Oftentimes, game-changers come from people we don’t expect. These people aren’t the most bombastic or the type that want attention, but can be the quietest or most reflective. All it takes is one change to turn the normal into frantic or inhuman, as has been the case since Lorne Malvo came to Bemidji.
Since Malvo’s arrival, the simple life that Bill spoke of clashes with Malvo’s sense of morality and idea that there are no rules. And throughout the series’ run, the ordinary have had to contend not just with a force they don’t understand, but also the worst it brought out in others.
“Morton’s Fork” dealt with choices, addressed confronting past mistakes, who changes from them and who refuses to change. It’s about a few good people who refused to let evil reign. They didn’t stand up to make some grandstanding gesture or for praise, but because it was the right thing to do. The episode continued with the arc of a man who had the worst in him brought out and when things worsened, rather than own up to it, he continued to cower in fear.
Lorne Malvo, a man whose past we didn’t know much about, stirred chaos by showing the worst in people, but also bringing out the best. Life before Lorne Malvo arrived was simple. But here, characters have to make the difficult choices that no one wants to make- the right choice. Now, what’s ‘right’ is subjective, but like Malvo’s warning, making the right decision can save your life.
After a brief look at a downed snowmobile and a deep hole in the middle of a long sheet of ice, the episode picks up after the events of the previous one. Lester watches Lorne Malvo leave Nygaard Insurance before he gets out of the car. He enters and finds a pool of blood still spreading around Linda’s head. After going through the safe, he sticks the car keys in Linda’s hand before heading to Lou’s Coffee Shop.
And at Lou’s, Lester sits down under the guise that he’s waiting for someone else, so he orders for two. Well, at least he’s thoughtful after the fact. When Lou leaves to prepare, Lester slips out of the shop and makes a phone call to the authorities about shots followed.
Once Lester returns, Lou lets him know that someone recently stopped by and asked about him. Lou wasn’t a fan of the fella’s demeanor. At this point, Lester remembers that the plane tickets are still in his coat pocket, but police cruisers are already speeding by the shop.
Gus, Greta and Molly, meanwhile, enjoy “Deal or No Deal” when they get a call about the shooting.
So when Molly arrives, Bill is already there. Molly notes that Linda is wearing Lester’s coat, meaning maybe Linda wasn’t the intended target. Lester enters and gives the performance of a lifetime at the sight of his dead wife that he didn’t know about. He accounts for his recent whereabouts by mentioning that he was at Lou’s. Despite losing yet another wife, Lester will still be questioned at the station.
He would like a few moments to say goodbye, and while Molly would prefer Lester not mess with an active crime scene, Bill gives him a few moments. Unfortunately for Lester, those few moments aren’t enough for him to retrieve the tickets.
Elsewhere, at a lonely cabin in the woods, Lorne Malvo listens to the chatter on his police radio. Upon hearing that Lester Nygaard is at the police station, he grabs his tools and heads off.
At the Bemidji Police Department, Molly confirms that there were plane tickets in Lester’s coat. Lou tells her about his encounter with the man who asked about Lester, the same man from the surveillance photo that Molly quickly shows him. The plan is to go after Malvo directly. Lou tells his daughter that there are two options for dealing with things like this: do or don’t. Instead of letting Gus know that Molly will be out all night, Lou plans to get his gun. I mean, he could do both.
Outside, we get a brief look at Malvo breaking into a car and stealing a book of codes from the glove compartment.
Inside, Lester must now contend with not just Bill and Molly, but Federal Agents Budge and Pepper. The agents let Lester know right off the bat that they aren’t there to talk about Las Vegas. They show the photo and state the name of Lorne Malvo.
Lester’s not getting any backup from Bill this time, so he first asks for a lawyer, then dances around the question. He tries to talk up the fact that his wife is dead, but no one’s buying his act. Solverson tells Lester that Malvo won’t stop killing.
At seven in the morning, Gus prepares to leave for the day, only to find Lou sitting on his porch with a shotgun. Well, at least he wasn’t pointing it at Gus. Lou tells Gus that Lorne Malvo may have returned and that Lester is being questioned.
Back at the station, Molly details the squad on how to pursue Lorne Malvo, including his new look and car. She gets a phone call from Gus, who warns his wife to not pursue Malvo. He knows that she’s good, but there are forces that she cannot control. And with the family they’ve started, Gus doesn’t want Greta to attend another funeral. Sheesh, Gus, have a little faith in your wife. She’s a much better shot than you are.
