FARGO Finale Recap: “Morton’s Fork”

by     Posted 187 days ago

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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).

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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.

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  • http://collider.com Matt Goldberg

    I thought Fargo delivered, and while I can see why not everyone flocked to it, I think it was a surprising, moody, and funny series that echoed the Coens without aping them. They have a similar moral compass, but not exactly. Hawley’s universe is more karmic while the Coens is Old Testament.

    The karma of Hawley’s Fargo is seen throughout. Does Stavros have a bigger payoff in the end? Do Wrench and Numbers? No. There’s not grand culmination in the sense that every plotline comes together in a narrative package. But thematically, they all added to the feel of the world and illustrated the conflicts faced by the main characters. So when we see the “divine” retribution against Stavros going against his word, or that the Fargo Organization, which appears to be a hitman dispensary, is undone by its own hitman, we see repercussions.

    The Coens, on the other hand, live in a world where good isn’t necessarily rewarded. [Spoilers for Coen Brothers movies] In No Country for Old Men, Carla is an innocent, but she still gets killed. In Miller’s Crossing, Mad Man Mundt gets to go on a rampage, murders Barton’s family, and then goes away. It’s a messier universe that difficult to untangle, but it usually comes back to if you do good things, you might still get screwed. If you do bad things, you’ll DEFINITELY get screwed. And that’s a fair assessment.

    So while Hawley’s Fargo and the Coens’ Fargo end up at the same place–the comfort of the homestead–the Coens’ Fargo quietly plays into the gentle goodness of a family that will see ugliness, but has the fortitude to withstand it. Hawley’s Fargo provides a reward with Gus getting a commendation for actively protecting his home and righting his past wrong (and refusing to even get into more of Malvo’s wordplay; the devil has talked enough), and Molly gets to be chief.

    Hawley’s Fargo didn’t tarnish or detract or provide a poor imitation of what the Coens did. It tried to find the essence and then take it in a new direction. That direction didn’t work for everyone, but it did for me.

    • Biran53

      I love how the show seemed to counter the standard tropes with modern dramatic television by allowing good things to happen to the good people, while showing just how pointless and pathetic the lives were of the bad people were under close inspection.

      Lester, the big bad crime syndicate in Fargo, and others all have moments where their outward appearances spell intrigue and “made for TV drama,” but they are all just sad souls who have nothing figured out, and feel that they can only get by in the world through hurting other people.

      It mirrors the themes of the film rather perfectly.

      I also agree that this was DAMN good television. Not particularly a fan of dramas. This is a major expection.

    • Biran53

      I love how the show seemed to counter the standard tropes with modern dramatic television by allowing good things to happen to the good people, while showing just how pointless and pathetic the lives were of the bad people were under close inspection.

      Lester, the big bad crime syndicate in Fargo, and others all have moments where their outward appearances spell intrigue and “made for TV drama,” but they are all just sad souls who have nothing figured out, and feel that they can only get by in the world through hurting other people.

      It mirrors the themes of the film rather perfectly.

      I also agree that this was DAMN good television. Not particularly a fan of dramas. This is a major expection.

  • http://collider.com Matt Goldberg

    I thought Fargo delivered, and while I can see why not everyone flocked to it, I think it was a surprising, moody, and funny series that echoed the Coens without aping them. They have a similar moral compass, but not exactly. Hawley’s universe is more karmic while the Coens is Old Testament.

    The karma of Hawley’s Fargo is seen throughout. Does Stavros have a bigger payoff in the end? Do Wrench and Numbers? No. There’s not grand culmination in the sense that every plotline comes together in a narrative package. But thematically, they all added to the feel of the world and illustrated the conflicts faced by the main characters. So when we see the “divine” retribution against Stavros going against his word, or that the Fargo Organization, which appears to be a hitman dispensary, is undone by its own hitman, we see repercussions.

    The Coens, on the other hand, live in a world where good isn’t necessarily rewarded. [Spoilers for Coen Brothers movies] In No Country for Old Men, Carla is an innocent, but she still gets killed. In Miller’s Crossing, Mad Man Mundt gets to go on a rampage, murders Barton’s family, and then goes away. It’s a messier universe that difficult to untangle, but it usually comes back to if you do good things, you might still get screwed. If you do bad things, you’ll DEFINITELY get screwed. And that’s a fair assessment.

    So while Hawley’s Fargo and the Coens’ Fargo end up at the same place–the comfort of the homestead–the Coens’ Fargo quietly plays into the gentle goodness of a family that will see ugliness, but has the fortitude to withstand it. Hawley’s Fargo provides a reward with Gus getting a commendation for actively protecting his home and righting his past wrong (and refusing to even get into more of Malvo’s wordplay; the devil has talked enough), and Molly gets to be chief.

