If you take a moment and scope back everything that was this season’s finale of Fargo, you’ll be truly amazed at how much creater Noah Hawley and his crew of directors, cinematographers and cast members were capable of accomplishing within the bigger scheme of things. In the relatively short span of 10 hour-long episodes, this collaboration of talented individuals came together to tell a story bigger than you or me, one that was the furthest thing from the truth but was so raw, vivid and tangible it just might as well have been.
“Palindrome,” at the very least, reinforces the nuance of this story on a level belonging to itself. However, in a rather smaller context, the one thing that makes this finale so special is the very thing that’s propelled Fargo above some of the best to have ever graced a television screen. It chooses not the best ending, or the happiest or even the most tragic: it chooses the right ending.
Every edge, every frame and every visible trace of imagery becomes fully realized, almost to the point where you’re so content with the curtains finally coming down that you don’t even bother sitting through the credits for one more teaser, one more easter egg, one more excuse to suspend he trappings of your real lives to remain engaged in this totally fictional one. It takes an incredible piece of art to come full circle the way this one has, and before I delve into the happenings of “Palindrome” I’d like to personally thank everyone involved with this magical project for blessing me with 12 hours of personal, uninterrupted, seemingly perpetual bliss that I could only wish would remain etched in the deepest fragments of my memory banks and become a fragment in time that lasts forever.
Fargo‘s second season had the advantage over its predecessor from the very beginning, but it is indeed right here where we are made certain that even the rarest of masterful efforts can be outdone. First off, there are just so many more layers and themes this year than in the series’s freshman run, and somehow none of them ever find a way of hindering the various messages their story is trying to convey. The Gerhardts are (all) dead, which leaves the window of future opportunity wide open for Kansas City. Unfortunately for Mike Milligan, his contributions to their demise never produce the keys to the kingdom he so wishes to rule. Like his boss so matter-of-fact-ly points out, the seventies are in the rear-view mriror at this point. Western clothestyles, afros, and violent overtakings are now taking a backseat to accounting firms, golf, and managing financial profits and losses. Kansas City’s thinking bigger than they ever have – it’s just a damn shame they could care less about Mike’s theatrics and his viewpoints. It’s quite finny, actually, how all he spread all that talk about sovereignty, and he winds up being the one who’s relegated to serving a higher power. It’s perfectly bittersweet.
The exact same thing can be said about the Blomquists, although their finish line was steeped in more tragedy. Hanzee’s efforts in tracking down Ed and Peggy led to a bullet wound for the former, and a startlingly psychotic outburst of emotions from the latter. We all knew that at least one half of this coupling would meet death’s door, and sadly for Ed his final hours culminated within the same context with which he set his dream: in a butcher room surrounded by the same animals he made a living skinning meat out of. The visual at the beginning of the episode including Hanzee’s deeply scarred contortion lit up behind a flaming ball of fire never truly came to fruition, which was an excellent choice as it helped highlight the degree of insanity that Peggy had officially reached. By seeking to self-actualize herself, she’s completely lost her mind, and Kirsten Dunst lets it all out in one of the best television show performances I’ve seen in a very long time.
Peggy’s conversation with Lou in the police cruiser brought everything that occurred beforehand, including last week’s ever-violent massacre at Sioux Falls, back home in the most powerful way imaginable. Lou’s penchant for topic-related war stories nearly puts him in tears, and Peggy’s stance about making a meaningful life out of her circumstances (most of which revolving the limitations she’s experienced as a female and a wife,) resonates with him on an emotional level. These two individuals could not be any more different, but the threads from which their lives are sewn create new ways for both of them to grow – at least for Lou it does. Lou no doubt takes his experience with the Blomquists (and the recurring notion behind Albert Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus”) and allows it to help him cope with the eventual loss of Betsy while encouraging him to embrace his fatherly duties. Molly doesn’t become the crime-solving genius we know thirty years later without a little guidance, and this particular moment here, in his car, stands to change Lou as both a man and a father going forward.
