Episode 10: "Morton's Fork" [Warning: Spoilers for FX's Fargo series]
This is it. The ending we've all been waiting for. As statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox loom over Lester, we see that he's finally left civilization and crossed over into savagery.
See also: Fargo recap, episode nine: Vegas, baby!
Fargo writer Noah Hawley has said that the beginning of the series established Lester as a kind of symbol of civilization, whereas Malvo represented more animalistic instincts. Now that we've made it to the finale, we've seen Lester revert back to his baser instincts -- there's no more humanity in that guy, he's there for himself alone. And everyone's out to get him.
Poor Linda, Lester's airhead Cinderella, now has down feathers tucked into her brain. And Lester practically steps over her dead body to hit up the safe for some cash before heading over to Lou's to create an almost-credible alibi. He walks in, tells Lou that Linda dropped him off, went to pick something up at the shop, will be there soon, and could they have two grilled cheeses, please? On his way to "the bathroom," Lester says hi to a customer -- one we saw earlier this season with his wife at Bo Munk -- and steps outside to call in reports of gunshots near the shop in a gruff voice.
Lester returns to his seat and repeats the story about Linda to Lou again. Lou smells something fishy, and it's definitely not that grilled cheese. He tells Lester about Malvo coming into the diner and asking about him, and Lester turns white. Then he turns green -- because he remembers those tickets to Acapulco in the jacket he gave to Linda. He's just about rush over to the shop again when the prowlers scream by, sirens blaring. Oh well, at least he's got a sandwich to keep him occupied right now.
Molly gets the call about Lester's wife, "Wait, what? The other one now?" and she runs over to Nygaard's shop to check things out. Bill's there, and so is most of the police force. Lester puts on a Daytime Emmy-style performance about Linda, and the cops decide to bring him to the station for questioning.
Meanwhile, Lou shows up at the precinct and tells Molly about his run-in with Malvo, realizing he probably should've told her when it happened. When he sort of identifies Malvo from the surveillance photos, he decides to go sit on the Grimly's porch with his shotgun and make sure no one messes with them.
Later, with local team Molly and Bill along with G-men Budge and Pepper in the interrogation room, Lester's cornered like the sniveling rat he is. Ultimately, they decide to bring Lester back to his house with the FBI guys to keep a lookout for Malvo. Budge and Pepper phone for backup, but Malvo, several steps ahead of them all thanks to that police scanner, phones the FBI and cancels the extra forces.
Gus eventually finds out what's up, and leaves Lou in charge of watching Greta while he goes out to be with Molly. He calls up his wife while he's driving, and tells her that today's not the day she's going to go out into the field and nab the bad guy. Instead, she has to stay put in the office while the entire force is out looking for Malvo so she's safe, and Greta doesn't have to go to another funeral. Way to pull out the emotional big guns, Gus. Molly can fight her own battles, even if she is about to pop a baby out.
It's heartbreaking to watch Molly listen to Gus telling her what to do, just like she listened to Bill push her around and even her father tried to get her to let this case go ("Well, there's two ways of looking at it -- first is you gotta, second is you don't."). She sits alone for a while, and eventually decides to fuck it and go be the cop she knows she is.
Gus, still driving, nearly runs into an animal on his way into town: a lone wolf. He stops just short of it and looks around. There's a cabin just to the left, and what d'ya know, Gus has a feeling about it. He pulls off onto a side road and sneaks into the woods, stalking his prey. Sure enough, Malvo emerges from the house, and gets into his car. Gus takes the opportunity to lie in wait, inside the cabin.
Budge, Pepper, and Lester head back to Lester's house. The FBI pair stay outside in their car, waiting for backup -- and Malvo -- while Lester goes inside his house and starts rigging up a trap... just in case. Good thing he got that hunting gear from Chazz's wife.
It looks like backup arrives in an FBI-ish looking car, but when Budge and Pepper go to investigate, it's one of Lester's insurance customers -- the car dealership man from the diner -- taped to the steering wheel after being fooled by Malvo.
From the thick of the woods, Malvo sneaks up on Budge and Pepper, who turn around too late. Pepper takes a bullet in the brain and Budge gets one in the throat. Now it's Lester's turn.
Malvo heads inside Lester's house and hears him dialing in a call to 911, loudly saying that he's in the upstairs master bathroom. Perfect, Malvo thinks and he heads toward Lester's voice.
Snap. Crack. Malvo's caught in the jaws of the bear trap, and he picks up the thing closest to him (the crystal insurance award) and frisbees it at Lester's face. Lester's stunned for a moment before retreating into the bathroom as Malvo fires shots at him through the door. When Lester finally emerges, Malvo has disappeared from the premises. And Lester's left with an eerily similar nose injury to the one he sustained during the first episode. Only this time, underneath all that blood streaming from his face, Lester's a completely changed man.
Malvo goes back to his cabin in the woods, hobbling onto the couch with an old-school doctor's kit to fix himself up.
We're treated to a long, sickening scene of Malvo resetting his bone (that sound!) and tending to his wounds -- the lone wolf gone back to his lair to wait things out or die in peace. Turns out things went the direction of the latter.
In the relative ecstasy he feels after popping his leg back together, Malvo looks up and spots that same wolf Gus saw earlier now pacing outside of the cabin window. What seems like a mirage of a smile tugs at the corner of Malvo's mouth when he hears footsteps behind him.
