‘Fargo’ recap, episode 8: Ol’ Lester feels his oats

Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard, Kate Walsh as Gina Hess (Chris Large/FX)

Quick recap

Molly tries to set Bill straight, but he remains willfully obtuse. Plus Lester finds his groove, Malvo settles his accounts, and a year goes by.

Real good?

The scope of this epic tale expands dramatically in tonight’s episode. Molly is forced to let go of her (almost entirely correct) theory so that everyone else can move on. And oh boy, do they ever. Four North Stars.

Minnesota bona fides

Lester’s sister-in-law Kitty gives him an update on the current whereabouts of her incarcerated family: Chaz is “up in Faribault” awaiting trial. The State of Minnesota does maintain a correctional facility there, even if Faribault is in no way “up” from Bemidji. As for Gordo, he’s locked away in Red Wing on account of that gun Lester hid in his backpack (Minnesota’s Arrowhead region also has a juvenile correctional facility in Togo, but evidently that’s more of a limited duration, Outward Bound kind of scene). “At least they’re close,” Kitty says, although they’re 40 miles apart in southern Minnesota. Kitty also indignantly reminds Lester that she was once “Miss Hubbard County.” Hubbard County borders Bemidji’s Beltrami County, but even though it exists I can find no evidence that Miss Hubbard County does. Miss Park Rapids is a thing, however.

Here’s an observation that doesn’t really go under this heading, but it should be mentioned that Lester displays no apparent guilt at having nuked Kitty’s family to cover his own tail.

The world of Fargo is showing a little more ethnic diversity, rather like the real Minnesota. Lester has an Asian-American coworker, and Bill fosters a Lost Boy from Sudan. It’s not Somalia, but we’ll take it.

Talking Minnesota

It’s rare to hear raised voices on Fargo, just as it is in Minnesota. Sure, Chaz has been known to yell at Lester a time or two, and look where that got him. But tonight, Bill finally uncorks on Molly for continuing to pursue Lester as a suspect. “Darn it, Molly!” he rages. But in Minnesota fashion, he can’t walk away mad and does his best to smooth it over. As for Molly, she’s nearly in tears, either from sheer frustration or from being flouted in her Minnesotan tendency for conflict avoidance.

The Widow Hess also yells at Lester at his office, but it’s already been pretty clearly established that she’s Not From Around Here.

Liam Green as Moe Hess, Kate Walsh as Gina Hess, Atticus Mitchell as Mickey Hess, Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard, Susan Park as Linda Park (Chris Large/FX)

Looks like home

Gus parks his cruiser in a speed trap alongside a road that cuts through a classic, frost-laminated north woods forest. It’s the most Minnesotan visual of the episode, even though that description probably also fits 95% of Canada.

Las Vegas looks just right, though; at least the outside. The interiors must have also been shot in Calgary given that Vegas has no public spaces not constantly suffused by the bing-bing-bing of slot machines.

Full recap

Lester continues rebooting his life by finally replacing that old washing machine that caused so much of the trouble in the first place. He then cheerfully eradicates every sign of Pearl from the house, and when the Widow Hess shows up at the insurance office armed with a denial letter, her idiot sons, and very high dudgeon, Lester takes zero crap from them, facing down the boys with a desk stapler. Which is quite impressive to his attractive coworker Linda Park, who was about to ask him over for dinner anyway.

Malvo turns up next to Mr. Wrench’s hospital bed, with both good news and bad news. The bad news is that Malvo cut Mr. Numbers’ throat in the snow, and Wrench is now screwed. Or is he? Actually, because Malvo is too much of a gentleman to show up for a visit empty handed, he thoughtfully murdered the Duluth cop guarding Wrench’s hospital room and gives Wrench the key to the handcuffs confining him to the bed. A gesture of respect, given that Numbers and Wrench came closer to killing him than anyone ever had. I bet Malvo wishes he could also do something nice for the blizzard that saved his life.

Bob Odenkirk as Bill Oswalt, Allison Tolman as Molly Solverson (Chris Large/FX)

Molly’s back on duty, and she’s put together a convincing pitch for her case against Lester, complete with visual aids. Alas, Chief Bill is still not hearing it, and he shuts her down hard. Molly does find some consolation in the fact that Gus is sending her enough flowers for her to fashion herself a new spleen after all. And then he finally gets the nerve — and the help he needs from Molly — to ask her out. And then a year passes.

So let’s catch up. Gus is now a mailman, like he always wanted, and his incompetence, while still very present, now carries lower stakes. He’s also got a real house with his daughter Greta and Molly, with a baby on the way. The only flaw in their domestic bliss is that Molly is still nursing her conspiracy-wall like Carrie on Homeland. Not that it seems to bother Gus at all.

FBI agents Pepper and Budge, who sat in their car across the street while Malvo mowed down 22 people in a Fargo office building in the previous episode, are still banished to what looks like permanent purgatory in the file room. They’re still haunted by a blurry security-cam photo of Malvo moments before his rampage. With themselves sitting obliviously in the background, of course.

Jordan Peele as Agent Pepper, Keegan-Michael Key as Agent Budge (Chris Large/FX)

And Lester’s apparently doing real good. He’s sporting a new haircut and is married to his cute coworker and is in Las Vegas accepting an award for Insurance Salesman of the Year. He also continues to be completely without conscience, ditching his wife to follow a young cutie to the bar. But there, Lester spots the one thing that could bring him down: Lorne Malvo, working a new look and a new name, but still clearly working. Two episodes left for those two to get their comeuppances — or at least for Lester to get his — and I think we’ll need every minute of both of them.

Next week: Looks like Lester might actually be pursuing his day of reckoning by tempting fate. Or tempting Malvo, which at this point seems like roughly the same thing.

  • Colleen Gengler

    I liked most of this episode but felt the year later segments were far too drawn out. I kept thinking “get on with it.”

  • Starquest

    I thought this was a weak episode with the exception of Lester’s appearances. The two couples getting married (and one of them pregnant) in under a year I found a little unrealistic and forced. And why was Malvo (now with grey hair??) at the same Vegas casino as Lester?? It just came off as contrived.

    The segment with the African refugee was the very definition of filler. It was painful. The FBI subplot is the new Supermarket King: boring and pointless.

    • Ian Tornay

      The refugee is the “Mike Yanagita” character. While his story doesn’t seem initially relevant, it does a few things.

      First, if shows Molly that her boss isn’t someone to hate — he’s just fallible. He’s got a good heart, he likes ballet. But it also reminds her that there is true evil in the world — that any time someone could just show up and kill your entire village.

      She’s decided to keep Malvo as a back burner and maybe has grown complacent. But now that she’s got a child coming what will she do to protect it from the world?

      I had assumed that the sheriff would discover that this was a scam. In turn, it would make -him- realize, much like Mike did in the Fargo movie, that there was dishonesty in the world.

  • Stephen Doms

    I enjoy your analysis each week. Keep up the good work.