A Look at Fargo- Season 1, Episode 8: “The Heap”

Life doesn’t always turn out the way we’d expect, but when the chips fall, it’s best to be insured.  “The Heap” made a surprising move that advanced character storylines in ways I didn’t expect, but emphasized that one unexpected turn of events can change your life, as has been the case since Lorne Malvo’s arrival.  The episode’s big move creates more questions, but none of them took away from another well done episode.

The Heap- Lester receives a new washing machine

The episode begins with Lester receiving a brand, spanking new washing machine.  The delivery man, played by Marty Antonini, is glad Lester is getting a new machine, as the current model he uses has been recalled.

The Heap- Lester and Kitty discuss Chaz's upcoming trials

Later, Kitty talks about the upcoming trial about Gordo.  She’s more concerned about that than Chaz’s well-being.  She was Miss Hubbard County.  You don’t cheat on Miss Hubbard County, damn it!  But to pay for the trial, Kitty has to get rid of some possessions.  She offers Lester whatever he desires, as she believes he deserves good things.

The Heap- Molly is cleared to work again

Molly, now cleared to work again, heads to her dad’s coffee shop to find more flowers from Gus.  Wow.  Imagine if he’d shot her in the kidney.  Maybe he’d give her chocolate.  But she gives Lou a rundown of how she’ll approach Bill with the new information regarding Lester.

Bill, however, is waiting for a mushroom and cheese omelet to digest, so he may not be ready just yet.  But either way, Molly needs to meet him in the staff room.

The Heap- Bill shoots down Molly's theories on Sam Hess' murder

When the two meet, Bill admits his drifter theory was way off now that Chaz has been caught.  Problem is, as Molly states, he’s still wrong since it doesn’t make sense for Chaz to be guilty.  But Solverson doesn’t stop there.  She demands to be heard and throws out her theories about Sam Hess to where the case is now, but Bill just won’t hear any of it.  His philosophy is that sometimes you go to bed unsatisfied.  That’s life: not everything is meant to be.  Molly has one consolation prize to look forward to: at her welcome back party, there’s going to be a cake with an assault rifle on top, made of frosting!

The Heap- Lester hits it off with Linda Park

At work, Lester hits it off with one of his coworkers, Linda Park, played by Susan Park.  Huh.  How about that?  She likes how brand new he’s looking and invites him over for chili on Saturday.

The Heap- Gina, Moe and Mickey Hess confront Lester about her denied claim

In bursts Gina and the Hess brothers.  Gina has received a letter stating that her claim has been denied.  She accuses Lester of withholding information from her, but he denies it.  After stapling Moe and Mickey, Lester assures Gina that he’ll make a few phone calls.

The Heap- Agents Budge and Pepper try to explain themselves to their boss

Back to Fargo, North Dakota, Key and Peel-I mean Budge and Pepper, await their boss, who soon approaches.  The three board an elevator and the two agents try to make their case known.  They do at least have a photo from an ATM, which shows that their perpetrator is a white male.  All right, that’s a decent start.  But it’s not enough.  The two are sentenced to filing duty, indefinitely.  Budge sticks up the photo of Malvo on a nearby board.

No time to wait any longer.  The lone officer sitting outside Mr. Wrench’s room takes a moment to head to the restroom.  He either picks the wrong moment or Malvo’s moment has finally arrived.

The Heap- Lorne Malvo strangles officer in bathroom

Either way, Malvo emerges from the stall with a belt at the ready and strangles the officer.

The Heap- Malvo confronts Mr. Wrench and tells him about Mr. Numbers

From there, Malvo meets with Mr. Wrench.  At the mention of killing Mr. Numbers, Wrench lashes out, but still unable to do anything about that or his current unemployment status.  Malvo shares the story about the time he watched a bear in a steel trap chew through its own bone to get through.  It died one hour later in the street, but the point is that the bear died on its own terms.  Wrench and Numbers got closer to Malvo than anyone else ever has, and in the event Wrench still feels salty about what Malvo did, he can always come pay him a visit.

He leaves while giving Wrench the key to free himself.

The Heap- Ida Thurman and Molly talk about Vern

At the welcome back party, Molly talks with Ida, who reminisces about the time Vern gave her a bouquet of poison ivy.  How do you do that without noticing what it is?

Bill drops off some cake and is glad everyone’s together like one big happy…well, family’s not the right word, as he catches himself, but they’re at least happy.  Ida thanks Molly for her hard work, but Molly believes that there’s more work to be done.  Regardless, she’s put the case behind her.

