In my first Fargo post, I predicted that a lot more characters would “wake-up” to see the darkness that had seeped into what they thought was a very comfortable existence. I was spot on with this prediction. Lester awakened as a dark apprentice who learned to take what he wanted when he wanted it. Gus learned the hard way that the system of laws he so heartily prescribed to couldn’t guarantee his family’s safety. Even Chief Oswalt, the most sedated personality on the show, stepped down from his position to make way for Molly after accepting the dark world he found himself entangled in. Kudos to the Fargo team for bringing us a different world than the Coen film that inspired it. It was a morbid, but enlightening romp into what happens when people stop playing by the rules.
Now, in my second Fargo post, I wondered whether the series would end at Malvo’s altar of darkness or Molly’s altar of conviction. I never expected the answer to be: both.
It was hard to go out there and call this one a win for the good guys. I mean, look at Lester…after murdering his wife and framing his brother for the murder, he put together a flashy and successful life. Sure, Molly still had her board of evidence at home, but things were looking pretty cozy for Lester. In fact, the only thing that derailed his proud new existence was his inability to let Malvo, the lone wolf, walk away when their paths crossed for a second time. It was frustrating, really…what did Lester want? I suppose that once you get a taste of what life has to offer, you run the risk of never being satisfied. It was no accident on the part of the production team to show Lester ogling a potential female conquest just before he was tempted by the reemergence of Malvo. Lester had truly become a predator – and he couldn’t walk away from his fellow predator without the possibility of attaching himself to a bigger kill with fresher meat to feast upon. Sadly for Lester, Malvo refused to travel in packs.
Just after insisting that Malvo recognize him, Lester was treated to the answer that I started begging for in my second blog post: what does Lorne Malvo want out of life? Malvo responded to Lester’s persistence by swiftly and efficiently blowing away all three members of the social group he had been working to gain access to a target within the witness protection program. Malvo mentioned what a shame it was to see all of his hard work flushed down the toilet, but said it was worth it just to see the look in the eyes of the “friend” he had just killed.
That was the answer. What does Lorne Malvo want? He wants people to see the world as one big, winner-take-all battlefield. He wants people to see the weakness inherent in trust, loyalty, and compassion. Watching those facades dissolve in the eyes of his target gave Malvo the ultimate buzz…the fuel he would then use to play a sick game of cat-and-mouse with Lester Nygaard.
…and boy did Malvo get a lot of fuel. He creeped out a former state cop, gave nightmares to some small children, and offed FBI agents Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (more on this in a future post, perhaps). Then, things got interesting. Malvo found himself as the prey for the first time as his protege, Lester, lured him into a trap. A bear trap to be exact. Lester scared the big bad wolf away and gave himself a metaphorical pat on the back.
As a viewer I was…happy? Maybe? I wanted them both dead and I wanted them both alive…it was hard to know what to feel…about the only thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to watch the friendly neighborhood mailman empty a few rounds into a crudely-splinted hitman. Of course…that is what I got.
It was a rough ending for me. I didn’t feel proud of Gus. I wasn’t happy for him when he put an end to the Lorne Malvo Horror Show. I saw him learn his lesson from the master of darkness very well. He finally understood the way a predator sees the world (both scientifically and philosophically) and he pulled the trigger – repeatedly…desperately…violently.
Malvo…the lord of darkness…summoner of white-out blizzards, storms of dead fish, and the plagues of Egypt… would. not. die. Gus had to give it another go…and even then…life faded slowly from Malvo’s eyes as if the malevolence he was named for was desperate to sustain him. He had made a predator out of a poodle – and I imagine he couldn’t have asked for a more appropriate death.
So, why haven’t I chalked this story up as a victory for Malvo’s altar of darkness? Where was Molly’s altar of compassion during all of this? Easy. It was at home with her family (and arguably on the thin ice that ultimately served up Lester as a human Popsicle). Sure, Gus’s “bravery” didn’t make me cheer – but it felt necessary. Gus did the dark deed to spare Molly pain of doing it herself. He knew that she was brave and honorable, and he had learned that brave and honorable people get killed. He wouldn’t let her face that – not again – not after the close call in the blizzard. Ultimately, Gus sacrificed his world view to protect Molly’s. THAT was his act of heroism…not the sneaking and the taunting and the blazing gun. No, Gus was a hero because he let Molly continue to be Molly.
The world needs more Mollys.
Molly was a special character on this show, in that, she was aware of the darkness that swirled around her, but refused to see it as a reason she shouldn’t build a life based around HER morals. That was Molly’s victory. She didn’t have to pull a trigger or triumphantly throw a blood-soaked Lester behind bars…She took on the role of Hester Prynne. Her board of evidence was her scarlet letter. She decided to grin and bear the ridicule of her peers and boss, and keep quietly investigating, until they finally saw her for what she was – a brave policewoman and a skilled detective. As Molly said in the closing line of the show: “I get to be Chief.”
If we all mimic the hard-work, honesty, and patience of Molly Solverson…this world will be a better place…we just have to remember that the change we desire doesn’t come without some struggle and some pain.
Fargo brought us on a pilgrimage. At the end of that pilgrimage was a glimmer of hope… but sadly, that hope was obscured behind a gray and bloodied altar.