Recap: Wonderfully weird 'Fargo' finale proves the show excels as its own thing
Let’s be honest: Fargo the TV show had no right being as good as it turned out to be. The FX miniseries based on the 1996 Coen Brothers movie attempted to remake a beloved (cult) classic, which is always tricky, not to mention that movie walked a tightrope with its tone between pure dread and pitch-black comedy.
And yet, somehow, as its first season came to an end tonight, it’s clear FX's Fargo has become its own wonderful thing. These past 10 episodes are a terrific example of how to take an existing piece of work and turn it into something that feels original and necessary. Sadly, this is all we’re going to get of this version of Fargo; the show's second season isn't expected to have the same cast. But, with any luck, it’ll have the same jaw-dropping ability to weave a compelling tale.
Some thoughts on the finale:
* Is any show on TV right now as filled with pure dread as this one? That very first scene where Lester walks across the street to his insurance shop, Lester waiting for Lorne to burst through his bathroom door, Gus stumbling upon Lorne’s cabin; even if a scene went nowhere, it was nail-bitingly intense watching that happen. The score especially deserves a lot of credit for the pervasive sense of doom the show managed to sustain throughout the season.
* LESTER FALLS IN THE ICE HOLE! What a perfect way to end his story. Lester spent the whole series running from his awful actions in the first episode - which, actually, set in motion all the awful actions of the season. In the finale, though, he couldn’t help running right to his demise.
* Having Gus be the one to kill Lorne is a really satisfying way to bring everything full circle. Lorne threatened his family back when Gus was still a cop; here, he kills him to protect that family. Though why isn’t it a bigger deal he just shot the man in his home? Gus isn’t a cop anymore; yes, Lorne is a really terrible dude who deserved to die, but he wasn’t attacking Gus at the time. Are we supposed to gather from that final scene that everyone knows Gus did this and is celebrating him for it? Interesting. (Also: What's the answer to Lorne's riddle?!)
* On that note: What a killer final scene for Billy Bob-Thornton to play as Lorne. He would still be moving after three gun shots.
* Thankfully, there was a lot less death in the finale than I initially feared (thank God Papa Solverson is okay). The major casualties? FBI agents Budge and Pepper. It’s a real testament to comedians Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael-Key that, even though it was easy to see it coming, I was very sad to see their characters get killed. In just a few episodes and a few short scenes, they made such a strange, memorable impact, popping off the screen in a show with plenty of standouts.
* Overall, the acting on this show has been off-the-charts good. Everyone - from arresting newcomer Allison Tolman as heroic Molly to Breaking Bad’s Bob Odenkirk as overwhelmed do-gooder Bill to Colin Hanks as sweet, loyal Gus - deserves recognition. But the fully committed performances from leads Billy Bob Thornton, who gave the dangerously calm Lorne such a menacing, unpredictable edge, and Martin Freeman, who took Lester from a pitiable nebbish to a manipulative villain, made this show one of the year's best.
* And while we're at it, let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way: Fargo’s first season > True Detective’s first season.