This is it, we have finally reached the end of Noah Hawley’s black comedy-crime-drama Fargo, inspired by the Coen Brothers film of the same name. Without further ado, let us launch into a recap of the episode and a little discussion, beware there’s thin ice and spoilers ahead.
We open with a long tracking sequence, flying over an overturned snowmobile, and tracks leading out onto a frozen lake and then a hole in the cracked lake, with dark and foreboding icy water.
After Linda’s death Lester Nygaard shows up at Lou’s Diner pretending to order for the two of them, whilst sneakily ducking out the back to call the police and inform them of shots being fired near his shop. Upon discovering Linda’s body, police chief Oswalt, deputy Molly Solverson and FBI agents Pepper and Budge take Lester in for questioning but due to circumstantial evidence can’t charge him so he’s released. Police chief Oswalt admits that it’s all gotten too much for him and decides to step down and promotes Molly to chief once things wrap up. When Gus Grimly finds out that Malvo might be back in town he pleads with Molly for her to not go after him, whilst he’s on his way to see her though he spots Malvo’s car and manages to sneak into his cabin as Malvo leaves. Using Lester as bait, the FBI agents take him home and stake out his house, but when a suspicious car pulls into the drive they go to investigate only to be killed by Malvo who sneaks up on them. Lester knowing that Malvo is now after him hides in his bathroom, but Malvo ends up stepping in a bear trap Lester had hidden under some tossed clothes, Lester then tries to shoot him but misses, allowing a wounded Malvo to escape. Returning to his cabin to tend his wounds he’s confronted and subsequently shot and killed by Gus, who had been lying in wait. Molly later arrives on the scene and Gus shows her Malvo’s secret recordings, including the one of Lester admitting he had killed Pearl.
Two weeks later police track down Lester in Montana, after a snowmobile chase he crashes and runs out onto a lake signposted with thin ice, which then cracks and he falls through and subsequently drowns.
There was a lot of anticipation and weight riding on this episode, Noah Hawley had pretty much left it right to the last to deliver us the justice that we had so long been waiting for. But as with many things that have happened through the course of the series, it was delivered in almost equal measure of both good things and bad things, but thankfully they were metered to the right people in the right way. Good for good and bad for bad, and ultimately, the series was about good VS evil and the morally ambiguous shades of grey in between.
Allison Tolman deserves all the accolades for her performance of Deputy Molly Solverson. Her slow burning persistence and commitment is what enables her to not only crack the case but end up securing her rightful position as police chief. Some viewers may feel cheated that it’s not her that ends up killing Malvo, but in some ways it speaks more volumes of her character growth that she heeds the advice of Gus to steer clear, recognising that there’s more at stake than just her career. As previously mentioned in an earlier review Tolman, a less notable actor has managed to carve a spot in amongst the more well-known names and cement herself as a new force to be reckoned with, and rightly so. Nuanced, poised, understated and most importantly relatable. We shall surely see more of her thanks to her stellar performance in this series.
Even Colin Hanks’ Gus Grimly secures his redemption, finally managing to grow a pair and confront the man who threatened his family. He may have been demoted down to being a postie but that doesn’t stop him from walking into Malvo’s lair and then gunning him down. The partnership of this duo is what really triumphed, Gus may have laid claim to solving Malvo’s riddle (when it was really Molly who gave him the answer) but even when he says he doesn’t deserve the bravery commendation and that it should have been Molly’s the fact that she tells him he earned it and that her reward was getting to be police chief, is proof of their humility and that they really did work better as a team.
Martin Freeman’s Lester Nygaard was every bit the anti-hero who we loved and hated in equal measure. We initially felt pity for the man so downtrodden by those in his family who should be supportive of him. We probably could have even let him get away with murdering his wife as revenge for her cruelty. But as the monster inside him grew we began to see its evolution into the narcissistic power hungry beast that he truly was. A despicable man so filled with self-importance and fuelled by the need to look out for his own skin that countless others died purely because of this. For all of this to truly be convincing it lay in the hands of the skill of Freeman, an actor who’s commonly more associated with every-day nice guys. And albeit his accent may have been a bit wobbly, a lot of the things that truly won me over were the scenes that didn’t have dialogue. His mannerisms, a smirk here, a nervous twitch there, a tilt of the head, his huffing and puffing whenever he got cornered, they all brought him to life. Nygaard’s story arc was the one we saw in most detail and it was gruesome and horrid but it also made us question the world we live in and those that populate it if somebody like him could exist. The hilarious irony of Lester is that this almost clownish character who nobody could believe would be capable of such awful things, ends up going out in a style that befit him.
There is not much to say about Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo other than what has already been said. What an astounding and mind-blowing performance he put in and that it was surely one of his greatest. His embodiment of this malevolent and purely evil character who was his own cyclonic force sucking in and spewing out all those around him and leaving this wake of devastation. In this final episode we see his downfall, he rolls back into Bemidji hunting down Lester and after not having much luck asking around, Lester gets almost comically served up to him courtesy of an FBI escort right back to his house. It could be said that Malvo underestimated Nygaard, that in choosing to hunt down the animal he created he could in turn get bitten. But the fact that the man he threatened so early on would seek retribution and claim it was probably surprising to even Malvo. A calculating and brazen killer who seemed to be two or three steps ahead of everybody else but with his motives for his deeds remaining shrouded in mystery, even right up til the very end we will never know why he did what he did.
One of the truly genius things about Fargo was how it managed to be a reflection of the real world in such a terrifyingly honest way. We see it in the genuinely nice folk like police chief Oswalt, a cop who just wasn’t cut out for multiple homicides and wanted to believe that his best mate from school was incapable of murder and would ignore evidence in order to keep believing. Or in Lou Solverson, a tough ex-cop prepared to sit out all night in freezing temperatures on his daughter’s porch with his shotgun to ensure the safety of his family. Or in the sneaky swagger of Lester Nygaard keen on a nightcap and a potential one-night-stand with a gorgeous girl in Las Vegas even though his wife had just ducked off to bed. Or in the evil pranks Lorne Malvo played on Milos Stavros in order to blackmail him. Or in the simple pleasure of the Solverson/Grimly family snuggling on the couch together to watch ‘Deal Or No Deal’. Despite some of the completely surreal things that happened in the story, it’s the composition of the characters within that story that made it so intriguing to watch. All in all Fargo was a triumph thanks to the sum of its parts that not only paid homage to its original film namesake and the Coen Brothers’ ethos but also that it boldly stood out on its own when necessary.
Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Fargo aired on SBS 1 and is available for catch up On Demand via their website.