As for Peggy, there’s just not much in this life left for her. She’s exhausted all of the excitement and opportunity it ever had, and because of the fact that she simply didn’t call the police the night she ran over Rye, everything else she may have been able to cling to is gone. When she asks Lou if she could be tried on a Federal level for her crimes, it appears more because she’s grasping for anything to give her life meaning and less so the idea that maybe she’s starting to realize how much trouble she’s put herself in. Peggy is an empty character in the deepest way you can think of, and I really felt for her emotional pain and suffering all the way through her final moments on screen. She’s easily become one of my all-time favorite television characters.
Even despite all of this, the best was certainly left for last as we got to spend out final moments of Season Two at the Soulversons’. Herein lies the only true happy ending, as Betsy managed to live through her collapse in “The Castle,” and Hank also soldiered through his bullet wound from the Sioux Falls bloodshed. Not only did we get a definitive answer on what all those drawings in Hank’s room meant (the poor old man just wanted to invent a new language, people!), but we were also graced with the presence of Cristin Milioti warming our hearts one more time as the all-too-adorable Soulverson mother and wife. If nothing else, her advice to Noreen about ignoring philosophical stances and living the life that God designed us to live will fester in my mind as the defining moment of this season. There’s absolutely no way anyone who watched all nine episodes preceding this one won’t come away satisfied with how she practically summarizes one of the season’s biggest themes in one powerful swoop.
Before I conclude, here are some things I couldn’t touch on in-depth that I absolutely loved about this episode:
- That entire scene at the Gerhardts’ house, including the brief encounter with Mike, the living Kitchen Brother and Ricky G, was one of the funniest, most quitely tense scenes the series has had yet.
- Ed and Peggy’s final stretch of dialogue was incrdibly sad to watch, considering everything Ed fought for to get them that far. For that, I appreciated everything about Lou referring to Ed’s efforts in his conversation with Peggy, connecting it with his Vietnam story with the helicopter pilot who nearly risked it all to protect his family. It hit all the right heart strings.
- Mike’s boss introduced Mike to his new office in such a natural, commonplace style that I couldn’t help but be amused by how Mike was taking all of it. It was like a time warp back to the good ol’ days vaporized right before his eyes and he realized right then and there that he was never seeing those days again.
- Yes, Hanzee’s new identity leads him into becoming Moses Tripoli, that same mob boss from Season One who even I forgot about. However, there was simply no way in hell that other easter egg with Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench getting bullied was flying over my head.
- When I saw the shot of Simone’s dead body, I couldn’t help but imagine Noah Hawley and Co. reading most of the comment threads on “Did You Do This? No, You Did It!” and saying to themselves, “looks like we have to dumb it down for these guys and show a corpse.”
- I could literally watch Betsy’s scenes with Noreen all day long. There’s so much humor, insight and underlining inspiration behind them, especially that last one. Truly amazing stuff.
This is how I felt when I finished The Wire, and when I witnessed the epic tragedy that was “The Real Folk Blues” in what I now classify as the animated tour de force, Cowboy Bebop. Fargo‘s second season could not have asked for a better ending, and those who were expecting at least a few loose ends or misguided revelations were left eating their skepticisms. That is honestly the slightest way I can describe “Palindrome,” as it screams perfection in seemingly every avenue my brain will allow me to envision. From beginning to end, it’s a testament of pure, unrelenting character study, interspersed with the highest quality of brief violence, comedy, and tragedy. Regardless of who lived or who died, you walk away from this era, from this storyline, genuinely feeling for the plights of each individual involved, and never since I last watched The Wire or Breaking Bad have I experienced such a rewarding, clarifying sensation towards such a large grouping of characters. Some day, I hope that a classroom of students learn about the essence of life and the decisions and consequences that shadow it, and my only wish is that the teacher of those students demonstrate those principles with a viewing of this fine work of art.
+The Kirsten Dunst performance that tops them all
+Ending perfectly realizes each and every character
+Absolutely fantastic cinematography