“You deserve it, Lester. All good things, you deserve.” So says Kitty, Lester’s sister-in-law, after he tells her that he replaced the washer and dryer. The two are meeting over tea after last week’s events where Lester framed her husband for murder (though it seems Kitty is more upset by the idea of Chaz cheating on her than she is by the idea of Chaz murdering someone). Lester doesn’t deserve anything good but he still gets loads of good things in this episode and it’s plenty infuriating to watch.
Not to say that the episode itself was infuriating. It was very good, as I’ve now come to realize is the norm for Fargo, with an interesting and mechanical cold open that made me think of Breaking Bad and a surprising twist that catapults the show to a weird new level.
Before that happens, though, Molly returns to the police department after getting shot. Bill apologizes to Molly for being wrong about the case but when Molly tries to tell him that he’s still wrong, he shoots her down — again. “That’s just how it sometimes,” Bill says when she tries to protest, “Life. You go to bed unsatisfied.” But whereas Bill doesn’t let this bother him, Molly is going to lose sleep knowing that Lester is free and someone else is locked up for his crime.
Budge and Pepper, the FBI agents played by Key and Peele are in a similar boat. They sat oblivious in a car while Malvo murdered 22 people and are now being punished, sentenced to work in the file room and sentenced to be haunted by their mistake (hey, much like Gus was!) and to obsess over Malvo until they catch him. (Malvo, meanwhile, is busy killing a cop in a hospital and helping out Mr. Wrench.)
Later, Gina Hess pays an angry visit to Lester at the insurance company because her claim was denied (and because Lester had pretty much implied that everything would work out if the two of them had sex). The Hess brothers try do to their whole threatening schtick that they learned from their father but this time Lester attacks them both with a stapler. He’s in charge now, Fargo is telling us. He is no longer the bumbling, stuttering, sad sack of a man — or lack of a man, as his late wife would say — that we met in the beginning of the pilot. He is stronger, not taking shit from anyone but now taking control of his life. He is finally a Man with a capital “M” — so manly that his coworker Linda is now fawning over him, amazed at his wondrous display of manliness, and eventually the two end up together. It is sickening, but it’s supposed to be.
I’m trying so hard not to compare Fargo to Breaking Bad (but not that hard; I’ve already done it once in this recap) but it’s impossible not to see shades of Walter White’s ego and hubris in Lester. There is a similar trajectory between the two men and definitely a similar theme of, ugh, masculinity at play here. If Fargo hadn’t already proved itself to be such a good show, this is where I would start worrying but I’m sure Lester getting everything he wants — control, respect, a hot younger wife who adores him, finally being recognized for his job ability, and that damn washer/dryer — only means that he’s going to crash soon.
Anyway, let’s talk about that twist! Gus and Molly chat on the phone, a pleasant and adorably flirty conversation, as the camera pans past trees in an empty forest and eventually stops one year later. It’s a remarkably clever move — I was expecting a shocking act of violence to occur to Gus, not a fast-forward that places him exactly where he wants to be: as a mailman, married to Molly, with his daughter safe, and another child on the way.
It’s a brave and stunning narrative decision to jump forward while on episode eight (of a 10-episode season) but it makes some sense to speed up the story. It makes everything a little more desperate; Budge and Pepper are still in the filing room but Molly is still obsessed with the case (and has a crazy board! I love crazy boards). The time jump also brings us to a place where Lester isn’t being punished but is being literally rewarded. He’s a total asshole now, still playing the victim but now cheating on his new wife while he wears a permanent smirk. It seems as if nothing will wipe that smug look off his face until he spots none other than Malvo (too much of a coincidence, I’d say) sitting a few feet away.
Who is going to get who first? Molly, Lester, Budge, Pepper, and Malvo (and presumably Mr. Wrench is around there somewhere) have all been just existing for the last year with the same events on their minds and surely it’s time for something to go down.