'Fargo' season 2 finale: The pursuit of power and purpose
Fargo unexpectedly ended on a quiet, but thematic note, beautifully sending off each character. The loud and bloody, dark and broody show, which was just nominated for three Golden Globes, concluded with a sweet couple tucked into bed, just like the movie that inspired the show. And that's just brilliant.
For this final recap, I've enlisted a little help from a fellow TV connoisseur, Michelle Stark. We watched the finale together, and were both blown away by this episode's silent and emotional grandeur. "Palindrome" picked up right where we left our characters, in the aftermath of the Massacre of Sioux Falls. Everyone is reeling from the ripple effects of all the absurd death surrounding the heartland. So let's revisit each character's final act.
Brittany: We have to start somewhere, just like Lou said, and Fargo reminded us of the fallen Gerhardt empire, slowly panning over each peaceful dead body. Rye, Otto, Dodd, Simone, Floyd and Bear. A family massacred in the face of greed and power.
Brittany: Betsy, a woman who has been facing death all season believes everyone has a purpose in life, and it's our responsibility to do it, in the time we have. Life isn't absurd knowing we die, you silly Frenchman, she says. In Molly, she has a purpose. And purpose is what Camus is actually trying to get at in The Myth of Sisyphus, if Noreen will ever finish that book. (It was very sweet seeing Allison Tolman reprise her role for just a moment, as well as Keith Carradine and Colin Hanks, in Betsy's dream.)
Michelle: One of the things I was hoping Fargo would do this season was keep Betsy alive. Since we know she's not alive a couple decades into the future, when season 1 takes place, her death seemed like the most inevitable when season 2 began. In fact, it's a pall that hangs over all the family's interactions in those early episodes. But I had a feeling that Fargo may take the less conventional route, and surprise us by keeping her alive, against all odds, as everyone else died.
Brittany: We get more of a blatant reference to Camus with Lou. In the car with Peggy we learn Lou embraces Camus' language. "Your husband said that he would protect his family no matter what, and I acted like I didn't understand, but I do," Lou says. "It's the rock we all push, men. We call it our burden, but it's really our privilege." The Solversons' purpose, in the absurd world around us, is family. Family loyalty, in the face of violence, destroyed the Gerhardts. But family loyalty, in the face of love, saved the Solversons. For now. Betsy doesn't have much longer, and Lou's burden — and privilege — will be to protect Molly on his own.
Michelle: He lives! I am thrilled because it gave us that final scene of Lou, Betsy and Hank talking in the Solversons' living room, in hands-down, the show's sweetest and best moments. Hank's quote about how they were all together, and that's what matters, was such a specific, poignant slice of real life, it brought me to tears.
Brittany: As someone who has sat through many art history classes, I have to laugh at his simple notion that pictures are clearer than words. Hasn't he ever heard "A picture's worth a thousand words?" Symbols, hieroglyphics, whatever ... have just as many meanings. I completely understand his conclusion that miscommunication is at the root of violence. Hank's small-town mind and morals are filled with big thoughts and dreams. It's this idyllic view in the face of obscene violence that demonstrates the tone showrunner Noah Hawley has been successfully showing us all season long. Hank, you're a good man with good intentions. And there is beauty in that purpose.
Hanzee Dent and Mike Milligan
Brittany: The two henchmen killing their way to top finally get to reap the benefits of their destruction. And it turns out not to be what they'd expected. Mike winds up working for the man, in a corporate office with paperwork, a 401(k) and dreaded office parties (I bet his case of the Mondays will be a lot worse). His purpose will now be money, the new power. I love looking to the future here and imagining Mike during the Wall Street boom of the 1980s. Yuppie Mike Milligan has me at a few giggles. I can totally see him a wolf on Wall Street. But then there's Hanzee, whose scary face has scarred my brain. His final act is a new identity pondering building an empire of his own. And actually, we know a little more of his future and his new identity, Mr. Tripoli. In season 1 he orders Lorne Malvo's death in a quick scene with his catchphrase: Kill and be killed. But he's then murdered by Malvo in the next episode. Thanks for wrapping the seasons together in a convenient bow, Hawley.
Michelle: Hanzee's somewhat anticlimactic ending (he just runs away without confronting Ed and Peggy?) and Mike Milligan's hilariously and purposefully anticlimactic ending leave things open enough that one or both of them could come back in season 3, which is set a few years after season 1. That could be great. But if I know Fargo well enough, and I think I do by now, I have a feeling it do something none of us expect.
Brittany: Ed and Peggy are still on the run from Hanzee and wind up in a freezer, waiting to be rescued. Poor Ed has been shot and is quickly bleeding out. He doesn't think they're gonna make it, but he's not talking about their unfortunate situation being chased. He's talking about their relationship. "You're always trying to fix things. Sometimes nothing is broken," Ed says. "Everything is working just fine. If you can't see that, if you don't know that..." But Ed, things weren't fine. He longed for the way things were, and Peggy yearned for a life of her own. Ed wanted to find his purpose in making a family with Peggy. But that wasn't Peggy's path. And as we learn more about her quest to define herself later in the episode, I was cheering with her modern woman point of view. She most certainly is a victim in the lie that is "having it all." But Peggy, people died, Lou reminds her.
This final episode of Fargo politely resonates loud. People die senseless deaths. The world is chaotic, and messy. But we're all pushing our own boulders up that hill, some of us trying not to get in the way.