TV Review: Fargo – Episode 8 “The Heap” (USA, 2014)


“It’s life, you go to bed unsatisfied” in the words of police chief Bill Oswalt, and he’s expressing how we feel too, we’re unsatisfied, and this episode does leave you feeling a little bit that way. Not in a negative sense at all, more in a “we’re at episode 8 of 10 and we still don’t know what’s going to happen” way. Unsurprisingly though, in the world of Fargo, the universe often works in mysterious ways.

Lester Nygaard is beginning to feel like a whole new man, he buys a new washing machine, throws out all of Pearl’s and his old belongings and even manages to stand up to Mrs Hess and her two monstrous sons. Molly Solverson returns to work and unsuccessfully tries to reopen the Nygaard case. Lorne Malvo pays a visit to Mr Wrench in hospital, and Agents Pepper and Budge get demoted to working in the file room. A year later, Gus Grimly and Solverson are now married and expecting a child. Pepper and Budge are still stuck working in the file room, whilst Nygaard is enjoying his new found business success and cock-sure persona but happens to run into a new-look Malvo just as the episode comes to a close.

Noah Hawley interestingly but necessarily splits this episode in two at almost the halfway runtime point. The first half keeps us in our current time in order to show that things are wrapping up somewhat neatly in everybody’s lives even if not all of them are happy about it. Then we’re offered a time jump ahead by one year to see how things have washed up in a more long term sense after all the craziness.

Solverson despite having tried and failed to continue the investigation, has given up on it publicly in the first half, but in the second half she is still dogged by it privately. Keeping her “collage” whiteboard of clues, tips, leads, suspect mug shots, news clippings etc in a separate room of her house and pondering over it nightly. But we can see it’s taking a toll on her, as she crawls into bed next to Grimly and mutters to herself “We’re doing good. We’ve got everything we need” and it seems more like a mantra that she recites to convince herself to keep going despite all the roadblocks. Unlike before, she has a lot more to lose if an eventual showdown with Malvo ever occurs. Grimly also gets to move forward, going from hapless police officer to being a mailman like he always wanted. He seems a lot more content with his life, married to Molly and doing his postie rounds, despite still being a bit of a numpty and forgetting to buy the red sauce even when his daughter reminds him to.

The performances here by both Allison Tolman and Colin Hanks are remarkable in how different they are. Tolman manages to squeeze almost every ounce of life out of her Solverson, we see a woman so desperate for her work to be acknowledged and for her superior to just listen to her and even though she’s down, she’s not out for the count yet. Tolman’s Solverson is a true fighter, and constantly restless in her quest for justice. Hanks on the other hand seems to channel his father (if you hadn’t already worked it out by now, he’s the son of famed actor Tom) in a lot of ways in his depiction of Grimly. He’s just so ordinary and a little socially inept but you’ve got to give him points for trying, he’s likeable and you want to just keep rooting for him. Whether he too also takes part in a showdown with Malvo would be a surprising turn of events.

The man of the hour though is Lester Nygaard, or more correctly Martin Freeman’s performance of. Once again we’re shown just how damn good Freeman is in the hands of some excellent material. Nygaard takes control of his new found freedom and life, his confidence stemming from a combination of knowing he’s gotten away with murder and being free of the people around him who stomped all over him. Freeman’s subtle facial expressions speak more than the dialogue here. The grin on his face as he watches his brand new washing machine go for its first spin. That knowing smirk as he denies Mrs Hess the life insurance payout she’s been hankering for. Him cheekily flirting with a gorgeous girl despite having his new wife Linda hanging off his every word. Then it all comes crashing down for Nygaard with that one single look where he catches Malvo sitting over in a booth with some other people haughtily laughing at Malvo’s story. We immediately see him shaken to his very core and confused over what to do next. Furtive glances, swallowing hard and him nervously blinking, all sure signs of increased stress levels. It all changes in a split second and Freeman’s performance carries so much of that weight with such ease.

Some props must be shown to Bob Odenkirk here as police chief Bill Oswalt in this episode too. We’re given a bit of an insight into his character’s life outside of being on the force when he tells the story about how he and his wife came to adopt a Sudanese refugee. Despite the fact that he frustrates us so much by refusing to listen to Solverson or ignoring the blatantly obvious, we also can’t deny that he’s always coming from a good place. Odenkirk manages to imbue the police chief as a man who is a great big softy and not the type cut out for such grisly police work as what’s been going on in Bemidji. Clearly all he wants is for things to just go back to a more normal pace and who can blame him for that?

The most surprising inclusions in tonight’s episode that surely must be clues for the last two episodes to come are in the forms of Mr Wrench and the destiny of Agents Pepper and Budge. Firstly, Mr Wrench (Russell Harvard), given a reprieve from jail by Malvo sparing his life and setting him free from his hand-cuffed hospital bed. Could this be Malvo’s own undoing by giving the man who “got the closest (to killing him)” a chance to exact revenge for the murder of his partner? Or is Malvo planning to somehow team up with him further down the track? Since Mr Wrench’s own bosses are now very much dead, leaving him a free agent. By the looks of Mr Wrench’s face, I don’t think he would give up his grudge so easily.

Agents Pepper and Budge (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele of comedic TV duo Key and Peele) were a real surprise when they showed up in last week’s episode as the bumbling FBI agents who completely missed Malvo’s shooting rampage in Fargo. The biggest clue we get to possibly seeing them being redeemed is when Pepper knocks down a pinboard that had been covering Budge’s blurry surveillance photo of Malvo, conveniently hiding it from view for possibly that entire year of File Hell Purgatory. It would seem completely redundant to have them purely for comedic value and not have their characters be given a chance at proper closure. How that could come about is anybody’s guess though.

There are only two episodes left now, and it’s anybody’s guess as to where the show will lead us. Will Lester Nygaard be able to seize full control of his new destiny and take on Malvo? Or will it be our heroic twosome of Molly and Gus who manage to do their civic duty and catch their killer? What’s in store for Agents Pepper and Budge and can they redeem their careers? How will Malvo go now that he’s sporting a new platinum hairdo? What happens in Las Vegas …..


Fargo airs on SBS 1 on Thursday at 9:30pm and is available On Demand via their website.


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Carina Nilma

Office lackey day-job. Journalist for The AU Review night-job. Emotionally invested fangirl.