Molly, Lester, Malvo, and those around them attempt to move on from the murders in surprising ways.
Raise your hand if you didn’t see that one coming, Fargo fans.
A flash-forward, huh? With most of our major players now living relatively comfortable lives? Knowing two episodes remain just ups the ante on the one-year-later game – we know these characters’ lives will collide once again, but how?
For such an explosive reveal, this was probably the season’s quietest episode. There were no especially violent confrontations, but lots of conversation about change and meditations on how different people all attempt to move on from the same life-changing event. Let’s look at the main characters and the transformations they made from the start of episode 8, “The Heap,” to its closing credits.
With updates on Grimly, Greta, Ida, and FBI agents Pepper and Budge
We’ll start with Molly, because her flash-forward was the most surprising – and arguably the most satisfying.
Molly circa 2006 is feeling desperate to solve the case. She’s back to work after the shooting incident and about to make her case to Bill: He’s got the wrong suspect in the double-homicide at the Nygaard house. It’s not Chazz, and she has an impressive graph connecting the real culprits to prove it.
She stops by her dad’s restaurant for a quick pep talk – now that she’s not an invalid minus a spleen in a hospital bed, their conversation comes easy once again. Grimly sent more flowers in his continued apology for shooting Molly. Her dad’s not sure confronting the chief directly is the best idea, but she doesn’t buy it and heads to the station.
Bill is almost too busy to see her – he’s digesting an omelet, after all – but agrees to hear her out, reluctantly. “Thought I had another day,” he says, exasperated by her tenacity. He would have been much happier staying behind his desk.
In the staff room, Molly presents – or tries to present – her chart connecting all of the suspects in the murders. “Nice collage; you take up basket-weaving too in your downtime?” Bill asks. Her investigative work never ceases to upset him, though he does try to apologize for his misguided idea that the Nygaard crimes were the work of a drifter. “But, you know, some good police work and we caught the guy, so…” he says, and begins to walk out.
Molly uses this as her opportunity: “That’s the problem, actually,” she says, stopping him. “You’re still,” she stutters, “wrong — no disrespect,” she quickly adds, then launches into her reasoning. It makes no sense that the brother did it. With all the things they know to be true – or she knows to be true – how does that add up? What about Lester making that call to Malvo at the motel?
Once again, Bill becomes livid at her logic. He actually yells at her, saying she’s gotta “let it go.”
“We did our job,” he says. “The brother Nygaard killed the wife and he cornered and shot the chief. And Lester was covering for him on account of the brother thing, which explains… we had drinks to celebrate,” he adds exasperated. He can’t even remember how the supposed logic in his theory is supposed to add up — maybe because he dreamed up most of it?
“What about the Hess case?” Molly asks. “Still open, yeah?”
“Yeah. No,” Bill corrects himself. “We’re checking to see if the hooker had a boyfriend, jealous type.” Bill watches too many movies. He’s making up facts to solve his cases with neat little Hollywood storylines. Terry’s covering the case, Bill says, which pisses off Molly because even Bill admits “he’s not the brightest bulb.”
Molly wants the case. Bill once again scolds her for having the gall to even ask. He refuses to give her the case because he doesn’t want to deal with her and the evidence she digs up that contradicts whatever he’s imagining to be true.
Molly can’t hold it in anymore: She’s shouting as she connects Lester and Malvo and the Hess killing, laying it all out for him. Bill, unbelievably, chalks up that evidence to “life.” Sometimes, you just go to bed unsatisfied, he reasons. He compares her disappointment to someone matching a few lottery numbers but not actually winning. “It’s just not meant to be,” he says.
Molly’s lip quivers. She’s angry and frustrated more than anything. But, you know, they’re all glad to have her back, Bill says. The guys are even going to have cake for her later, one with an assault rifle made of frosting.
The direct approach, obviously, did not work.
To add insult to injury, the welcome back celebration is held at Lou’s Coffee Shop. But Molly, ever the trooper, has a knack for dusting off her knees and getting back up, undeterred. She’s more comfortable hanging with Ida than the borderline incompetent officers she works with. Ida’s heard Molly has a suitor. “He’s up in Duluth, my gentleman,” Molly says. “Has a daughter. I call him Sergio. He’s a pirate, I think.” Ida gets the joke. She seems to be one of the few people who gets Molly in general.
Bill walks over and hands them cake, pointing out the parts of the frosting gun on each of their slices. He insensitively comments on how nice it is to have everyone together again. It’s like one big happy… Ida cringes. Molly gives him a look – of course they’re not all there. This celebration is an indirect result of the chief’s murder, and when Bill realizes his mistake, he wisely walks away.
