Can a disappointing ending spoil the whole journey? Fargo has without a doubt been one of the most fun shows to grace TV screens this summer. Perhaps due to low to moderate expectations from a majority of critics, like myself, Fargo was pleasantly surprising and subversive week in and week out. Creator Noah Hawley seemed to have a keen grasp on how to make an anthology series like Fargo work due to the solid pacing and meaningful diversions that helped shade the main cast of characters, specifically standouts like Billy Bob Thornton’s devilish Lorne Malvo and Allison Tolman’s true north protagonist Molly. As much fun as I had following this show week in and week out, I couldn’t help but feel a tad underwhelmed by the final chapter.
Maybe part of the problem is that Fargo pulled out all of the stops too early. Fargo’s sixth episode “Buridan’s Ass” was an absolute thrill ride that packed so much of an emotional wallop that it’s possible the show didn’t stand a chance to top it. Tonight’s ending started off almost as a full circle moment, a 90-minute episode that once again centers on the murder of another Mrs. Nygaard. Lester, who once transformed into suave sleazeball, diverted back to bumbling faker the minute he was back in police custody. And the next 45 minutes? Well, it was as if the show was just circling the drain.
Part of the problem is that Fargo is a show that relies on big events and allows mini one-acts and metaphorical monologues to fill in the rest of the time. Writer Todd VanDerWerff for the AV Club accused Game of Thrones of taking on a similar style, describing how Game of Thrones has infected other television shows to be more about “talky one-scene plays and major climaxes.” Except tonight’s episode of Fargo spends so much time on the former and almost zero on the latter. What should have been a big showdown between Lester and Malvo turns into a brief, two minute tops scene, where Malvo gets his leg caught in a bear trap that retreats. Not only does this seem against what we’ve learned about the character, it’s also definitely a letdown.
The show used its last thirteen minutes to wrap everything up so quickly. Pepper and Budge are killed, but their deaths were a foregone conclusion, and not entirely meaningful since we only met the two in the show’s last few episodes. I like that Gus is the one that brings down Malvo, but the scene isn’t much to write about. The only shocking aspect is when Malvo lets out a breath after the first two bullets, or maybe it was a sigh. Maybe he, like us, couldn’t believe that it was ending this easily.
I liked the way the show made Lester’s final moments sort of mirror that of Jerry’s from the film, with the two both on the run from police, and I’ll also say how glad I am that Gus, Molly, and their new adorable family all made it out alive. They proved to be the true emotional core of the show. As I think about it, there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with this episode (sure, I’d like to have seen a little more closure on the Stavros storyline), but at the same time, I feel like it just could have, should have, been better. What was the point of a 90 minute episode when so much time is devoted to little allegorical stories?
All that being said, I still enjoyed Fargo on the whole immensely and would recommend it to just about anyone. The performances were terrific and it’s always nice to see a show balance comedy and thrills so gracefully. I really hope Allison Tolman gets the recognition she deserves for her portrayl of Molly and that this leads for more work for the talented actress. Being named Fargo, this show had a lot to live up to, and I think it did a swell job, dontchya know.