A 'Fargo' finale worth staying up for

CHRIS LARGE / FX Billy Bob Thornton has the role of smiling psychopath down as Lorne Malvo in "Fargo." He's part of a deep bench.
CHRIS LARGE / FX Billy Bob Thornton has the role of smiling psychopath down as Lorne Malvo in "Fargo." He's part of a deep bench.
Posted: June 18, 2014

* FARGO. 10 tonight, FX.

"IS THIS WHAT you want?"

- Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) to Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), FX's "Fargo"

There's a brief scene in tonight's "Fargo" finale that I rewound at least five times - and will probably watch a few times more - because:

a) I'd never seen anything quite like it;

b) I couldn't believe I was seeing it; and

c) I wanted to see exactly how it was done on the remote chance that I'd ever need to replicate it.

Even telling you that blood was involved shouldn't constitute a spoiler for either the scene or the 92-minute episode, which caps a season in which plenty of people got capped, and we had ample time to admire the look of red on white.

I mention it not to whet anyone's appetite for more bloodshed but because until I came upon it, I didn't know I'd ever want to see something like that even once.

Sure I like to watch. Even more, I like to be surprised, not just by what happens on-screen but by how I (and others) respond to it.

Thanks to storytellers, we aren't required to choose our own adventure.

Noah Hawley, the writer who took Joel and Ethan Coen's film "Fargo" and used it as the inspiration for 10 episodes of something new and strange - and yet strangely familiar - is a storyteller. He brings that home tonight with a finale that's satisfying and a little unsettling and with, yes, a few things I didn't know I wanted until I saw them.

If you haven't been watching "Fargo," you've missed Allison Tolman. As the aptly named sheriff's deputy Molly Solverson, and the spiritual successor to Frances McDormand's Marge Gunderson, she's been the happiest surprise in a show that needed someone to root for beyond Thornton's smiling psychopath and Freeman's empowered mouse.

Not that they haven't been fun.

Also fun: Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, of Comedy Central's "Key & Peele," as feds who, like Bob Odenkirk as Molly's boss, can't help but make us appreciate her.

Telling a story with a beginning, middle and end in 10 weeks, without having to worry at the same time about what next season will look like probably helped.

(There may be more "Fargo" to come, but FX presented this as a limited series and any second season, Hawley has said, would likely have a different cast.)

The writers of HBO's "Game of Thrones," which wrapped up its fourth 10-episode season on Sunday with an episode I liked more than some other critics did, don't have the luxury of forgetting the seasons to come.

They're also inspired/encumbered by source material considerably more detailed than any two-hour movie. Some people's disappointment in Sunday's finale had to do with one of the departures from George R.R. Martin's books (although whether it's truly a departure or merely a postponement remains to be seen).

Note to Martin purists: That thing you expected to happen that didn't in Sunday's season-ender? It's happening instead on Fox's "24: Live Another Day," with fewer cosmic overtones but nearly equal fury.

As someone who's read the books and could live without a scene-by-scene reenactment (particularly in the later installments), I didn't go into the finale with a must-see list, any more than I did with "Fargo."

"Thrones" has already been renewed for two more seasons, and creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have more than enough stories to tell.

Some viewers will spend those two seasons diagramming the diversions from the source material, and that's their choice.

But is this what you want? Or would you rather be surprised?


Email: graye@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray

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