The Heap- Gus working on speeding patrol

Grimly gets to work on speeding duty, but boredom quickly settles in and he gives Molly a call.  Tomorrow is the hearing about the shooting.  All he has to do is tell the truth.  Just, you know, leave out the identity of the person he shot.  He saw in the paper that there will be a logging festival soon.  Greta wants to attend, so maybe all three of them will run into each other, especially if they’re together.

The Heap- Time Skip Gus Grimly as postal worker

The camera pans across the woods for a considerable amount of time before we jump forward one year later and reunite with Gus Grimly: Postal Worker.  Greta radios in to remind him about dinner.

The Heap- Gus eats with Greta and pregnant Molly

He arrives home to greet Greta and a very pregnant Marge Gunders-I mean, Molly.  This Saturday, as Molly notes during dinner, is the anniversary of the day Vern was killed.

The Heap- Molly still has her crime web

That evening, we see that Molly still has her crime web and spots an article about Malvo’s killing spree that we watched play out in the last episode.  She calls the FBI, something we learn she’s done a lot, about the syndicate massacre, but the investigations were dismissed since there’s no new information.  The man on the phone says he’ll put a note on it this time, but Molly shouldn’t expect someone to call her back.  You know, they’re busy with all this Patriot Act nonsense.

The Heap- Budge and Pepper still in file room

Budge and Pepper are still in the file room.  I do hope they managed to get out for some fresh air during their stay.  But Pepper’s been doing some thinking: if you take a file out of the room, is it still the file room?  What if you take them all out?  Then you’re left with negative files.  In the middle of his thoughts, Pepper throws his tennis ball at the board and knocks it over.  Behind it is the same grainy photo of Lorne Malvo.

The Heap- Bill introduces Molly to his adopted foster son, Tahir

Molly gets some work done at the station before Bill arrives with his newly adopted foster son, Tahir El Kachief, played by Barkhad Abdirahman.  Tahir has an interesting backstory: he grew up in Sudan, but one day, a man entered his hometown and killed everyone.  He alone managed to survive long enough to find some Americans who put him on a plane to the United States.

However, his bag with all of his identification was stolen and he was afraid to tell the police.  Eventually, he made his way to the city and lived off of stolen food he shoplifted from Phoenix Farms.

One day, Bill and Sally were headed to the ballet.  Sally wanted Chex-Mix, so Bill popped into the shopping mart to get some.  Who should he run into but Tahir?  The rest is history.  Who knew?  Bill reiterates his point about things just happening the way that the universe plans them.

The Heap- Gus and Molly in bed

Molly heads home and as she makes her way into bed, Gus overhears her say that they’re doing well.  They have everything they need.  There’s real uncertainty in Molly’s voice.

We then cut to a ritzy looking hotel for the 2007 Insurance Salesman of the Year.  It’s been a banner year for insurance companies, as loss ratios are down!  But there can only be one winner, and the Salesman of the Year is none other than Lester Nygaard!

The Heap- Lester accepts Insurance Salesman of the Year award

Lester accepts his prize and spits some wisdom and history at the audience: it’s been a tough year, but his lovely wife, Linda, supported him through it.  You go through life without a care in the world, then it all changes.  People die, they lose their homes and go to prison.  Lester has lived through some calamity, but when the worst does happen, it’s best to be insured.

The Heap- Lorne Malvo, one year later

Linda decides to turn in for the night, while Lester embraces his inner Don Draper and heads for the bar to scope out some women.  After ordering himself a dangerous drink, Lester surveys his surroundings.  At a nearby table sits a few bar patrons.  Among them is Lorne Malvo.

Let it be no secret that I’m a gamer.  I’m reminded of a quote from Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones: “Seasons change, tastes change. But people… people never change. You delude yourself believing otherwise.”  This quote challenges, but also at times affirms this declaration as we dealt with destiny and the unpredictability of life.  It questions whether we have the will to keep pushing and make a change in our lives as opposed to just sitting back and accepting the inevitable.  Can we let go of our past and focus on the present and future?  Do we focus on our sins or try to absolve ourselves of blame?  Compared to the previous few episodes, this one was less about carnage and more about the message.

It wrapped up some threads, but, like Molly’s crime web, it expanded others.  Time skips are not uncommon in television, comics and so on.  I was surprised to see the show skip forward a year, considering what’s been established and how there are only two episodes left, but it didn’t feel forced.  It almost brought a sense of closure, but with two episodes remaining, there will be some clashes.

