If I were to do a top 10 list of my favorite shows of the 2013-2014 season at the end of this year, I could easily -- very easily, in fact -- see Fargo
not only place in the top three, but be my number one show. And to say I was looking forward to this week's season 1 finale is an understatement.
I watched the finale almost a full week ago and I'm still ambivalent about it. I loved the closure for so many of the characters. I loved that the good guys won and the bad guys ... well, they got what they deserved. And yet I'm still ambivalent about whether it was either an incredibly understated, yet poignant capper to an incredible season of television, or if it was just a nice and ultimately narratively "safe" conclusion.
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The Crime Scene
This week's finale takes place mere moments after the end of last week's episode. Lester, perhaps finally feeling some guilt and/or shame, looks at Linda's body before riffling through his safe to get his passport. He even takes the time to complete the look of the crime scene he wants cops to envision by putting his office keys in her hand.
To ensure he's got a strong alibi, Lester heads to Lou's diner and says Linda will be on her way. He then calls the police from a nearby pay phone, while pretending to be in the diner's bathroom. Lester almost slips up when he repeats his alibi about where Linda is to Lou until Lou suddenly changes subjects and mentions the "fella" that came in looking for him earlier.
It's at that moment that Lester realizes he left the plane tickets in Linda's jacket. And unfortunately, the cops are already on their way. By the time he makes it to the shop, Molly is there, with Bill, examining the crime scene. I have to admit that Lester really sells the grieving spouse angle and he's thiiiiis close to pulling off a fake-out of wanting to say goodbye to Linda while in actuality pulling the plane tickets out of her (actually his) jacket. But Molly calls him off, saying he can't touch the body.
Lester wouldn't be able to escape Malvo by just sneaking off into the night after all.
Hunting for Malvo
Malvo, meanwhile, wants to find Lester and kill him really, really badly. He breaks into Budge and Pepper's car and poses as an FBI agent to call off the back-up they requested to town.
Molly and Bill know Malvo is coming for Lester and try to scare him into talking. But he wants his lawyer, even though Molly warns him that Malvo won't stop until Lester is dead.
While Molly worries about Lester's well-being, Lou is worried about Molly and her family's. So he stands guard outside Molly and Gus' house, while Gus calls and asks Molly to not personally go looking for Malvo. She protests, but ultimately promises to run things from the police station.
After he hangs up the phone with Molly, Gus slams on the brakes of his car because there was a wolf in the road. And he then spots Malvo's car. Okay ... seriously? We're going to make it that easy for him? I kind of didn't love that coincidence, and I'm still unsure what I thought of what comes next...
Malvo leaves not long after Gus' secret arrival. He heads to a used car lot where I kind of secretly hoped he'd run into Jerry Lundagaard even though the timeline of the movie happens before the show even starts. Malvo wants a test drive -- aka, a vehicle that the police aren't currently looking for.
While Lester won't confess to anything, he is smart enough to tell Molly he's not the monster she thinks he is as well as allow the FBI agents Budge and Pepper to drive him home. Once inside, Lester starts going through Chazz's old hunting gear.
Malvo eventually shows up. Budge and Pepper order him out of the car and notice the used car salesman is tied up inside the driver's side. Malvo comes from behind them and kills them both. Wow. They really wound up being inconsequential, huh? That was truly a disappointment since I really loved the energy they brought to the show.
Lester calls the police for help, while Malvo falls into a bear trap -- so that's what Lester was looking for amidst Chazz's stuff! -- and eventually leaves behind a huge trail of blood as he escapes.
Back at his house, Malvo splints his leg and sees the same wolf Gus saw earlier, just before Gus comes in with a gun drawn.
He then straight-up murders Malvo, by firing three shots to his chest, and then another and another -- that last one gets him in the side of his face.
I love Gus as a character, but wow, that was hard to swallow. I seriously did not love that he murdered Malvo. I so, so much would have rather he killed him in self-defense or even helped arrest him. But murder? That was tough to witness, and while that might have been the point, it still bugs me days later.
Molly shows up at the house a little while later, just as Gus has given his statement. They discover Malvo's "evidence" cassette tapes where they of course find Lester's, which was made when Lester called Malvo after murdering his wife.
Lester Gets What's Coming to Him
We then flash ahead two weeks later to where Lester is riding a snowmobile in the Glacier National Park in Montana.
The cops are waiting for him -- like a TON of them. He drives off and they give chase. He loses control of the snowmobile and starts running onto a frozen lake. He falls through the ice, which evokes Marge Gunderson's chase across a frozen lake in the film.
With both Malvo and Lester dead, the familiar Fargo theme starts to help close out the show as we see Molly with her new family of Gus and Greta at home. Gus will get a citation for bravery, while Molly will in fact get to be the new Chief. (Not so much that she earned it, but that she earned it AND Bill is stepping down.)
It's a happy ending that very clearly evokes the happy ending from the film as well, even though in both cases, the heroes witnessed pretty much the absolute worst in humanity. (Though in the show's case, once of them took part in some of the bloodshed thanks to what Gus did in Malvo's house.)
While the show left us with some lingering questions -- which I'll get to in the next section -- pretty much every plotline was paid off with a very close-ended point. There was resolution; I just didn't love all of the resolution myself.
-- Whatever happened to the Widow Hess or Stavros Milos? I guess the Widow Hess was a plot device for Gus to show off to Linda, but I really was curious what became of Stavros after the death of his son.
-- Will anyone else discover the money Stavros tried to put back? Will that be an issue in the "next" Fargo miniseries?
-- Did Mr. Wrench go back to being a hitman? Or did he take the new freedom Malvo gave him and do something else? Did he at least get a new best friend? I was downright shocked that he never showed up after his hospital scene.
-- Will Chazz be set free since Molly/Gus found the tape incriminating Lester? Did he even survive prison? (I feel like he's not the kind of guy that would do well in prison.)
Did the show leave any other questions unanswered for you? Leave them in the comments!