Fargo Season 2 Finale Review: PalindromeCaralynn Lippo at . Updated at .
Fargo Season 2 Episode 10 was a lovely and low-key ending to Fargo Season 2. It provided a great amount of closure on all the major plot points, while refusing the typical narrative tendency to wrap everything up cleanly and as expected.
In essence, it was perfectly Fargo.
We began with Lou's somber voiceover entoning the standard opening remarks ("This is a true story," etc.), Patrick Wilson's world-weary tones and heavy sighs accompanying a rather gorgeous montage of the murdered Gerhardts, each lying dead where they fell – Rye, Otto, Floyd, Dodd, Bear, and, yes, Simone.
Sorry guys; looks like Simone truly was killed off-screen in the woods by her uncle Bear. I, too, was holding out some hope that Bear had taken mercy on her, but as I mentioned in my review of Fargo Season 2 Episode 7, I was fairly certain she was a goner. I mean, you don't just bust out "Danny Boy" for a dead-family montage for no reason.
Anyway: the dead Gerhardts montage gave way to the image of Betsy, white-lipped and still next to a sleeping Molly. Clearly, we were meant to believe that Betsy had passed away in her sleep (real cute, show, toying with our emotions like that!).
Gotcha! Instead, Betsy's eyes fluttered open. She found her daughter asleep next to her and good ol' Noreen watching over her.
It's truly incredible that Cristin Milioti has managed to stand out in such a resounding way, amidst the charismatic hitman Mike Milligan, the haunting Native American enforcer Hanzee, verbose Karl Weathers, and the myriad other incredible characters who were simply so much larger than Betsy Solverson.
But stood out she has. Her understated, solemn portrayal of the dying wife floored me. She arguably had a few of the best lines and best moments of the finale (and, honestly, there was no shortage of great lines or moments). Betsy's critique of Camus' life-is-absurd concept when talking to Noreen was a powerful moment, as was her dream early on in "Palindrome."
Milioti's voiceover during Betsy's recounting of her prophetic dream, mixed with the events that were happening presently to her husband and father over in Sioux Falls, was absolutely lovely and moving.
I wanted to transcribe the whole thing but I was too entranced, watching as Betsy imagined/foresaw her daughter's life, growing up without her, and her older, still-handsome husband surrounded by their young grandchildren, Molly, and Molly's husband Gus.
This was a perfect use of Fargo Season 1 characters that we had come to know and love. It did not feel gimmicky in the least (unlike the later Hanzee-Moses Tripoli bit, which I had some issues with, and will address soon). This was a necessary moment for Betsy's character.
And I don't know about you all, but it did make me feel a wee bit better about the fact that Betsy doesn't actually get to witness any of these events, having died sometime shortly after the ending of season 2 in 1979, years before the events of season 1 in 2006.
Meanwhile, in the "present" (1979), we picked up where we'd left off in Fargo Season 2 Episode 9: Lou, after checking on Hank, took off after gun-toting Hanzee, who was in pursuit of the Blomquists.
This didn't end so well for Peggy and Ed. As they fled the vengeful and now-scarred Hanzee, Ed was shot in the shoulder and slowly bled out. They hid out in a supermarket freezer, waiting it out until someone took care of Hanzee for them.
Ed took the opportunity to pseudo-break up with Peggy (strange timing) shortly before dying. He'd finally recognized that they were just too different, and that Peggy had an ugly habit of trying to fix things – even when they didn't need fixing.
You're always trying to fix everything. But sometimes, nothing's broken.Ed
This was a great return to (and culmination of) several moments that we'd seen between the Blomquists earlier in the season, particularly their conversation as they fled Luverne with Dodd in the trunk. Peggy, whose mind had basically snapped by that point, yammered on about escaping their old life while Ed could barely contain his surprise and dismay at the fact that his wife found their old life in need of escape.
Poor Ed; a tragic figure and a good man. His selfless and rather naive love for his wife directly led to his downfall. His only desire was to "get back to what [he and Peggy] had" – a goal that was diametrically opposed to his wife's desire to go, go, go, moving ever forward toward her immaterial goal of "actualization" (whatever the hell that means).
So Ed died, there, in the meat locker (fitting, no?). Peggy, bonkers, hallucinated smoke coming in through the vents and convinced herself that Hanzee was smoking them out and that their situation directly mirrored the movie she had become tied up in as Dodd made his escape.
When Ben Schmidt and Lou arrived and Peggy opened the door, we (and Peggy) realized that Hanzee had actually skedaddled. I was wondering what the oddly lit shots of Hanzee stalking through the supermarket were all about – turns out, those moments were shot like that to indicate that they were part of Peggy's frenzied imagination, mirroring the way the old movie she'd watched was shot.
Peggy's breakdown in Lou's arms was an astounding moment and one of the best Peggy moments of the season, second only to her conversation with Lou later on in the car on the way back to Minnesota.
Kirsten Dunst did a phenomenal job portraying this borderline-insufferable character and imbuing her with so much depth. I didn't expect to feel even a modicum of sympathy for Peggy and I did. I'm aware not many people may agree with that, but I'd be lying if I said Dunst's performance didn't move me.
Even when Peggy is being delusional and self-centered, spouting her "woe is me, I'm the victim" spiel to Lou as she's basically being carted off to federal prison after Lou rescues her from the meat locker, you can really feel her pain and distress coming through.
