FARGO Finale Recap: “Morton’s Fork”

     June 17, 2014


Even the title of Fargo‘s finale, “Morton’s Fork,” speaks to the series’ narrative inevitability.  Contradictory arguments leading to the same (unpleasant) conclusion?  That about sums up Malvo’s work in Bemidji.  When encountering Gus and Lester individually, Malvo offered them choices.  That continued explicitly with Lester through the last episode, and implicitly with Gus throughout the season.  The repetition in “Morton’s Fork” of Malvo asking, “is this what you want?” had two different answers that indeed led to the same outcome.  Hit the jump for why I “can’t say I liked his demeanor.”

fargo-finale-billy-bob-thorntonMany weeks ago, I suggested that Fargo‘s story would only ultimately have value if Gus turned out to be the hero, or at least got some redemption for letting Malvo go free earlier in the season.  So in that regard, I have to admit that Fargo did what it needed to, as far as rewarding a good guy and punishing (several) bad guys.  Otherwise, the show would have just been about exalting evil, which, could easily have been its thing (and many think it was).  But to stay true to the film, it couldn’t have gone all the way with that.

If you peel away who wasn’t essential to this season’s main arc, only four characters really mattered: Malvo, Lester, Molly and Gus.  Molly and Malvo pushed on these other two from opposite sides of the moral spectrum.  Malvo goaded Lester into murder, and Gus into apathy and inaction, while Molly antagonized Lester to the point that his paranoia and self-destruction took over, as well as providing Gus with a reason to go after Malvo because of his desire to protect her.

In that sense, Molly could be considered the hero of the show.  Her goodness overcame the bad, but it was indirect, and had to flow through Gus and Lester.  While Malvo gave Gus and Lester clear choices, Molly’s influence was more subversive.  She was also a reactionary force (to Verne’s death, to Pearl’s death and her suspicion of Lester, and later to Linda’s death) instead of a driving force (like Malvo).  While these deaths all showed her evolution as a cop (from a greenhorn, to someone with the right instincts but no power, to someone who would soon become chief), her ultimate role was to galvanize others, and not take the glory for herself.

When considering Fargo‘s worth and ultimate impact, it’s that story, that ancient parable of good versus evil, that stands out.  The direction and the cinematography were gorgeous, but the pacing and the monologues, the slaughter and the disappearance of so many plots were not. (Many of the characters weren’t even killed in order to impact the overall moral game — Budge and Pepper, for instance. Then again, your mileage may vary regarding the ancillary stories — Stavros, for instance — depending your overall tolerance for the series).


As for “Morton’s Fork” in particular, it had plenty of great little character moments, from the illustration of Lester as having become a criminal mastermind (or at least, as someone who has gotten really good at killing off wives), to Budge and Pepper’s hilarious conversations and interactions.  Malvo’s machinations with the FBI, along with Lester’s attempts to hide from him and then kill him were all suitably tense with anticipation.  In those moments, we really didn’t know what might happen: they were both probably going to die, but like Linda in the last episode, it was more a question of how.  In this way, “Morton’s Fork” delivered.

Ultimately, Lester and Gus made decisions that were in line with who they really were, and impacted the story in a way that was satisfying.  Lester’s bad deeds were punished by him falling through the hole in the ice, running away like the coward he always was, while Gus was able to confront Malvo and violently dispose of him in the heroic form he resisted before.

For viewers, the question of “is this what you want?” can be addressed directly to Fargo as a series.  For many, myself included, the answer is and was no (aw, jeez).  Others obviously have loved it and find it among the best series of the year (oh ya).  All that proves is simply that the series, just like the world Fargo created, was extremely divisive.  Let’s go smoke a fuckin’ peace pipe about it.

Episode Rating: A

Series Rating: B-

Musings and Miscellanea:

fargo-finale-martin-freeman-jordan-peele-keegan-michael-key-allison-tolman— If you have been struggling with Fargo this season, I highly recommend you read Emily Nussbaum’s piece in The New Yorker that sums up what its issues and triumphs were.

— “Can’t say I liked his demeanor.” – Lou

— I hate it when characters don’t ask questions.  Did Greta really not want to know what happened in 1979?  Or is that going to be the tease for the next set in the proposed anthology?

— I know that the tapes were supposed to be the mic drop moment, but from what they said, a good defense lawyer could have poked holes in it (because it still went along generally with Lester’s version).

— Did anyone bother letting Chazz out of prison?

— “We’re a small time force, we’re not prepared for urban warfare” – Bill.

— I liked it when Lester solved the riddle, showing just how crafty he really is.

— “The other one now?” – Molly, after hearing that Linda was murdered.

— Molly even got her own parable in this hour, with the glove story.

— “What if my whole life has been a dream?” “Yeah, but whose dream is it?” – Budge and Pepper, the highlights of the series for me.

— “Don’t got the stomach for it” – Bill.