of Fargo’s characters. We may not have seen the journeys they’ve taken in this missing year, but seeing where they’ve ended up is perhaps more telling than anything else. When we see that Molly is still hung up on Lester’s case – a vast web of photographs and evidence pinned up on a wall in her house – it speaks more loudly than if we’d seen all the details of what has happened.

The major let down is Gus, who is starting to feel like the most criminally underused character in the cast. What fascinated me about him was that he was a good man trying to do the right thing, but that he was hampered by his own cowardice and incompetence. Now working as a mailman, seemingly fired from the police for that incompetence, that dynamic should have greater depth. Unfortunately, he is given little screen time and spends most of the time he does get discussing tacos.

The other peculiar aspect of “The Heap” is the inclusion of FBI Agents Budge and Pepper, demoted to the files room for failing to stop Malvo’s killing spree. What role they have to play is still unclear, and, as we haven't had time to become invested in them, their appearances slow the episode down.

“The Heap” is an improvement on the previous episode of Fargo, but it’s not the new beginning it might have been. Instead it feels like the deep breath before the plunge, a nervous pause before the finale kicks off. The pieces are all in position now, and hopefully the final two episodes are ready to explode the same way the start of the series did.

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