[This is a review of Fargo episode 10. There will be SPOILERS.]
When you stop to consider the wonderfully meticulous, deliberate storytelling Noah Hawley brought to Fargo, and the way every piece – despite occasionally seeming random, incongruous, or ill-fitting – eventually comes together in an exciting, well-told tale about morality versus wickedness ( or, if you like, common civility versus incivility), then the finale, ‘Morton’s Fork,’ is a little like looking back and appreciating the entire image that’s formed when the last puzzle piece is finally snapped into place.
Now it’s not like Fargo was some kind of mystery where answers were paramount to the audience’s level of satisfaction as the story came to its natural and inevitable conclusion. Instead, it was more along the lines of making sure everything lined up in on a thematic level. And the kind of exactness that dictated the climax to Molly, Gus, Lester, and Lorne Malvo’s twisted and lengthy tale is especially important since the story of Fargo (or at least part of it) is a closed one.
And because this is a closed story – or, dare I say it: a miniseries – the conclusion will likely linger in the minds of the audience far longer than anything else, because this is it; ‘Morton’s Fork’ is what Lester’s transformation, and Malvo’s continued corruption of weak-minded individuals, and Molly’s professional tribulations with the mostly patriarchal Bemidji police department were all about.
Therefore, as the episode commenced, there was an overwhelming sense of the story turning in on itself, as a narrative reminder of where these characters had been, which helped to clarify where exactly their stories were headed. At the forefront of the finale, of course, were Lester’s actions in the penultimate episode, ‘A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage,’ which saw his excessively dutiful wife Linda wind up the victim of Malvo (and himself) – which is later summed up by a sadly unsurprised Molly who simply says, “The other one, now?”
The present-day call back to the start of the series reinforced the notion of who Lester and Malvo were, and where they stood in the overall scheme of things, after the practically Satanic Malvo managed to breach the divide between his world and civilization by literally crashing into Bemidji. That move takes Fargo into a further delineation of the season’s conflicting side, and that division is made even clearer when Molly, Gus, Lou, and even Bill circle the wagons so to speak when they’re made aware of Malvo’s return to Bemidji.
Meanwhile, Malvo and Lester gradually find themselves becoming – as a result of their anti-social, amoral behavior – more and more isolated and distanced from the benefits and comfort of a civilized society. When he wasn’t out killing people, Malvo was alone in a remote cabin, with only his briefcase full of corrupted souls on tape to keep him company.
For his part, Lester was alone in his new – equally remote – house, because he’d allowed Linda to be killed in an abhorrent act of self-preservation. His isolation, then, augmented by his refusal to let Agents Budge and Pepper protect him and improve their chances of apprehending Malvo.
And so, ‘Morton’s Fork’ largely plays out as Lester and Malvo’s lack of what might be thought of as human morality sees them devolve into little more than two wild animals (Lester being the cornered rat, while Malvo maintains his role as the apex predator) that are essentially focused on attacking one another. That idea of each man degenerating into misrepresentations of animalistic nature is best summed up how they each meet their end.
First, the story implements Chekhov’s bear trap to snare Malvo and hobble him, giving Lester a fighting chance. At that point, Malvo is little more than a wounded animal who retreats to the safety of his isolated dwelling, only to be put down by Gus, who was previously, among other things, responsible for animal control in Duluth.
Secondly, there’s Lester’s death, which is brought about when he once more becomes the prey pursued by more effective predators – in this case the police on snowmobiles two weeks later. Only this time, Lester winds up in a cartoon-like incident where he plunges into a freezing lake after running out on thin ice. Humorously, Lester only falls victim to his circumstances and surroundings when, like Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff, he pauses to look down. That act of self-awareness, that brief return to his human nature, is what ultimately does Lester in.
Meanwhile, the opposite end of the moral spectrum is busy converging on itself in an unshakable act of support. Strangely, though, that act – seen mostly by the actions of Gus and Lou – winds up sidelining Molly, who had been positioned as the clear antithesis of Malvo and Lester’s inhumanity. At first, Molly’s handling read like a gross misuse of her character, especially following the praise heaped upon her from Budge and Pepper after her one-woman investigation basically cracked the case.
But after a closer read, Molly’s willingness to remove herself from the action, largely in order to ease her husband’s worried mind and ostensibly let him take the glory (or commendation) of bringing Malvo down by himself is actually more in line with her character and what Hawley seems to have been getting at with this story.
While Molly’s decision to remove herself may feel somewhat less satisfying than if she hadn’t, in the end, her choice ties back into the notion of goodness and decency staking a claim in a world overrun by cynicism and the lack of a moral compass. And as much as that is demonstrated in Malvo and Lester getting their comeuppance, it’s even more evident in how Molly tells Gus, “I get to be chief” in the closing moments, suggesting that even though the Malvo and Lester investigation was hers through and through, she was aware (perhaps unconsciously) the part her husband needed to play in its resolution.
As Malvo once told Stavros Milos, “There are no saints in the animal kingdom.” But those words came from an antiquated way of thinking that threw the world into disarray and kept people like Molly from ascending to their rightful place.
In the end, as Molly steps into her well-deserved position of authority, it signals a necessary change where the old ways are ostensibly shown the door to make room for something more just, equitable, and promising. And for a series that has been fantastically bleak and misanthropic at times, that comes off as an uplifting and rewarding conclusion.
Screen Rant will have updates on the future of Fargo, as details are made available.
Photos: Chris Large/FX