Gus shoots him in the chest three times at point-blank range and yet, Malvo -- looking like Bonnie and Clyde's car -- coughs and gasps back to life, blood coating his teeth, making like he might actually get up and lunge at Gus. Instead, Malvo smiles a toothy, predatory grin that Gus promptly mars with a couple of bullets -- one near the jawline (Steve Buscemi, anyone?) and one in the temple. Those put him down for good.
Taking one last look at bullet-ridden Malvo, Gus edges carefully over to the table and nabs Malvo's knife before stepping away from that evil, empty husk for good. He looks a little like he might go full Exorcist and pea soup on Malvo, but for a crummy policeman-turned-mailman, he at least got his guy.
Speaking of being put down, Malvo's still toting around his stone-age evidence -- that briefcase full of cassette tapes and people confessing to various crimes, being murdered, and all that good stuff. When backup arrives -- and with it, Molly -- Gus tells her to go over and open up the black case of confessions. Molly can hardly believe her ears, overcome with emotion at having finally, finally gotten concrete evidence of Lester's guilt. "Lester, have you been a bad boy?" The audio from Lester's call to Malvo in episode one plays back.
Flash forward to Glacier National Park in Montana, two weeks later. The buzz of that snowmobile is coasting across the snow, Lester tooling along in another (!) puffy, orange jacket, thinking that maybe he actually got away. Think again, Lester Nygaard, you've definitely been a bad boy, and in the world of Fargo, you've got to pay.
He runs into law enforcement who seem to be just waiting for Lester's imminent arrival, and true to form, he darts off in the other direction. Lester speeds off on the snowy terrain, straight for a lake and mountains in the distance -- the perfect place to get lost in. Only, Lester doesn't make it that far. He's treading on thin ice -- literally -- and suddenly the ground cracks beneath him as he ventures further and further away from the cops warning him about the danger.
Splash. Lester's a goner, the top of his hat visible in the freezing water with his body about to sink. Fargo's twisted Jack Dawson -- who only wanted a better life -- frozen without a Rose to save him. We wonder what kind of insurance policy he had.
And in the end, just like in the original Fargo, domestic bliss wins out.
Back in Bemidji, Gus reveals he's getting recognized for his bravery in taking out Malvo just after Molly gets the call that Lester's been taken down (into the icy depths of that Montana lake).
"They really should be givin' it to you," Gus tells Molly, referring to the recognition.
"No, this is your deal," says Molly. "I get to be chief."
You can't help but see a little sadness in Molly's eyes as she says this, as it's what she'd been working toward since Thurman's death in episode one, toiling against Bill's idiocy left and right. But ultimately, Gus got one of her guys and the other one went popsicle style in Montana, and she's only chief now because Bill realizes that all he wants is a "stack of pancakes and a V-8."
There's something to be said of exacting justice with your own hands, or at least bringing whomever it is to justice yourself, and Molly only gets her rewards vicariously. But hey, at least she gets to be chief.
Random notebook dump:
Poor Budge and Pepper. But this was the episode we really noticed that those two just act like a couple of teenagers who are philosophers stoned. That is to say, very talkative, very thoughtful, and very high. At one point, Budge asks Pepper if they're dreaming, and Pepper replies "Do you just say everything that comes into your head?" A moment every puff-puff-passing friendship has had, no? Later, Budge asks if his whole life is actually a dream, and Pepper bites: "Who's dream?" It's all very Waking Life for these two, and while we know they're not actually blazed, they go the way of all teen stoners in horror movies: offed in some horrendous way near a cabin in the woods.
Gus: "They're gonna give me a citation for bravery." Greta: "You? Come on, you're afraid of spiders." Gus: "Buzz Aldren was afraid of spiders, and he went into space." But Gus, maybe Buzz went up to the one place where you're actually never three feet away from a spider.
Why did Lester go to (and finally get "caught" in) Montana, of all places? We might be looking into it a little much, but on one of Keith Carradine's other TV series, justice for his character, Wild Bill Hickock, was served up by the former lawman he nicknamed "Montana." Maybe Noah Hawley is a big Deadwood fan.
Speaking of Carradine (sorry, last time!), we finally got our wish for more Lou in this final episode, and if seeing a that gun-toting grandpa guarding his family's porch against pure-evil Malvo isn't kinda heartwarming in this twisted world of Fargo? Aw heck, we don't know what is.
Important takeaways from this episode:
Justice has been served. Mostly.
Molly, Gus, Greta (and Lou!) get to live in happy, domestic bliss as a family who watches Let's Make a Deal at night. (Because it's 2006, and that's what we did back then, okay?)
Where does Fargo go from here?
FX hasn't yet announced if Fargo will be picked up for another season, but it's probably safe to say that if it does, it won't be picking up exactly where this one left off. Fargo looks to be like the series of anthology-style shows FX seems to be fond of these days (American Horror Story, for example) that produce a finite number of episodes in a closed-world, one-story season. Presumably, there'll be another story in another time and place in the Fargo world -- because something sinister always lurks beneath that calm veneer of civility in small-town U.S.A.
We're rooting for the next one to go back in time even earlier than the Coens' story: Back to that terrible 1979 Sioux Falls event that Lou kept talking about. Or maybe we can see what happens when the snow melts and Milos's re-buried briefcase of money thaws its way into visibility this spring. Perhaps we could follow Malvo's weird zombie-kit-toting supplier in his van. Or stranger yet, we could see whatever happened to good ol' Marge Gunderson's kid from the movie -- that'd probably make for a hot dish (eh, eh?), don't 'cha think?
Regardless of when and where Fargo re-emerges (if it does), you betcha we'll be watching it.