Ida thanks Molly for catching Vern’s killer; Bill made the arrest, but she knows who did the work. But Molly is reluctant to take any credit. She comes close to admitting she thinks Bill has the wrong guy, but decides to let it go. “Glad that’s behind us,” Molly says, but she’s feeling guilt.
She heads out to her car, opens the trunk, and sees her chart of suspects. She decides to take a walk, and winds up in front of Bo Munk’s insurance office. There’s Lester, who looks at ease chatting with his co-workers. He spots Molly looking in and waves at her, like it’s no big deal. His plan worked perfectly; what does he have to worry about anymore? But she knows, one way or another, he is going down.
It’s a day or a few later, and Molly gets a call from Grimly, just checking in while he’s on patrol. They make small talk; she thanks him for clearing out the florist with all of the bouquets he sent. He’s worried about the hearing on the shooting, but she tells him it’ll be OK if he tells the truth. Their conversation is awkward, but sweet. Molly’s gentleman wonders if he and Greta might see her at the logging festival happening soon up her way.
“A certainty if we go together,” Molly says, taking charge and once again, hopefully, setting up another cop date.
“You’re right about that,” says Grimly. “And when you’re right, you’re right.”
The innocent chatter continues: Friday at the festival is chainsaw carving and all you can eat, Saturday they roast a pig underground. Grimly says he likes going for the food. Greta likes all the contests.
The camera pans away, and that haunting Fargo theme begins to play. There’s a sense of dread – what is going to happen?! – because we’ve now been trained to expect bad things on this series. The camera continues its long shot down the wooded road until there’s a Jeep. It’s a mail truck, to be exact. And it’s Grimly driving; he became a post man after all.
We’ve now made a time-jump, one year in the future.
Greta is paging him on the walkie-talkie, wondering what’s for dinner. He pulls up not to his apartment, but in front of a nice suburban home. He walks in, says, “I’m home.” Greta bugs him about forgetting the red sauce; he asks if mom’s home.
Mom, happily, is Molly. And wow, is she pregnant. It’s an excellent ode to Frances McDormand’s seven-months-pregnant Marge Gunderson from the Fargo film, but is this one nod too many? The Coen Easter eggs have been fun to spot throughout the season, but at what point does it distract from Fargo the TV series as a separate entity? If someone gets shoved into a wood chipper in the next two episodes, it’s officially gone too far.
The new family sits around the dinner table chatting about the game on Sunday, pasta salad, stopping by Ida’s for the anniversary – yes, the one-year anniversary of Vern’s death. Life seems easy, nice. But later, Molly tries to convince herself of that. “We’re doing good,” she tells a half-asleep Gus when she goes to bed. (Now that he’s not Officer Grimly anymore, let’s go with Gus moving forward.) “I was just saying we’re doing good, you know? Got everything we need.”
Maybe, but she never got closure on those murders, and they still haunt her. She’s got a new version of her suspect chart pinned up on her wall – almost the entire wall. (Love the Marge-esque maternity uniform she’s wearing.) She fixates on a newspaper clipping of the mob massacre in Fargo, the ATM picture of Malvo front and center. She walks over to the desk, pulls out a scrap of paper, and makes a call to the FBI.
Unfortunately, she gets brushed off by the agent who answers. So she had a suspect for the Fargo killing connected to one of her investigations — big deal, the agent seems to think. We learn they put someone away for the crime – we’ve got to assume that was Chazz. Molly’s suspicions about nabbing the wrong guy were investigated and dismissed, and she doesn’t have any new information, so she shouldn’t expect any more cooperation from the FBI, she’s told. “We’re pretty busy these days with the Patriot Act and all,” the agent says, and hangs up.
If only Agents Pepper and Budge were still in the field and not stuck in a filing room, their punishment assignment for the Fargo crime syndicate debacle – turns out, 22 people total were murdered while they sat outside in their car. They’ve been foundering there for a year; when we see them circa 2007, they’re killing time, throwing a tennis ball against the wall, wondering if it’s pizza day in the cafeteria. If they removed files, one at a time, until they were all taken out of the room, would it still be a file room? Budge ponders. He throws the ball again and it hits a bulletin board, knocking it down. Behind it, still taped to the wall, is the ATM picture of Malvo that Pepper put up there one year ago. They stare at the image. They’re still haunted, too.
