Photo: Chris Large / FX

Fargo Wraps Up Its Minnesota Manhunt

But did it forget what makes Molly such a super lady?

First things first: more misses than hits in my predictions about which Fargo players would survive the season finale, huh? And...I guess my decision to leave Gus out of my speculation was kind of a big oversight. If I had made any prediction as to his fate, it would probably have been that, like, he forgets to put on his emergency brake when parking on a hill and runs himself over with his mail truck. So what he actually does in the finale is kind of a surprise to me, and not a happy one.

Basing a TV series on the film Fargo sets up some big expectations -- paramount among them that, though there would be some collateral damage along the way, justice would ultimately be served. In the grand scheme, it was, and I guess some would say that Gus's ending up a vigilante is the show's way of letting justice be done not just to Lorne Malvo (even I, gigantic idiot, was right that Lorne's odds of surviving the season were practically nil), but to Gus himself: it showed Gus seizing the opportunity to redeem his short-sighted cowardice from the series premiere. Which is fine for Gus, except that Gus's redemption kind of comes at the cost of a victory Molly really earned.

To be fair to the show, by the time Gus takes out Malvo, Molly's already experienced some vindication. Pepper and Budge coming all the way to Bemidji to back her play on Malvo in the Pearl Nygaard murder seems to have convinced Bill that Molly was on to something with Lester, and in the early moments of the finale, he tells her how badly the recent spate of Lester-related murders (that of Lester's second wife, Linda, being the latest) has shaken him and that he's realized she's better suited to be police chief than he is and is handing off the job to her. Molly's achieved the standing within the department to direct the Malvo manhunt, and she's clearly eager to close this case, particularly now that Vern's been dead a year already. This is the climax the show has been building to: a showdown between the only decent cop left in Bemidji and a criminal so infernally lucky that his luck may...actually be infernal.

Then fucking Gus calls and tells Molly not to leave the police station while all the other officers go looking for him. AND SHE AGREES!

I get that marriage is a give and take (I guess), and that when your partner very soulfully begs you to take actions that will safeguard your own physical health plus that of your unborn child, you at least have to hear him out. But then you remind him, "I am a police officer, and this is my job," and maybe add something like, "Have my many crazy walls regarding the case that is finally coming to a head right now somehow all escaped your notice?" and also, if you really want to hammer home your point, "I'll be okay -- I have never accidentally shot someone in the spleen, speaking of which I sure could go for a spleen right now."

Molly doesn't comply with Gus's request for very long, finally heading out to Lester's to see what might be going on. Everything's still fine as she leaves the police station, and if Gus had never begged her to stay in and she'd been freely moving around the town environs in her prowler, maybe she would have gotten there sooner and prevented Budge and Pepper's deaths -- and yes, I understand that part of the point of Fargo -- movie and show -- is that even the best people can't prevent all the actions of the worst people, besides which it's a fictional story (despite each episode's opening "true story" falsehood) so there's no point wondering what might have been: there's what is, and that's it. But like, Marge Gunderson didn't fail to prevent Jean Lundegaard's death because Norm asked her not to drive around White Bear Lake looking for a tan Ciera, you know? Why does Molly accede to Gus's request when doing so means ignoring her instincts? I mean, if the whole point is that she realizes with horror that her doing so might lead to someone she loves committing premeditated murder (which, not that Lorne doesn't deserve it, but that's what happens, right? It's not self-defense in the moment, so I'm not sure how Gus gets to end the episode chilling on the couch), it's pretty subtle. I don't think the show particularly endorses Gus's actions, but she seems fine with them. As Molly snuggles with Gus and Greta on the couch, Gus tells her he's getting a citation for bravery (I guess because vigilantism is legal in Minnesota? You can shoot an unarmed man, as long as everyone agrees he's really bad, rather than charge and prosecute him?); she tells him he deserves it (??), and when he sheepishly says she should be getting it, she assures him, "This is your deal. I get to be Chief." Great? I have something for your to-do list, Chief: keep your simple husband away from the guns.

This makes it seem like I'm a lot more mad at the show than I am; after getting over my discomfort with the series premiere, I was very entertained the whole way through and -- as was evidenced by my penultimate post of the season -- enjoyed not knowing where it was going. I'm impressed that the show stuck to its seeming thesis statement of said premiere and didn't excuse Lester's murder of his wife or turn him into a lovable underdog the viewer was rooting for: it established early on that Lester is not a good guy, and stacked each increasingly venal act on top of the one before to make its case that he was always a scumbag who just spent most of his life being too scared to let himself do the villainous acts he must have wanted to do all along, upending the TV trope of the magnetic antihero (as James Poniewozik beautifully argued last week). In the end, Lester doesn't get the comfort of three hots and a cot (because he's too big a coward to stop running and accept his fate) or the spectacle of a showy death-by-cop: he just makes a dumb decision due to a lack of foresight; though technically he must be dead by drowning and/or freezing to death, whichever claimed him first, it looks to the viewer like the earth just got sick of his bullshit and decided to swallow him whole.

And though this is just a ten-part miniseries and the next season (if there is one) could feature a whole new cast, True Detective-style, Season 1 did leave untied a few story threads that could be the basis for a new story, or at least reappear. Lorne promised Mr. Wrench a chance to take a shot at him; with Lorne himself actually gone, how might Mr. Wrench's quest for redress work? We also spent a lot of time with Gus's parable-loving across-the-courtyard neighbour; what kind of villainy might he witness in his capacity as head of the Neighbourhood Watch? And though the Supermarket King's story feels like it wrapped itself up, leaving Stavros to spend what's left of his life pondering his mistakes...he did bury the money again, and it's still waiting to monkey's paw the next poor idiot who might happen to dig it up.

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