Anyway, Molly promises that she’ll run things from the precinct and won’t leave until she gets word on Malvo. Gus would prefer that she only leave when she hears that Malvo’s dead.
As Gus continues along, he spots a lone wolf in the middle of the road. He follows it to a cabin, where, from a safe distance, he spots Lorne Malvo exiting the cabin and driving off in a red BMW. When he feels Malvo is a considerable distance away, Gus, instead of calling the police, heads inside the cabin.
Molly tells Bill that the federal agents will take Lester home. Bill, however, is ready to call it quits. He can’t stomach what he’s witnessed over the past few weeks. He misses the good old days of good mornings and people having positive feelings. Nowadays, Bill always has to look over his shoulder.
He just wanted pancakes and a V-8, but that’s harder to come across. He wants Molly to take over as Chief. He now sees the true cop instincts in her that Vern always saw. Molly will have to talk to Gus first, though. That and, you know, have the baby. There’s still the matter of the department’s trap for Malvo. They’ll need help from the federal officials. After all, they’re not equipped for urban warfare.
Outside, however, Malvo, under the guise of calling from the FBI, calls the police department and says that he’s there to speak with his agents. When Cindy refers to the two by name, that’s all he needs. He makes a second call to the operations department at the FBI and now, under the guise of Agent Budge, says that the local police department can handle themselves. However, Pepper recently called about backup, but if everything is fine, then the backup can be canceled.
Malvo then drives to Double L Motors. He tells the owner, played by Andrew Neil McKenzie, that he’s looking to get a new car, particularly one that looks like an undercover car. Soon enough, the two are off.
In custody, Molly informs Lester that the federal agents will take him home, but Lester doesn’t want them in his house. Before leaving, Lester tells Deputy Solverson that he doesn’t quite know what she’s had against him since they met, but regardless, he is not the monster that she apparently thinks he is.
Rather than acknowledge that, Solverson tells the tale of a fella waiting for a train. He had a pair of gloves with him. As he boarded, he dropped one of the gloves, but it wasn’t until the train started moving that he realized he only had one glove. And once the train began pulling out of the platform, the man opened a window and dropped the other glove on the platform. That way, whoever finds them can just have the pair.
Lester doesn’t get it. He leaves.
Budge, Pepper and Lester leave the police department, unaware of the car looming behind them.
Lester tells the agents that he didn’t do what they think he did, but Pepper decides to ask Lester about the riddle from last week. Lester, however, figures it out: take the rabbit across the river first, since the fox won’t eat the cabbage. Then, go back and bring the fox across, but before heading back, put the rabbit back in the boat. Get the cabbage and leave the rabbit. Again, the fox won’t eat the cabbage, so all that’s left is to go back for the rabbit.
The agents decide to stick around for a bit. Lester heads inside and removes something from Chaz’s box of hunting gear.
Greta eventually joins Lou on the porch and the two talk of Lou’s days as a state cop. He once did a stake out in 1979, from dusk until dawn. It wasn’t who they were waiting for, but what. Soon, Greta heads back in, but rejoins Lou with her own shotgun. Atta girl.
All is quiet at the police department. No reports of Lorne Malvo just yet. Molly decides she’ll go to Lester’s. Cindy, not wanting to be left alone, decides to lock down the entire station.
Back at Lester’s, Budge and Pepper speak of dreams when an unmarked car approaches. Thinking it’s their backup, the two, guns drawn, approach.
Who they find, however, is neither their backup nor Lorne Malvo, but the dealership owner, who simply apologizes. Looks like this is a dream.
But why’s he sorry? Because Lorne Malvo approaches from behind and kills both men before approaching the owner.
After taking some time to hide the bodies, Malvo enters Lester’s home and hears Lester frantically calling the police for help. He even goes as far to say that he’s in the bathroom, which has no lock on its door. Come on, Malvo, you’re smarter than this.
But apparently so is Lester. Malvo takes one step too many and steps right into a bear trap. Lester emerges from the bathroom and misses his one shot. Malvo uses this opportunity to throw Lester’s award in his face.
Lester retreats, but soon comes out and follows the trail of blood outside. He sees no sign of Malvo and has a brief look of satisfaction on his face.
An injured Malvo returns to the cabin and hobbles to the couch to stitch himself up. He manages to force the bone back into place when he spots a wolf outside.
