The Significance of 'The Heap,' the Title of Last Night's Episode of 'Fargo'
“The Heap” refers to a line of thought that wonders, “How much dirt can you remove from a heap before it’s no longer considered a heap?” That’s what FBI agents Key and Peele were referring to in the file room in last night’s episode of Fargo: How many files can you remove before the room is no longer considered a “file room,” or will it always be considered a file room by virtue of its identity?
That’s also the question surrounding the characters in Fargo, which had a surprising leap ahead in the episode. It’s a year later, and lots has changed for the central cast, but how much has really changed? Some of the dirt has been removed, but the three central characters in Fargo — Malvo, Lester, and Molly — are still the same heaps underneath.
Molly is pregnant now (echoing Marge Gunderson in the original Fargo), and she and Gus are happily married. Gus is a postman, and Gus’ daughter treats Molly as her own mother. On the surface, she seems happier, almost content with her life. But she’s still a heap: A year later, she’s still obsessed with Lorne Malvo, still convinced that Lester Nygaard killed his own wife, still staring up at the white board, and still making calls to the FBI in the hopes that they will solve the case. She’s a mother now, and a wife, but she’s also still the same dogged and determined police officer obsessing over a case she is convinced remains unsolved.
A year later, and Lester meanwhile is married again (to Linda Litzke, a reference to Frances McDormand’s character in Burn After Reading). Lester is the salesman of the year. He has a better haircut. He’s more confident, and he’s considerably more douchey. But as he sat at the bar drinking his “dangerous” drink and leering at the young woman across the way, he spotted Lorne Malvo and the blood drained out of him. In that single instant, the old Lester reappeared: The bullied, picked-upon, and cowardly man who used to allow Sam Hess to beat the shit of out him leapt back into his skin.
Malvo has changed, too, though we don’t know yet if he’s changed superficially beyond a new hair color, the loss of his overcoat, and the addition of a friendship with a character played by Stephen Root. But you can bet that the stone-cold ruthless killer who calmly murdered a security guard at the beginning of the episode is still lurking beneath Malvo’s new duds.
A lot changed in between 2006 and 2007, and the framework of the television show now fits more easily into the framework of the Coen Brothers film, but in the hearts of the three main characters, nothing has changed much at all. They’re still heaps, no matter how much dirt is removed, just as a file room will always remain a file room no matter how few files it contains.