The Heap- Lester spots woman at nearby table

Lester’s continuing with his evolution into the man without fear.  He gets what he wants, killed who he felt had it coming and fools whomever he must in order to survive.  Having sex with Gina last week and stapling the Hess brothers this week made him feel like he was on top of the world, the polar opposite of where he began at the start of the series.  Now that Lester has literally gotten away with murder, he sees himself as almost invincible.  After everything Lester’s been through, he feels entitled to a fresh start, as evidenced when he clears his home of any and everything that reminds him of Pearl.  He has no reason to look back.

It’s worth noting that, in my opinion, Martin Freeman’s performance gives Lester an air of confidence, not unlike Don Draper.  However, I don’t find Lester’s attitude smug or cocky.  Like Kitty said, he deserves good things, so he’s just reaping the benefits and has been rewarded for his hard work and has a new wife to boot.  He’s not fully changed, though, as we can see through the way he reacts to seeing Malvo in what looks like their first encounter in a long time.  So he’s not out of the woods yet.  The question is whether Lester will confront him.

The Heap- Molly argues with Bill

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Molly, who ends up getting her Marge Gunderson on when we see her with child.  Even after all that’s happened, she knows in her heart that she’s right.  The more developed crime web she creates shows her extra commitment to the case despite her injury.  But each time Molly comes close to gaining ground, she’s sidetracked.  She’s one of the few cops that knows what she’s doing, but can’t get the job done.  There’s real frustration and anger in her voice when she tells Bill that he’s wrong.  She refuses to accept that things don’t work out, not just because of her friendship with Vern, but because justice has gone undone.  As of now, though, she goes to bed unsatisfied.

Good on her to give Ida some peace, but Molly isn’t the type of officer who lets this sort of thing go forever.  Right now, it feels like Molly is just biding her time and is stuck in complacency land, such as when she tells Gus that they’re doing well, but there’s doubt in her tone.

The Heap- Bill won't allow Molly to continue pursuing Lester

But at least she still has a relationship with Bill, who just wants to return to the status quo.  Odenkirk’s performance is both serious, but caring as well.  Bill’s not a bad cop, but rather than put in all the work that would prove Lester guilty, he wants things to go back to normal.  The story of how he met Tahir was an example of the kind of humor I’d expect from something inspired by the Coen Brothers.

The Heap- Gus wakes up

Briefly on Gus- I do like the natural progression of his friendship and now marriage to Molly.  And while Gus may not be a good shot with a gun, we know he’s at least better prepared in other areas.  Glad that he’s living out his dream of working as a mailman, though.  I’m guessing that means the hearing didn’t go well.  I’m sure he wants to help Molly as well, but now they have even more to lose with another bun in the oven.  Knowing them, they’ll still risk it all.  Molly could risk it all before, just based on hunches, but now she may have some more help.

The Heap- Budge and Pepper revisit Lorne Malvo photo

And that’s where Budge and Pepper come in.  Again, Key and Peele bring in great chemistry and I wish they’d have been brought in earlier, but their humor may have taken away from the darker elements of Fargo.  But to my point, they have greater resolve to find Malvo and I’m curious as to whether their paths will intersect with Molly.

Finally, there’s Malvo, who isn’t as prevalent this week, but still has memorable moments.

No Country for Old Men- Anton strangles cop

His strangulation of the office was reminiscent of Anton doing the same in No Country for Old Men.  I have to wonder how Malvo got into the hospital undetected, though.

The Heap- Malvo stares down Mr. Wrench

His talk with Wrench felt very honest: he has a lot of respect for a man who came close to killing him and his story about the bear served a purpose.  Whatever move we choose to make, it should be on our terms and not decided by someone else.

The Heap- Mr. Wrench holds the key to his freedom

I’m sure Wrench will reappear again, given how we didn’t see him or hear from the likes of Stavros Milos after the time skip.  But maybe Milos is out of the equation.

“The Heap” was a surprising change of pace.  It took characters forward, but their troubles have not gone away.  Much of what the characters spoke of is true: when in danger, it helps to be insured.  Should we question the universe’s many mysteries or just accept that things will eventually work out?  Does live just leave us unhappy at night or can we, as Malvo says, make a change so things play out on our terms?  For Molly, I’m sure the option is the latter.

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