    Hawley’s Fargo didn’t tarnish or detract or provide a poor imitation of what the Coens did. It tried to find the essence and then take it in a new direction. That direction didn’t work for everyone, but it did for me.

  • 80sRobot

    Molly’s parable: The first glove was Lester’s first wife he killed, which was an “accident” just as the rider who accidentally loses one of his gloves. The second wife Lester allowed to be killed just like the second glove in Molly’s story was purposely thrown out so that both could be found by somebody else. Interesting.

  • Munier Sharrieff

    This and Hannibal are easily my favorites shows of this season. ironically I rolled my eyes when I read they were being made. i thought what more could they tell, glad I was wrong! I really have to commend the writers of Fargo for creating a “Fargo-verse”, so much more challenging than Hannibal which as loads of source material.

    i’m glad to see Hollywood is using the Fargo blueprint with Killer Joe and To Live and Die in L.A. Stop with the endless remakes and take good movies, expand them on tv.
    I’d love to see a show based on Lucky Number Slevin, Way of The Gun, even the Usual Suspects.

    My one complaint about Fargo in general; why the hell is that awesome soundtrack not available for purchase?!

    • Daniel O’Reilly

      The original soundtrack is on Amazon (it used to be available to download, but apparently no longer), and the series soundtrack will be released on July 1st.

  • Daniel O’Reilly

    There was nothing so spectacular as a wood chipper and no huge surprises (other than maybe, Lester drowning and Malvo going down without much of a fight–in part because he didn’t lock his door), but overall a very good conclusion to a very good series.

    A good defense lawyer probably could have had his way with the Lester tape, but he died before they had the chance, so that point is kind of moot.

    Kind of pleased both Gus and Lou survived, given that a) Keith Carradine’s character has died in every TV show I’ve seen him in, and b) both his and Colin Hanks’ characters died on Dexter.

    It was great to hear some of Carter Burwell’s score over the end credits. Jeff Russo’s score for the season was serviceable, if somewhat generic. Burwell’s score on the other hand is inseparable from the Fargo experience.

    The gunfight through the door was a nice Blood Simple reference.

  • Redemption

    A B- for the series? For a TV show thats a rating that suggests its probably not worth watching. The pilot was one of the best opening episodes for any Ive ever seen. Episodes 5-9 (especially 9) were also top notch. The last episode was anticlimatic on purpose so I wont fault it too much. I thought the show was almost on par with True Detective and certainly one of the best shows of the last year

  • My Name

    Thank you for your weekly FARGO articles, Allison. I looked forward to them each week to help me gain some perspective!

  • Saad Khan

    I agree with the reviewer that as all bad were punished it seemed like a good ending But just like everyone I wanted to see a big showdown between Marlo, Lester and Molly cause they were the central character of the story. tho in the end somehow Gus got the balls to shoot tho I can understand why but still Molly’s disappearance from the action makes me question the writers giving her such a weak ending presumably as they say the 2nd season will be with all new cast somewhere else.
    The entire show is full of loopholes which we ignore every week cause of the great performances by all great actors. in the end i have to say it was the most frustrating show i have seen Everrr told as a true story which i highly doubt.

  • http://www.youtube.com/somejackball somejackball

    satisfying finale! i could go for another season too don’t cha know..

  • http://collider.com Matt Goldberg

    One thing I wanted to add after looking at some more reviews is that I don’t mind that Molly doesn’t get to personally face down Malvo or arrest Lester. This show isn’t about professional satisfaction or fairness. Honestly, it would have been jarring to see such a direct conclusion given all that we’ve seen before. The world of FARGO isn’t fair. We were taught that lesson with what happened to Stavros. In a fair world, giving back the money should have righted everything. Instead, fish fell from the sky and killed his only son. The world isn’t fair. It’s unpredictable.

    I would also add that Gus getting Malvo at the end isn’t so much an act of “manly” redemption as much as it’s not only Gus being dragged down to cold-blooded murder (he could have called the cops), but doing what was necessary to protect the homestead. Time and time again, we saw Malvo show up at people’s doorsteps and break into their homes. It was a wonderful irony that he should be gunned down in his own hideout.

  • Marissa Evans

    Very satisfying conclusion, but I think Lester deserved to be imprisoned for the rest of his life as opposed to killed off. That said, it was very appropriate to have him die running away like the coward he was.
    Malvo’s death was also satisfying. Outwitted by the very people he was trying to coax.
    There were some really great story-arcs in this with the characters, and that’s all I could ever ask for.

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