Postal Worker Gus Grimly slowly approaches from Lorne’s left, gun in hand. He tells Lorne that he figured out Lorne’s riddle about why the human eye sees shades of green more than any other color. Technically, Gus, Molly figured it out. You just happened to be sitting there.
Malvo’s response? “And?”
Gus unloads three shots into Malvo’s chest. For a moment, it seems like all is now well.
But Lorne Malvo is still alive. Bleeding and injured, but still alive. He looks at Gus Grimly, the man he once intimidated, and laughs.
Gus fires two more shots and finishes off Lorne Malvo.
Sometime later, Molly arrives at the scene of the shooting and embraces Gus. He takes her inside and shows her not just Malvo’s body, but a briefcase. The same briefcase we saw Malvo with last week.
Inside the briefcase are many cassette tapes. Molly picks the one labeled “Lester Nygaard” and listens as Lester tells Lorne Malvo about his dead wife in the basement of his home.
We flash forward, two weeks later in Glacier National Park, Montana. Lester rides along on his snowmobile before spotting some officers straight ahead. This is it, Lester. The end of the line. Ready to face up to your crimes?
Of course not. Lester speeds off, the officers in pursuit behind him. Lester’s snowmobile crashes and he’s forced to head the rest of the way on foot. He’s so desperate to get away at this point that he pays little attention to the notice of thin ice or the officers’ warning him to stop.
Cracks race across the ice and Lester Nygaard soon falls in.
Molly, Greta and Gus again watch “Deal or No Deal.” Either they really like Howie Mandel or there aren’t any other game shows on the air. Molly gets a phone call and tells the person on the other side to let her know about what the divers find. Gus also received a call earlier. He’s receiving a citation for bravery. But, as Molly points out, he’s afraid of spiders. Gus informs her- and us all- that even Buzz Aldrin was afraid of spiders, and he went into space. Not sure how true that is, Gus, but this is your moment, so enjoy it.
Molly’s moment? She’s gonna be Chief.
So here we are, at the end of Fargo’s 10 episode run. Throughout the series, we’ve watched the good guys slowly realize the reality of their situations when confronted with a force like Lorne Malvo. We’ve also seen them react, sometimes with uncertainty, when facing a difficult choice unlike anything they’ve ever faced. And in those instances, such as with Gus and Molly’s search for Malvo in the snow, you don’t get much time to think about your next move. And when your life is on the line, you can either accept fate or challenge it. And when you challenge fate, is it right to commit a morally questionable act for the sake of the greater good? The show allows characters and viewers to come to their own conclusions.
I’m impressed that the tone of the show has remained consistent throughout. When a show begins, a lot of ideas and concepts may be tossed out by the time the series ends. Fargo, however, has maintained the same dark humor that captures the spirit of both the original film and most Coen Brothers’ films that I’ve seen. Fargo is still a crime drama, but it has a lot of elements of a black comedy that stay the same from start to finish. So it’s not uncommon to find yourself laughing at certain scenes before you’re reminded just how bloody this show can be.
This goes hand in hand with great direction and writing. Nothing ever moves too quickly and the direction allows the atmosphere and tension to build to satisfying payoffs, or keeping the tension high enough to maintain viewer interest, such as Lou and Lorne’s conversation last week. We’re allowed to take in the full scope of scenes and not just cut away as soon as a scene is finished. When Gus kills Malvo, we don’t just instantly break to a different scene. We soak in what has happened, just as Gus does.
One of the series’ overarching themes has been about good versus evil. Darkness always lurks wherever there is light, here in the form of Lorne Malvo. It’s optimistic to think that humanity is always capable of doing good things. Think back to when Gus told Molly that he remains optimistic that people are good instead and not liars. Molly believes that living in this world means being a bit more realistic than that, which is true. And it’s something that took Bill until the very end to realize, after holding out so much hope that people were, at their core, good.
That rage is in us all. It just needs a little push. Once you’ve been corrupted evil doesn’t need to watch its creation wreck havoc. It’s satisfied in proving that someone with good intentions could fall. Malvo didn’t need to keep tabs on Lester- he moved right on to Stavros Milos. His job was done.
