FX's Fargo ended last night on a sweet tableau: With the villains vanquished, dogged deputy Molly Solverson, pregnant, joins her husband Gus and step daughter on a couch to watch Deal or No Deal. Gus explains that he is going to receive an ctation for bravery for shooting the devilish Lorne Malvo, and he tells Molly that she should get the recognition. She simply says: "This is your deal. I get to be chief."
It's a lovely ending, with everything tied up in a bow, so why did it leave me, a fan of the series up to this point, somewhat cold? And was dissatisfaction somewhat intentional?
In the end it's not Molly that gets the bad guys. It's Gus, who follows his instincts to Malvo's cottage and shoots him while he's reeling from an injury inflicted by Lester Nygaard, who has become something of his evil protégé. (Lester eventually meets his death running from the authorities on, literally, thin ice.) The show had set up Gus as someone who was comfortable in his role as something of a coward. He, refreshingly, occupied the traditionally girlfriend/wife role in his relationship to Molly. He was the one most concerned with safety. The show seemed so sure of Gus's goodness, so seeing him kill Malvo in a way tainted him. That, according to interviews with creator Noah Hawley, was sort of the intention. "With Gus, the universe, for whatever reason, kept putting Malvo in front of Gus — who in some ways spent the whole time trying to make up for their first interaction," Hawley told Vulture's Denise Martin. "But there, Malvo also wins. Because if his goal is to push civilized people to do something animal, then it works — he pushes Gus to that point where Gus shoots him."
Earlier this week I wrote about the dueling strains of criticism of the show. On one hand, some praised the show for balking cable TV's anti-hero rut. On the other, some believed it was more of the same. In the end the show allowed itself to be a little bit of both. The show ended on a triumph for Molly and Gus. The good guys did prevail in the end, though not all made it out alive. (RIP Pepper and Budge.) Still, having Gus kill Malvo, means that Malvo infected him. Malvo's blood stained smile is almost an acknowledgement of that. That, yes, every good guy has a little bad in him.
Perhaps one of the things about the finale that frustrated was that no traditional justice was served. Malvo was killed by Gus, now a mailman, and Lester died trying to make his getaway. The best thing about the show for me had always been Molly, who was intent on catching the criminals, and making them answer for their deeds. She doesn't get a chance to do that, and even though she gets to be chief, that stings.