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‘Fargo’ Finale: No Country for Innocence
June 16, 2014  | By Eric Gould  | 3 comments

If you liked the bungling hubris and violence in Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1996 film Fargo, and their chilling tale of nihilism in 2007’s No Country for Old Men, then you must be loving the mash up of both in FX’s Fargo series, which is wrapping up Tuesday night at 10 p.m., ET.

Fargo hasn’t been perfect. For his loosely related adaptation, writer and creator Noah Hawley has swapped the marginally functional brutes from the original film for a sociopath mastermind and hit man, Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton, top). Thornton has been pitch perfect as an angel of death with a bad haircut, à la Anton Chigurh in No Country. (There’s a surprising bit more of Malvo's technique to start Tuesday’s finale.)

On the downside, Malvo has orchestrated his mayhem with the unlikely antics and skills of a black-ops ninja, often being a master of disguise, entomology and residential plumbing. His feats have been good television, but hardly like those in Breaking Bad that were outrageous, but danced well on the line of plausibility.

And speaking of Breaking Bad, onboard this season was Bob Odenkirk, that series’ crook lawyer Saul Goodman, in the habitual then tedious role of Police Chief Bill Oswalt who each week stalled the investigation into murder suspect Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman, bottom) because, golly, the mousy insurance guy just couldn’t be guilty of killing his wife despite incriminating evidence pointing right at him.

Even Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key showed up as two unwitting FBI agents. The duo from Comedy Central was too recognizable from their sketch comedy series, broke the fourth wall, and were distracting.

And, oh yeah, there was that biblical raining down of fish on local supermarket king Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt, right) in episode 6, borrowing from Paul Thomas Anderson’s original hail of frogs in his 1999 feature, Magnolia.

But those are quibbling points. Fargo has essentially been appointment viewing this spring, embodying the style and black comedy of the Coen’s feature films and crafting a great 10-episode season following Nygaard, the insurance agent who finds personal growth as a wife-killer, and what happens when he accidentally crosses paths with the deranged Malvo.

Most notably, Hawley made a thrilling leap to one year later in the narrative two weeks back, something we usually don’t see in a series until, well, the next year of the show. We saw steadfast policewoman Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman, left) still clinging to a cold Nygaard case out of Oswalt’s negligence, now pregnant and married to salt-of-the-earth Gus Grimley, who had left the Duluth police force for his childhood dream job as a postman.

In Tuesday’s 90-minute finale, “Norton’s Fork”, we will see what happens after Lester’s accidental meeting last week with Malvo in St. Louis and Malvo's homicidal impression of Jackson Pollock inside an elevator. Of course, Nygaard has seemed to get away with things, but, as with all of the Coen tragic characters, his vanity and newfound testosterone won’t let things be. Malvo returns to the bucolic town of Bemidji, Minnesota with his black brand of metaphysical justice.

There’s way too much to spoil here, but let’s say Hawley has remained true to the Coen brothers genius of colliding the best of human nature – the good-hearted cornpone of Minnesota – with its basest and lets the scintillating pieces fall in their signature manner. Tuesday’s episode is short on comedy and long on shocking consequences.

While Hawley, writer of the entire first season, reportedly has a two-year deal with FX, he hasn’t committed to season 2 as of yet. It seems unlikely that the Nygaard tale will go further and if it does, Fargo will continue on as an anthology, like HBO’s True Detective, with a new story and a new cast, but because of the title, stay set in the American Midwest.

So far, Fargo has been one of 2014’s best. Let’s hope it returns to the unsuspecting dark winters of folksy Minnesota.

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I have a very vague idea of who Even Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key are but I didn't recognize them at all so they weren't a distraction to me at all. Especially, not in the way that Tom Cruise is. I swear to God that I cannot watch a movie with Tom Cruise because I always see the Oprah-couch-hopping weirdo instead of whatever role Cruise is supposed to be playing.
Jun 24, 2014   |  Reply
First, the episode was called "Morton's Fork," not "Norton's Fork." Morton's Fork is a rhetorical endeavor in which two divergent arguments lead to the same conclusion. Second, I wasn't as disturbed by Key and Peele as you were because, frankly, I had no idea who they were until I read something that said, essentially, "OMG! Key and Peele are in Fargo!" I found the finale to be a let-down from the series as a whole, as the stream of humor was mostly absent. Overall, I enjoyed the series, and was particularly impressed with Allison Tollman. But as the series went on, I came to wonder if I liked Molly so much because she was a great character or because she was the only female in the series that seemed to be competent (granted, many of the men were incompetent as well, but no other woman seemed to be as fully realized as Molly; instead, most were one or two episode caricatures).
Jun 19, 2014   |  Reply
Quite right, "Morton's Fork" it is... chalk that up to the stylized Fargo needle-point font and bad desk lighting. –EG
Jun 19, 2014
Great review, Eric and yes, quite a great experience this was! I think television has found a fantastic replacement to the miniseries approach of the 70s: a limited run series that has the cinematic impact, novel (and novel) feel, along with known and unknown actors performing their craft at the top of their games, with lovingly written scripts. And what stories! More Fargo. More True Detective. And for Fargo, Less(ter) is more.
Jun 18, 2014   |  Reply
Agreed! Let's finish the story and get onto the next one. (I think this is why there was such outrage after Season One of 'The Killing'.) Anthology stories will mean less antics coming out of the writer's room and easier commitment by viewers. –EG
Jun 19, 2014
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