Folks like Lou, Molly and Gus have no intention of just letting evil reign. They fight it because someone has to. They protect others not for commendation, but because of their selflessness. This hearkens back to Molly’s tale about the fella and the gloves: your loss becomes someone else’s gain. It’s why Gus took it upon himself to confront Malvo, why Lou waited on his daughter’s porch with a shotgun and how Lester just couldn’t comprehend the idea of doing something good for another.
Four of the main characters have come a long way since their arcs began, so I’ll try and analyze them as best I can.
Let’s begin with Lester. Mr. Nygaard began as a sad, spineless sack of a man who was just going through everyday life without a care. He had a wife and family that thought little of him. And seeing Sam Hess just served as a reminder that little had changed. Since meeting Malvo, Lester has shown some semblance of having a spine. In fact, one would think his initial fits of rage were justified. Considering how much Pearl belittled him, was Lester right to kill her? He didn’t seem to think so after bashing her head in, over and over again.
As time passed, instead of owning up to the mess he created, Lester made new ones and did everything he could to avoid Deputy Solverson’s advances. And rather than just ignore Malvo, Lester kept crossing his path and, as a result, dug a deeper hole for himself. Framing his own brother for his wife’s murder and sending his new wife to die in his place show how far he had fallen.
Sending Linda to his death was really what took all sympathy from me for Lester, because I wanted him to own up to what he’d done. But he was only out for himself, which is why he couldn’t grasp the idea that giving up something of his could make someone happy.
Again, when a year had passed, Lester had it made with a new wife and the recognition he sought. But that wasn’t enough. He wanted Malvo’s acceptance. He got it with a price. Lester’s problem is that he lacks control the way Malvo does. He’s always been side-stepping justice while being his own hero. Each time that smug grin curls across his face, he’s just glad that he avoided another messy situation.
That’s not to say he’s entirely a coward, as he did get the jump on Malvo through Chaz’s bear trap. And wouldn’t you know it? He ends up with yet another bloody nose as a result of someone who had it out for him.
And given how Lester was already walking on thin ice, how appropriate that this is how he meets his end?
It’s amazing how Martin Freeman has transformed himself into playing this despicable character. This is a far cry from the jokey Tim we’ve seen him play on The Office or the bumbling, but brave Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit films. Lester has always been the prey and had no sorrow for anyone else. He’s expressed shock and relief, but only that he managed to escape death one more time.
Then there’s soon to be Chief Molly Solverson. As Bill mentioned, we’ve seen Solverson’s smarts from the beginning. It’s one of the things Vern noted about Molly when we’re first introduced to her. She sees the world for what it is and understands that Malvo would not stop.
As much as she may have wanted Lester to see justice, she, like Malvo, gave him a warning that he had put his life in danger. Molly didn’t stay on this case for glory, fame or to receive a promotion. She did it because it was right and because she ended up being right. Her gut instinct is what led her to this point, even if I do think some of her hunches were a bit too coincidental.
It took a long time for Molly to get recognition from Bill. Her arc has been about her becoming more assertive. When she first wants to question Lester, Bill is adamant about her leaving Lester alone and sticking to the drifter theory. And once she became pregnant, Molly had even more to lose, but she remained on the case and never lost her resolve. She had nothing to prove because she knew she was right about Lester, but she never boasts about it.
I’ll be honest: I’d never seen or heard of Allison Tolman prior to Fargo, but after this, I would love to see in her more. She gives Molly such dimensions and can portray a variety of emotions on-screen. Like Bill, she’s loving, but firm and protective when she needs to be. I never got tired of watching her perform.
Mr. Gus Grimly has come full circle since we first met him on that lonely night. He started off at a fork in the road when he let Malvo go, and now he found himself at another one with his decision to take on Malvo by himself. The situation has been reversed. Back then, Gus was in a position of vulnerability. Now, with an injured Malvo before him, the odds were in his favor. Gus is, at heart, a good man, but he’s also a little scared. The policeman’s life was not for him, and he knew that.
Again, those who we feel have little power can often make the biggest difference. Gus wanted simplicity, and he got it. But upon spotting Malvo, he found himself back in an active role of trying to help take him down. More than that, this gave him a chance to right the wrong of letting Malvo go. Also, like Molly, the stakes are bigger for him because he’s more concerned about his future than Molly is.
But Lou and Greta, who have great chemistry despite only having a few scenes together, are more than ready to take on whatever comes their way. I liked their moments. They weren’t long, but just enough to establish a rapport between the two.
