‘Fargo’ Finale Sticks the Landing (SPOILERS)

Fargo Season Finale Recap

Despite an inordinately high degree of difficulty, “Fargo” didn’t just ace its routine, but even managed to stick the landing.

The FX production is being categorized as a miniseries for award purposes, as it should be. Yet it’s sort of a shame that this year’s two self-contained standouts – the other being HBO’s “True Detective,” which is being submitted as a dramatic series – won’t go toe to toe. Because while the edge likely goes to the latter, given the brilliant way “Fargo’s” 10 episodes played out and concluded Tuesday, it’s a very close call.

Presented the formidable challenge of building a TV show around the title and tone of the Coen brothers’ oft-quoted classic, series creator Noah Hawley manage to pull off an impressive coup, drawing from multiple aspects of the brothers’ filmography – most notably the ruthless killer in “No Country For Old Men” – to create a sense of endless menace, mixed with disarming dark comedy.

The limited format also allowed the producers to cast the project to the hilt, with Billy Bob Thornton as the unpredictable hit man, Lorne Malvo, and Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard, the beaten-down insurance salesman who has a chance encounter with him that both changes Lester’s life and winds up ending several dozen others. Nor should anyone undersell Allison Tolman as Molly, the dogged deputy on their trail; Colin Hanks as the man who puts his family ahead of duty; and a supporting cast that included a wonderful Keith Carradine as Molly’s father.

While FX shows are occasionally guilty of being dark, brutal and ugly because, well, they can, there was nary a scene in “Fargo” – no matter how grisly – that didn’t feel completely organic and in keeping with the established tone.

All that built toward these last two episodes (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched), where Lester – a new man since he literally got away with murder – stumbles into Malvo in Las Vegas, triggering an eventual showdown back in Minnesota. The build-up to that moment (including little detours, like Thornton and Carradine’s conversation in the latter’s diner) was just beautifully constructed.

If there were moments along the way that might have felt as if “Fargo” was working too hard at being quirky, everything fell into place in these final hours, which managed to be both surprising in the details and oddly satisfying in the ultimate resolution. For all the bodies Malvo left in his wake, he suffered mightily in the end, while the literal interpretation of thin ice has seldom felt quite so poetic as in Lester’s case.

Ratings have been gradually ticking upward as the show built toward its conclusion, but “Fargo” hasn’t exactly been a blockbuster. That said, the prestige factor is such FX will likely have to at least try to replicate the formula and, like “True Detective,” should have a leg up in attracting blue-chip talent after the hosannas being showered on the first go-round.

Give FX considerable credit for helping cultivate this anthology format with the much less meritorious “American Horror Story,” which, admittedly, seems easier to reboot and perpetuate than the delicate brew that is “Fargo.”

Not that a future edition has to be filled with snowy vistas, pregnant cops and dialects that invite ending every sentence with a cheery “You betcha.” Because if Hawley and company have demonstrated anything with this unlikely triumph of creative adaptation, it’s that “Fargo” isn’t a place; for these purposes, it’s a state of mind.

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  1. Josh says:

    I was hoping that Malvo would get away, only adding to the list of uneventful attempts by Gus at pursuing him, and not giving the audience the satisfaction of his fate.

  2. joyce herbster says:

    I loved it! Best show all year!

  3. NYJEG says:

    I heard NPR interview with Hawley…and promptly found series on demand…and believe it or not – watched all ten episodes between two days. I was mesmerized, hooked, breathing ‘cold air’, sometimes not breathing…just holding my breath and absorbed completely in the characters. BBThornton was awesome. As was Lester, Molly, Gus…I was glued and could not stop….hopefully, there will be a Season II.

  4. Penny says:

    Fargo is by far one of the best shows I have ever watched,did anyone else notice that the knife Malvo used to cut his pants leg open with was a ” SlingBlade ” very genius of them to include this in the finale
    !!!!! I am ready for more !!!!!

  5. Sharon says:

    My husband and I looked forward to the past several Tuesdays nights just to watch “Fargo”. This mini-series was like a good book. So good, you can’t stop watching/reading. So sad, when it’s ended. We thought the acting and script were excellant – brillant!

  6. Dark Comedy says:

    I couldn’t disagree more. The series was excellent, the writing superb, until the finale. There were way too many holes, too many coincidences, too many unexplained past stories. It was as if they really didn’t know how to finish. It’s ending resembled Dexter in its anti-climax rather than something epic and clever as Breaking Bad. I felt like I just brushed my teeth and then had a glass of orange juice, it left a bitter taste in my mouth when I didn’t expect it.

  7. David Rabalais says:

    I very much disagree. I liked the 9th episode, but the final one was anticlimactic. So many things they could have done and it wound up rather mundane. They wobbled badly on the landing.

    • evoc says:

      I thought the ending was brilliantly done, with the exception of Gus’ murdering Malvo and getting away with it. Gus committed trespass, breaking and entering, at least unlawful entering, lying in wait, and first degree murder while interfering with a criminal investigation. That little glitch was a bad potato in the soup. Otherwise it was top notch. Thornton should win an award for his portrayal of Malvo. The dying scene was inspired and perfected executed, no pun intended.

      • pschase says:

        I agree with evoc – I really enjoyed the finale, but my friend and I were both like ” what?” We like Gus but the perfect tragedy would have been to stick with the realism and have Gus do at least some time.
        And Malvo’s death scene had a quiet, eerie tone.

        I don’t think the show should come back however – if all these crazy things start happening in one town…? I would like to see the same team do other film interpretations, remixes, or whatever you would call this miniseries. Great work!

    • bostoncommon says:

      Absolutely David.

  8. Clarice says:

    l get your language. lt implies mature content. lt is hard to forget you in a busy day. as a production manager, writer,promoter,piano player,public relation officer, l would like to say thank you for your messages daily.

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