[Review] - Fargo, Season 1 Episodes 8 And 9, "The Heap" And "A Fox, A Rabbit, And A Cabbage"

Courtesy of MGM
When I'm ingesting a story, be a film, a series, a book or any form of narration, the technical part of my brain is constantly asking, "why did that happen?" Unless you are some avant garde absurdest, story demands structure, and structure is only stable if it is built with purpose. So when "big things" happen, once the whoa factor subsides, a critical audience should ask themselves, "why did that happen?" What was the point of that, in the grander scheme? Was it included just for shock value, or does it have a role to play in the larger story.

Fargo, thus far, has sought shelter in events. But these events, while at the time are perhaps shocking, or engrossing, or tense, have very little payoff. There is very little point to their purpose, or at least the purpose could have been achieved in a less sensational way, that resulted in less pointlessness and distraction that have bogged this series down.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that didn't cheat on Miss Hubbard County!


I've determined that ultimately, the best thing about Fargo will be seeing all of these completely stupid characters being shown up. In these two episodes, the strongest emotion I felt was when Pepper and Budge vindicated Molly's obsession, leaving Bill belittled and dejected. I've said before that there are only two kinds of characters in Fargo: cripplingly stupid and oppressively mean. Up to a certain point, the stupid was winning the day, but mean has come around the corner and taken the lead. So seeing the stupid get broken and left to stew in their own failures (if they recognize that they have failed) will be immensely fulfilling.

But getting back to my initial point: these two episodes hinged around the move forward one year in the story. While in The Heap, the move forward was enough to draw the eye back to the screen and delight briefly in seeing all the minor things that have changed in the year, A Fox proved that the jump was little more than a gimmick. In the latter episode, there is nothing that has been accomplished by the jump forward that couldn't have been covered by simply keeping the story going in 2006. With the exception of Molly's pregnancy (which hasn't been plot relevant, and is just a clumsy shout out to the film) and Malvo's hair, the intervening year might well have never happened. Not for Molly, not for Pepper and Budge, not for Lester or anyone actively involved. In fact, by jumping it ahead a year, it skipped over the emotional, character stuff that was just getting interesting. Gus' guilt over shooting Molly, Lester's new found confidence. This is the stuff that would make the characters engaging, and what the show has been lacking the most.

Going back to what remains the biggest thorn in my paw, those multiple episodes where Malvo tortured Stavros have been pointless in terms of the central storyline. In light of the most recent episode, it appears that all that material seems to have been to really convince us that Malvo is a dogged seeker of vengeance on the smallest slight. Which seems like the sort of thing that could have taken less time to establish and still be sold effectively. And wasted less time. Hell, just based on his devil-like behaviour in the pilot episode, I would have bought the idea that he was hunt down and tear apart the life of a man who cost him $100,000 and bricked him o the back of the head. Because he's crazy.

Lester became considerably more interesting over these two episodes, as he found his true self in the complete absence of conscious. Malvo's intervention and Lester's own desperation for survival have turned him into a greater monster than even Malvo. His willingness to sacrifice anyone and everyone so long as he walks away unscathed is engrossing to watch. I just feel that bringing Malvo back into Lester's life is too easy, or too lazy a way to bring Lester down. Lester's arc was following a wonderful anti-redemption arc, where he transforms himself into a manipulative bastard, and is undone by his own hubris. By bringing Malvo back in as the haunting specter, it undercuts Lester's own arc. Malvo was the precipitating event, but everything else that Lester has achieved has been his own work. His fall should be by his own hands as well. Malvo is the deus ex mortis that makes Lester's fall quicker and easier, but less interesting. Though, watching Lester dress his new completely devoted wife as a sacrificial effigy was pretty damned fun.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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