And then there’s the man himself, Lorne Malvo, evil incarnate. All the man has ever needed to do is set people over the edge and let them do themselves in. And we learn that Lester is just one of many, as witnessed with Malvo’s tapes of past victims. This served not just as a payoff to Malvo listening to one of the tapes, but it shows how much influence he wields on hapless citizens. He is, indeed, the architect of man’s own destruction.
It’s interesting how much changed as a result of Malvo’s actions. If Malvo hadn’t come to town, none of the bad or good things that happened due to his arrival would have happened: Pearl’s death, none of the people Malvo killed, Bill deciding to leave the force, Lester’s new life and his fall from grace, Chaz’s arrest, none of it would have happened. Heck, Gus and Molly probably never would have met.
Malvo has almost been untouchable, like a ghost. You never know when he’ll appear, what he’ll do or why he does it. He exists as a predator, whether stalking his targets, listening to cops via police radios or throwing federal agents off his tail. Molly saying that Malvo may not be a man rings true, as he almost appears invincible.
As the ambush by Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench proved, however, he can be harmed. Like Lester, he protects himself, but operates within his own code and set of morals. It helps that we know little about his origin, because that would take away from the mystery surrounding his character.
He’s methodical in his approach and waits for his prey to make a move, taking every step possible to figure them out. More than that, he never thinks twice about a decision, but does take as many precautions as possible to eliminate any distractions, which explains the usefulness of the police radio.
And yet, despite ending up in a situation where he faced death after already being injured, Lorne Malvo just smiles. He shows no fear, even though he’s fully aware that Gus could and would kill him. He accepted it, as if daring Gus to go through with it.
Billy Bob Thornton breathed such life into this character and he has menacing eyes. I get sucked into every single line of dialogue he says and his performance is, by far, the most memorable of the show.
Brief aside, even though I’ve never seen Breaking Bad, I did really enjoy Bob Odenkirk as Bill. He realizes the reality of the world around him and knows that there won’t be a simpler time anymore. When he demanded that Lester answer the agents’ questions, it shows that he can’t let past associations cloud his judgment. For so long, he’d been willing to look the other way, but Malvo’s presence has changed his view of the world. Yet there’s no anger or even sorrow when he decides that he will quit. He’s accepted it and it was as great moment for him.
It’s the same sort of acceptance seen in Molly’s face upon listening to Malvo’s tape of his conversation with Lester. Sure, she may have been right, but there’s no need to gloat when Lester was just one of many others who gave into Lorne Malvo.
I don’t have any real complaints with the episode. The qualms I have are extremely minor and don’t take away from my enjoyment of the episode. While it may not have been necessary, I felt we’d been building to some sort of confrontation between Molly and Malvo. Instead, we’re stuck with their brief encounter in the snow and that’s it.
The man who has slipped past her radar meets his end at the hands of her husband. I just wish they’d had at least one scene of dialogue together. That’s just me, though. Not having it doesn’t detract anything.
And while I would like to have seen some resolution to Stavros Milos’ and Mr. Wrench’s respective storylines, for the purposes of the overarching storyline, it may not have been necessary.
Budge and Pepper ultimately didn’t add much to the overall storyline. Part of it has to do with how late they’re introduced, but they weren’t really necessary, especially since the Lorne Malvo issue was handled without federal assistance. Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, as always, have impeccable chemistry and brought some humor and discussion of life versus reality to the series, so that I’m appreciative for. Plus, they did give Molly the validation and credit she wouldn’t get from Bill until later, so we have that to thank them for.
Oh, and side-note, the dealership owner is the same man we saw during the pilot who wanted to buy insurance for him and his wife. He’s also briefly seen at Lou’s Coffee Shop when Lester arrives. Nice little additions.
And Lorne Malvo’s work on his leg was almost exactly like Anton Chigur patching himself up in No Country for Old Men, even down to the needle he gives himself.
This was a strong finish for Fargo and incredible work from Noah Hawley. This was an ambitious project and there’s a lot of heart put into this series. Like True Detective, Fargo pits light against the darkness. And like that series, light wins. Like Molly said on multiple occasions, chin up- the good guys are winning.
I hesitate to call this the end of Fargo since there’s apparently word that there may be a Season Two and this series becomes an anthology, similar to American Horror Story. Either way, if Fargo ended right here, it would still be on a high note and one of my favorite new shows of 2014. But if there’s a possibility that it could continue, all we can do now is wait and see. Regardless, fantastic job.