Speaking of botched investigations, how’s Bill doing one year later? He seems to have had no problem putting the Nygaard case behind him. He and his wife have taken in a foster kid from Sudan, but not without complications. The boy, Tahir – who looks more like a grown man – was robbed at the airport and for three months forced to steal food from the local Phoenix Farms just to survive, Bill explains to Molly. On a trip into the city to see the ballet with his wife (Molly is quite amused by the idea of Bill sitting through a ballet), the chief just so happens to stop by the exact same grocery store. He runs into Tahir, and incredibly, his new family is united.
“Sally says it’s a miracle, and it might be,” Bill tells Molly. “Don’t question the universe, that’s my motto. Sometimes things just work out,” he adds, delivering the antithesis of the “It’s just not meant to be speech” he gave her one year earlier. Bill and Tahir hug. (Side note: Why am I so cynical to think this guy is somehow scamming the naïve chief?)
“I like to think that’s true,” Molly says, smiling.
With updates on Kitty, Gina, and Linda
After successfully framing his brother for the murder of his wife and the chief, 2006 Lester is moving on with his life. He even buys a fancy new washing machine, and the best part: It’s nearly silent in the wash cycle. (The washing machine assembly line sequence that opens this episode, by the way: beautifully done, and classic Coens).
Even Kitty marvels at the new appliance, though she came to offer downer updates on Chazz (“I don’t care what that man gets, not after what he did”), and Gordo (“His lawyer thinks we can plea it down to probation, time served”). She still can’t get over the idea that Chazz cheated on her – a former Miss Hubbard County! – and now she has to sell everything to pay the legal fees. Lester, of course, views this as sweet justice — all the things his wife was jealous about, everything they couldn’t afford but his brother could, it’s all gone. Chazz is in jail, his kid is in juvie, and his wife may go bankrupt – all thanks to Lester’s evil scheme.
Kitty offers Lester all of Chazz’s hunting gear. They run out of things to talk about, and Lester ushers her out. She fixates on that washer: “You deserve it Lester,” she says. “All good things.”
She kisses him on the cheek, and he believes her. He tears through the house throwing away all of Pearl’s inspirational signs, her clothes, her tchotchkes, her sewing machine. Her closet is empty, sans a few sad-looking hangers. He gets his fresh start.
He carries that feeling to the insurance office, where the receptionist, Linda, admires his new tie and jacket (he bought them online). She’s flirting with him, tells him she was going to make chili on Saturday night if maybe he wanted to…
But Gina Hess storms into the office, demanding Lester’s attention. “You son of a bitch!” she shouts. “I am gonna bust your balls.” Her sons ask if she wants them to do the dirty work. No, she’ll handle this.
“I was picking your pubes out of my teeth 12 hours ago,” she seethes, “and then I get this.” She throws papers at him, the paperwork explaining why she won’t be receiving life insurance benefits.
Lester plays dumb. “That is highly irregular says Lester. I’ll make some calls.”
She slams the desk and calls him a liar. Lester tries to talk his way out of it, but she’s on a rampage.
“I let you cum inside of me!” she shouts. Her sons object (“that’s really gross”). Lester agrees with the boys for once.
“You are going to get me my money, you little s–t,” Gina says, finger in Lester’s chest, pushing him down into his seat. She demands $2 million by the end of the day. This is a complete echo of the bullying scene between Sam and Lester in the very first episode. But Lester isn’t afraid of bullies anymore. Is she going to wind up dead, too? He isn’t afraid to commit murder, either.
“Show him what we’ll do, she says, siccing her boys on Lester. One pushes him against a desk and says, “sorry, loser.”
“Me too,” Lester says, grabbing a stapler and shoving a staple into each teen’s face. “Yeah,” he says. “So are we calm? Are we calm?” Gina is speechless.
“Now here’s what’s gonna happen,” says Lester, taking control of the situation. “I’m gonna make some calls, like I said. But if Sam did miss some payments, they’re within their rights to… I think we might have a problem here.”
Gina tries to decide what to say. She wrinkles up her face and chooses to say nothing, storming out, her wounded kids behind her.
Linda is impressed. “You’re amazing,” she says, breathless. It’s doubtful anyone has ever said that to Lester in his entire life.
A year later, Lester is becoming accustomed to recognition. In a business-fancy ceremony in Vegas, Lester is named the Insurance Salesman of the Year 2007.