It almost doesn't matter that we know Peggy's actions were completely wrong, that Lou cutting her off with a simple "people are dead, Peggy" is the only correct response. Peggy was irreparably damaged somewhere along the line, and in her mind, she was doing the only thing she knew that would make her happy.
I just wanted to be someone.Peggy
There are some complicated gender themes going on in that car scene that I can't even begin to fully unpack in the space of this review. At the heart of it, Peggy is not saying anything that hasn't been said before, or anything that's untrue – her distress at the seeming impossibility of "having it all" (at any woman "having it all") is completely fair, and particularly true to this time period.
Notions of womanhood were really diverse this season, and it seems like this was a direct response to the first season's only real criticism (many viewers took issue with Molly being sidelined for Gus' hero moment in taking out Malvo).
We had Floyd, doing her best to be a mother and run an organization and tragically failing at both. We had Betsy (selfless, brave Betsy), whose primary concern in dying was making sure her family ate properly. There was Simone, using her sexuality (the only skill she knew for sure she had) to stake some kind of claim in the world, to maneuver things in a way she thought she wanted.
Then there was Peggy. Peggy was flawed, sure, but she was easily the most interesting, complicated woman on the show. There, I said it.
Elsewhere, over in Fargo, Mike Milligan and Gale Kitchen went directly from the bloodbath at the Motor Inn to the near-empty Gerhardt compound.
Milligan, self-appointed king of the castle, laid claim to his conquered land. He was merciful towards Wilma, the Native American cook, and not-so-merciful towards looting Ricky from Buffalo (who wound up with a shotgun blast to the chest).
Milligan's conversation with Ricky was fantastic; he was so clearly feeling himself as he went on and on about sovereignty, power, and being a king. I only wish that his scene partner had been anybody but Ricky.
The fact that Milligan's last big moment was with someone as inconsequential as Ricky from Buffalo was kind of a downer. (Though that should have signaled to me that Milligan wasn't going to make out like a king.)
In the end, Milligan got nothing that he wanted. It was an incredible twist (if you can even call it that), that after all Milligan's charisma and violence, after he made it out alive against all odds – he winds up with a desk job, a 401K, and a lecture about cutting his hair and getting "a real tie."
What an absolutely brilliant and unexpected end for Milligan. The best part was that Hamish clearly thought he was doing Milligan a solid by giving him this job. Just think: if he saves enough in office supplies, he can be given a whole state, like that postage-saving guy who got California! Groan.
A great detail: the last shot of Milligan is him sitting in his tiny, sparse office – directly in front of a typewriter. Remember his roughing up the typewriter salesman way back in Fargo Season 2 Episode 2? That was the first time we really saw Bokeem Woodbine do his thing. Great subtle callback.
Hanzee was granted a new identity (Moses Tripoli) by a mysterious friend, and promises of a brand new face. I fully expected to see Hanzee storming the Kansas City headquarters, taking everyone out as Milligan sat calmly behind his typewriter.
But no. Hawley didn't go there. In many ways, that ending would have been too obvious. Hawley has perfect control over his story and his characters and he knew where to end it.
Plus, we do know exactly what became of "Moses Tripoli" – as Hanzee predicted, he did found his own empire. He became the leader of the Fargo mob, ordered Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench to kill Sam Hess' killer – and died in 2006, gunned down by Malvo. Hello, Season 1 connections!
Finally, parting is such sweet sorrow as we ended this wonderful finale on the Solverson/Larsson family. Betsy, Hank, and Lou enjoyed one another's company and Betsy (on behalf of a very confused audience, apparently) clarified the weirdness in Hank's office.
As it turned out, Hank's symbology wasn't an alien thing at all (at least not according to Hank). Instead, he was aiming to create a universal language for the world, with the goal of eradicating miscommunication (and, by extension, war).
It's a nice thought to end on, but I'm not holding my breath for that one, Hank.
Lou tucked Molly in, and climbed into bed with his wife. At that point, I'll admit, I was still half-expecting Betsy to suddenly drop dead. But instead, we close out the season as the Solversons close out any other day –
Betsy: Goodnight, Mr. Solverson.
Lou: Goodnight, Mrs. Solverson. And all the ships at sea.
Life goes on (for a while, at least). That unceasing boulder will still be there for shouldering uphill when the sun comes up tomorrow morning. Good night.
- Patrick Wilson killed it throughout this entire episode. Like Milioti, Wilson's Lou Solverson was an understated, mild performance compared with characters like Hanzee (with his quiet intensity) and Milligan (with his intense intensity). Really enjoyed Lou's conversation with Peggy, as he related his war story about the pilot who miraculously survived an aircraft crash and brought it all back around to the myth of Sisyphus – "it's the rock we all push, men" – and the theme of family.
- One more alien reference, for the road: Mike Milligan walked into the Gerhardt house saying "people of Earth."
- The two young boys playing catch who are bullied near Hanzee are Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers, the hitmen of season 1. Since Hanzee apparently becomes Moses Tripoli, their boss, this makes sense. It's just a little bit too "cute" of a season-bridging connection for my tastes. Feels cheeky, almost, too overtly like a wink at the audience.
- Loved Lou's final moment with the whimpering Ben Schmidt. It perfect crystallized each of their characters.
Already feeling the Fargo withdrawal? Re-live the season and watch Fargo online right here at TV Fanatic!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.