You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Fargo’ Finale Sticks the Landing (SPOILERS)

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.

More TV

  • daredevil Marvel Netflix

    Marvel to Shutter Television Division

    Marvel’s television division is officially winding down. Variety has learned that Marvel Television will no longer be developing any new series beyond the shows that are currently in production. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, Marvel will eliminate a number of positions in the near future as a result of the cessation [...]

  • Kaya Scodelario

    TV News Roundup: Netflix's 'Spinning Out' With 'Skins' Star Kaya Scodelario Gets Premiere Date

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix reveals the premiere date for “Spinning Out,” and USA reveals a first look at Ethan Hawke’s return to “The Purge” universe.  DATES Netflix‘s “Spinning Out,“ starring “Skins’s” Kaya Scodelario and from showrunners Lara Olsen (“Reign”) and Samantha Stratton, premieres Jan. 1. The series follows Scodelario’s Kat, a high-level figure skater [...]

  • Philip MckeonPhilip Mckeon

    'Alice' Child Star Philip McKeon Dies at 55

    Philip McKeon, known for playing the son of Linda Lavin’s titular character in the classic CBS sitcom “Alice,” has died. He was 55. The actor died Tuesday morning in Texas following a longtime illness, family spokesman Jeff Ballard confirmed to Variety. “We are all beyond heartbroken and devasted over Phil’s passing,” said Ballard. “His wonderful [...]

  • Vanna White

    Vanna White Hosts 'Wheel of Fortune' for the First Time in 37 Years

    Vanna White, who’s been a staple on “Wheel of Fortune” for almost 40 years, stepped in to host the long-running game show for the first time, as host Pat Sajak underwent emergency surgery. “Tonight’s my first night of hosting Wheel! I’m excited and nervous! Stay tuned!” White tweeted on Monday The episodes, which were filmed [...]

  • Britt McHenry

    Fox News Sued by Streaming Host Britt McHenry, Who Alleges Harassment

    Britt McHenry, a host for Fox News’ Fox Nation streaming-video outlet, filed suit against the network and its corporate parent Tuesday, alleging she has been denied opportunities at the company after reporting claims she was harassed sexually by a former co-host, George Murdoch, who is also known as Tyrus. McHenry’s suit, filed in U.S. District [...]

  • Mnelik-Belilgne

    Fox to Develop Comedy 'Kidless' From 'Single Parents' Writer

    A single-camera comedy titled “Kidless” is currently in the works at Fox. The project hails from writer and co-executive producer Mnelik Belilgne and executive producer Jamie Tarses. Belilgne is currently a writer and co-executive producer on the ABC comedy “Single Parents.” He and Tarses previously worked together on the YouTube original comedy series “Champaign ILL” [...]

  • ET Live

    ET Online, ET Live Merge Staff, Resulting in Layoffs (EXCLUSIVE)

    UPDATED: On-air ET Live hosts Tanner Thomason and Jason Carter have been let go as part of the greater layoffs, according to a source, while host Melicia Johnson has accepted a new role within ET digital. Entertainment website ET Online and live-streaming network ET Live, the digital extensions of CBS’ daily newsmagazine “Entertainment Tonight,” are [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content