Hard not to spoil the week’s huge, bold plot development in the header, so blah blah blah just click the button.
Sometimes it’s just not meant to be!
Sometimes things just work out!
It seems to be a popular thing to do these days (Parks and Rec just pulled one; True Detective structured its entire narrative around theirs; heck, even Vikings did it), but it always comes as a shock. Noah Hawley’s series has been exuding confidence since it began, and last night kicked off the grand endgame, where we find Molly has married Gus (and she’s pregnant! The Marge Gunderson transformation is complete!), but one year later is still troubled by the Lorne Malvo case. She’s got her own Lester Freamon Memorial Corkboard in her bedroom, an upgrade from the posterboard-and-construction paper edition she futilely tried to sway Oswalt with, while Gus — having either quit or been fired from the force — is working his “dream job” as a mailman.
Fargo the series premiered as an echo of Fargo the film, working with similar character types and blackly comic tone. But as the weeks have gone on, it’s found it’s own identity, less a cover of the original and more of an extended, improvisational jazz solo — until now, when the loop is all but closed, and a very pregnant Molly is poised to get the break she needs to take down Lorne and Lester for good. But as a consequence of the leap forward in time, the stakes are now so much higher: she and Gus have a real family now to protect, and she must keep her investigation absolutely secret or jeopardize her career; on the other hand, Molly has had an entire year to stew over the miscarriage of justice, watching everyone move on with their lives while she is stuck in quicksand, so her ultimate triumph would be even sweeter than it would have been just weeks after the initial murders.
Amazingly, it’s Bill who inspires her to keep digging — the same Bill who so cruelly shuts her down upon her return from the hospital. He doesn’t want to hear her theories; he doesn’t care about Lester’s mysterious phone call to Lorne’s motel: the case is closed, because, gosh darn it, they already had drinks to celebrate it! “That’s just how it is, sometimes!” Bill stammers. “You go to bed unsatisfied!” Stop crying — the guys made you a cake with a gun on it! Molly has to let it go, so she does — but only to keep up appearances. She can’t even admit to Vern’s widow that they didn’t have the right guy. So she takes her digging completely underground, making calls to the FBI (who are stonewalling her) and slowly adding to her flow chart.
But one year later, Bill’s tale of re-uniting with his adopted Sudanese refugee son (I know, just go with me) — a rare stroke of luck that decent-hearted (if dull) Oswalt explains as the Universe smiling on him — makes Molly think that maybe the Universe is due to smile on her, too. Lying in bed that night, she tries to convince herself that she doesn’t need to go down this dangerous path: “We’re doing good. Got everything we need.” But it’s eaten away at her too much. She has to keep pushing until she catches a break.
Twice in this episode we get long camera moves that — trained by years of cable dramas — had me expecting the worst, but they turn out to be just transitions: the first, a dolly away from Gus’s car, on the phone setting up his first date with Molly, the music and the motion convincing me that Lorne or someone else horrible was lurking about…fortunately, not the case, as we keep moving through the trees, passing through time. The second comes in the Grimley bedroom, the camera sinking below the bed — oh God, is there someone under the bed? — no, we’re just going to dissolve to another location. Whew. Director Scott Winant stages many of these scenes expertly, but those moments (particularly the second) had me scratching my head.
But what of Lorne, and Lester? In 2006, the latter is exuding more confidence than ever, clearing away all remaining vestiges of his old life: all of Pearl’s possessions, her clothes, her cheesy motivational signs; he’s finally getting a new washing machine (the opening sequence at the factory showcasing Fargo’s ability to find dark whimsy in the mundane); he’s whistling “Ode to Joy.” He has managed to get revenge on everyone that has bullied him, and will never let it happen again — he has become the bully. Chaz is going to rot away in prison (though his wife nearly throws herself on him, more upset about her husband’s “affair” than the murder). Hess’s widow storms in to his office to rage about not getting the insurance money Lester promised, but must leave humiliated, with her two idiot sons now sporting staples in their faces. (Linda, Lester’s attractive co-worker, is in awe.) When Molly comes by one night to take one last look in, Lester smiles and waves like absolutely nothing is wrong…or like he’s gotten away with everything.
Lorne, meanwhile, doesn’t leave Minnesota without creating another corpse, as the officer stationed outside Wrench’s hospital room meets his unfortunate end — all so Lorne can go make the soft sell to the deaf hitman. (“You’re unemployed now, by the way.”) He tells him another one of his stories, this one about a bear that chewed through its own leg to escape a trap, but dies hours later — “on his own terms,” as Lorne puts it. Wrench and Numbers got closer to getting Lorne than anyone else ever has, and that has earned Malvo’s respect: “If you still feel raw about things, come see me.” Then he leaves Wrench the key to his handcuffs, and disappears.
Speaking of lives Malvo has destroyed: could the key to this whole thing be the bumbling FBI guys played by Key and Peele? (Their names are actually Pepper and Budge, which are a far cry from anything in their “East/West” sketches, but not that far.) The two have been banished to the file room for their utter failure outside the syndicate headquarters, a stint that Pepper is convinced will only be a couple weeks that finds them still there one year later. But when Pepper’s Steve McQueen routine with a tennis ball accidentally uncovers that old photo of Malvo that Budge hung up on their first day, we see enough time has passed for these two knuckleheads to want to achieve some justice for themselves. If only anyone knew where Lorne was now…
Finally, in Las Vegas, Lester is accepting an award for insurance salesman of the year, sporting Scott Brooks glasses, a new haircut, an upgraded wardrobe, and a new wife (Linda? Linda!) — but he’s still a completely wretched human being. During his acceptance speech, he casually works in his first wife’s death and brother’s imprisonment: “If this year has taught me anything, it’s that the worst does happen…and you need to be insured.” Super inspiring. He stays at the hotel bar with the intention of cheating on Linda (clearly not the first time), but is stopped cold by a familiar sight: Lorne Malvo, holding court at a table, now with blonde hair and a goatee. He’s still telling stories, we see (hey, is that Stephen Root?), but in a single moment, the suave, cocksure Lester is gone, and twitchy, panicky Lester is back. As the camera slowly pushes in on the back of Malvo’s head, we’re reminded that Lorne is the only one who knows all of Lester’s secrets. And the only thing that bothers a gorilla…is the sight of a bigger gorilla.
Two weeks left. What a marvelous show.
Shot of the Week
Lorne stands up over Wrench’s bed, lit from behind, but remains entirely in shadow. He is a black hole; he consumes light and goodness; you could put him outside in broad daylight and he would still be a dark figure.