Tuesday 20 August 2019

Fargo fnale review: 'light years ahead of anything else on television the entire year'

Fargo: Kirsten Dunst as Peggy and Jesse Plemons as Ed has to face up to some unpleasant facts in the finale of Fargo.
CR: Chris Large/FX
Fargo: Kirsten Dunst as Peggy and Jesse Plemons as Ed has to face up to some unpleasant facts in the finale of Fargo. CR: Chris Large/FX

Pat Stacey

If any other series featured a scene in its penultimate episode where an alien spaceship interrupts a mass gunfight at a motel, temporarily stopping the good guys and the bad guys in their tracks, you’d have to shout: “Look, it’s a shark — jump it!”

As far as I can recall, the only time a spaceship cropped up in a series that wasn’t science fiction was in The Colbys, a spin-off of the trashy Dynasty that managed to be even worse than the abysmal original. Neither the spaceship nor The Colbys was ever seen again. 

But this wasn’t any other series; this was Fargo, which writes its own rules and wound down last night with an immensely satisfying finale. In the unique Fargoverse, created by the Coen brothers’ film and significantly expanded by Noah Hawley’s terrific spin-off, you’re more inclined to say: “Well, why NOT a spaceship?” Or as Peggy Blumquist (the marvellous Kirsten Dunst) put it last week, “Come on, Ed, it’s just a flying saucer.”

That kind of blackly comic understatement, that casually brilliant, endlessly inventive and surprising dialogue, was just one of the many, many things that put this season of Fargo not only several snowy roads ahead of the excellent first one, but also light years ahead of anything else on television the entire year.

The big question was whether Fargo could hold its nerve right to the end. It could. Last week’s blood-soaked instalment was really the climax; last night’s was the denouement, and a wonderfully confident and assured one it was.

By comparison with the carnage of previous weeks, it was decidedly low-key, a mood that fit perfectly. It opened with a montage of many of the bodies, mostly Gerhardts, that had piled up over the weeks.

For one horrible moment it looked like Lou Solverson’s wife Betsy (Cristine Milioti), who collapsed last week, might have been among the final toll. It’s a measure of the quality of the writing and acting that we grew to care so much about these characters over the past 10 weeks.

But it turned out Betsy was only sleeping, knocked for six by the cancer drugs she’d been taking (ultimately, though, we know from the first season she won’t survive to see her daughter Molly grow up).

But for now, she’d been spared. So, to everyone’s relief, had her father Hank (Ted Danson), who along with son-in-law and fellow lawman Lou (Patrick Wilson, bringing a Gary Cooper-like vibe to the role) was one of several characters that formed Fargo’s rock-solid moral core.

When it came to the crunch, Hank and Lou could handle themselves amid all these vicious killers. Both had been through traumatic wars (WWII and Vietnam) and tasted violence and death first-hand, yet they were the series’ joint conscience, never losing sight of the cost of war – even a gang war — or the value of life.

Like every character here, right down to the smallest supporting ones, they were beautifully drawn and fully rounded.

Fargo has always been about good versus bad, right versus wrong, honest family values versus criminal family values. In the end, the good triumphed and the bad got their comeuppance. Well, more or less.

There was time for Hanzee (Zahn McLarnon) to fit in one last callous killing of an innocent bystander — an elderly driver flagged down by Peggy and Ed (Jesse Plemons).

Peggy and Ed escaped from Hanzee by locking themselves inside a supermarket cold room, but couldn’t escape from one another.

Ed, his life bleeding rapidly away from one of Hanzee’s bullets, finally found his voice and realised what everyone else already knew: “Even if we get out of this, I don’t think we’re gonna make it, you and me. We’re just too different.   You’re always trying to fix things, but sometimes things aren’t broken.”

We last saw Hanzee picking up a black-market passport and taking an uncommon interest in a couple of deaf brothers being bullied by two bigger kids. They’ll no doubt grow into the deaf sibling hitmen of season one.

One character, ambitious enforcer Mike Milligan (a career-making performance, surely, by Bokeem Woodbine), suffered a fate arguably worse than death.

Returning to his mob bosses in Kansas and ready to “bathe in the warm champagne” of victory, Mike was rewarded with a promotion to the corporate side of things — nine-to-five desk job, health insurance plan, quarterly managerial rewards scheme — and ordered to get rid of his Afro and bolo ties. Basically, he’d killed his way to the very top of the accountancy tree. It was a deliciously funny twist.

I’ve come across several newspaper and website lists of the supposedly best television of 2015.

One of them, in a publication I’d normally respect, put cheesy hip-hop soap Empire several places ahead of Fargo and, ridiculously, gave number one slot to The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

All I can say about that is the person who compiled the list either didn’t watch Fargo all the way through, or did watch it but can’t tell the difference between their fundamental orifice and a manhole.

This was the greatest TV series of the year bar none. I can’t wait to see what happens in season three.


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