Photo: Chris Large / FX

Old Lester's Last Hurrah

Fargo gives Lester a moment of dorky celebration before the transition into evil is complete.

A couple of weeks ago, when I used this space to rank the evil-osity of Fargo's villainous characters, some objected to my having given the top (bottom) slot to Lester. "NOPE," commented MysteryGuest. "Any list of the evildoers from Fargo that doesn't have LORNE at the top is just plain wrong." At the time, there were probably lots of viewers who agreed with our commenter: that was the episode in which Lorne arranged the assassination-by-cop of poor dumb Don Chumpf to provide cover for Lorne's extortion plot. But I feel like the intervening episodes may have provided more support for my point of view.

The scale of Lester's mayhem may not be on par with Lorne's, but it's more personal (and personally damaging), and seems to give Lester more satisfaction. I mean, Lorne doesn't seem to take much pleasure in anything he's done, but Lester's hate-fucking the widow Hess represents both revenge on his former tormentor and an opportunistic carnal interlude to which the new Lester seems to feel himself entitled. New Lester is, however, a lot like Lorne in terms of his lack of remorse: getting confronted by said widow and her kids over his failure to deliver the quid she expected in exchange for her quo (or should I say her quim? WHERE MY ENGLISH MAJORS AT?!) would have made Old Lester shrink and back down, but New Lester is canny enough to improvise a solution to his problem with a common piece of office hardware. (And: yeesh. A kid in my Grade 2 class stapled his thumb once, and it was traumatic enough to me that I still remember it thirty-some-odd years later.)

In the flash-forward, New Lester has fully taken over and is enjoying the spoils his new confidence has brought him -- a pretty new wife, professional recognition, poufy hair. But before we get there, the show gives us one last peek at the Lester that was, as the delivery man drops off Lester's brand-new washing machine.

Gif: Previously.TV

Gif: Previously.TV

This moment of jubilation is due, in part, to what it represents for Lester: that old machine, which was (sort of) what made him kill his rotten old wife, is gone, and with it -- he assumes -- any trace of blame for what he did. But it's also just dorky excitement over a domestic purchase. I mean, after living in New York for five years and now having my own machines under my very own roof, I get just about this excited every time I put in a load. New Lester probably wouldn't have any reaction to the acquisition of any household appliance; now that he's successful, any individual one isn't a big deal, and unlike Old Lester, he doesn't have to struggle with an inadequate machine of any kind because he can afford to replace whatever he needs. Old Lester might have been the kind of uselessly meek schmuck who made himself a victim in almost every aspect of his life...but there was also something endearing about him. ONCE.

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