“Thank you so much,” he says from the stage. “Aw, jeez — that’s a real honor,” he adds, putting on glasses, cracking jokes. “Speak from the heart,” he says, pumping himself up, warming up the crowd. “Everyone knows it’s been a tough year for me, and I wouldn’t have gotten through it without the love and support of my wife, Linda. I love you,” he says, blowing a kiss to his (former?) co-worker seated in the audience. “You know you can go through your whole life without a care, then one day it all changes. People die. They lose their homes. They go to prison. It’s calamity, huh? I know it ‘cause I lived it. And if this year has taught me anything, believe me, I’ve seen it all. It’s that the worst does happen, and you need to be insured. Thank you so much, it’s a great honor.”
Cut to Lester sitting on a chair — it looks like a throne – as he holds court with his fellow gala attendees, his wife by his side. Lester and Linda head to the elevator to go up to their room, but a group of young women in tiny dresses catches his eye. He decides to grab a nightcap at the bar, telling Linda to go ahead to bed. She apologizes for being a downer, clueless to his actual intentions.
Lester goes into the bar to stalk the women who walked by. He puts his trophy on the bar and orders “something dangerous,” a concoction called a Blood and Sand. He keeps making eye contact with one woman at a table.
He looks over his shoulder at a group sitting in a corner banquette. A waitress walks by, and a man turns around. It’s…
With an update on Mr. Wrench
In 2007, Malvo’s now-white hair is cut short, and he’s wearing a nice suit. He asks for more sparkling water, smiling. Malvo is more accustomed to having an audience eating out of the palm of his hand than Lester. He seems to be enjoying it — or this is business. With this guy, you can never tell.
Lester can’t believe his eyes. The ghost from his past seems to make him lose his nerve. This is the man who set in to motion everything that changed his life. Will Lester confront him? Thank him?
Similarly, you could say Lester set in motion the changes in Malvo’s life. Without their chance encounter at the hospital, Sam Hess would still be alive, Pearl might not have been murdered, the chief would probably still be in charge, and two Nygaard men wouldn’t be behind bars.
What else? Well, Milos’ life wouldn’t have been turned upside down, Numbers and Wrench probably never would have stepped foot in Bemidji, the Fargo crime syndicate would still be in business, and Budge and Pepper might still be in the field.
Speaking of Wrench…
We only get an update on the Fargo thug circa 2006. Still recuperating in the hospital, Malvo pays him a visit — after incapacitating, and possibly even killing, the cop sitting guard at his room. (OK, so Malvo’s choke-out scene was a pretty intense, violent moment for the episode, but it still dulls in comparison to his execution of Don Chumph, slitting the throat of Numbers, and slaying 22 members of a crime syndicate.)
When Wrench wakes up, it doesn’t take long for him to realize he has company. “Never heard of a deaf hit man,” says Malvo, who is holding Wrench’s chart. He’s assuming his prey is reading his lips. “Carolina Murphy had his tongue cut out by an Indian back in the ’80s; he worked a little after that but never quite the same,” Malvo continues. “And Buzz Mead, you know Buzz? He was born with just a socket.”
The look on Wrench’s face is startled, appalled. “How did Malvo get there?” he must be wondering. “Do most Malvo victims get long, intimidating speeches?” we wonder.
“Used to take his glass eye out at parties and drop it in his drink. He was a s–t shot though,” Malvo adds. Now Wrench is just getting pissed.
“Now the other fella, your partner,” Malvo says. “He can hear just fine. We had a kind of chat before I cut his throat.” Yes, it becomes very apparent that Wrench is reading his lips. At the mention of Numbers, he struggles to get out of the bed, momentarily forgetting, then quickly remembering, that he is cuffed to the rail. Malvo just smiles deviously.
“You’re unemployed now, by the way,” Malvo says. “In case you don’t read the papers.” Wrench yells, slams his arm against the bed rail. Again, Malvo just smiles.
“I watched a bear once,” Malvo continues, toying with his captive colleague. “His leg was in a steel trap. It chewed through bloody bone to get free. It was in Alaska. It died about an hour later, face down in a stream. It was on his own terms, you know?”
Wrench knows what is about to happen — except he doesn’t. Malvo puts Wrench’s chart back on the bed. “You got close,” he says. “Closer than anybody else.” Malvo tosses Wrench the handcuff key, the look of shock on the incapacitated hit man’s face probably matching the viewers’.
“I don’t know if it was you or your partner,” Malvo says. “But, look — if you still feel raw about things when you heal up, come see me.”
Whether that’s an invitation to hunt him down — Malvo thrives on the idea of being the alpha predator that people are aware of, but no one can catch — or join him in a new league of contract killers, here’s hoping for a 2007 update on Wrench before season’s end.