Somehow, Fargo’s final episode, “Somebody to Love,” manages to be both stupidly excessive and disappointingly anti-climactic. The ending, which pits the show’s two defiant moral figures sitting face to face, is perhaps its one inspired moment, but everything that precedes it becomes too morally and tonally imprecise to have any real impact. Somehow, showrunner Noah Hawley (a man who, admittedly, was responsible for Fargo’s best bits) couldn’t conceive a strong enough narrative to back robustly placed themes and motifs. Emmit himself (played by a more-than-reliable Ewan McGregor) embodies most of the show’s glaring problems as a character who constantly tries to do good but totters and topples once swirled in a maelstrom of gun-play and organized crime.
A character of strong underlining morality, Emmit is shoddily wasted in what I can only describe as the performance-equivalent of a punching bag. Routinely punished when he rebels or when he’s subservient, when he tries to do good or when he does something bad, Hawley’s only readable through-line with Emmit seems to be the catastrophic flaw of humanity’s rudimentary goodness (which in retrospect is no flaw at all). Finally reaching the season’s conclusion, I find myself asking how does the show’s increasingly befuddling turn of events play in the long run? Ultimately, who are we supposed to root for when Nikki Swango, who has become an unbearably self-righteous character, turns up behind Emmit on the highway with a rifle? The moment of confrontation is a confusing one, pitting two characters against each other for no truly compelling reason other than to have one of them brutally die off.
Trying to distill meaning in bloody moments seems to be one of the funnest elements in watching Fargo, but here Hawley seems to be unaware of the quandary that he creates between the two characters. Just to back-spin a bit, haven’t we already seen Emmit confront his guilt for his brother’s grisly death in episode eight? In that case, if Emmit is shot then the moment becomes morally dishonest. But if Nikki fails to kill him then the moment is narratively pointless. Speaking of which, “Somebody to Love” opens with yet another pointless red herring. Demoted police chief Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) types up a letter of resignation after one too many spurns from her superiors. It’s a maudlin admission of defeat, not only for the character but for Hawley himself, who frames the moment as an opprobrium of the human race and its failure to stop injustice.
The moment, however, is interrupted by an IRS agent who gives Gloria a glimpse of justice in the form of a white collar conviction. The glaring disparity here is that Varga, a man responsible for dozens of murders, will go down for tax evasion. This form of ironic justice evokes the almost sarcastic and comical downfall of mass murderer Al Capone who was ultimately convicted by the FBI for failing to pay his income tax. Noah Hawley, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be fully prepared to accept that irony, pinning this moment as more of a cheap consolation prize for Gloria.
Hawley himself, while an always creative and truly enjoyable storyteller, seems to lack the depth his ambitions normally require. This shows, especially toward the endings of all three of his Fargo seasons when he resorts to having characters speak his themes in overly long and overly preachy lectures and monologues. After failing to effectively conclude numerous plot threads, it comes as no surprise to me that it’s only when Noah Hawley completely forgoes a conventional ending that “Somebody to Love” becomes totally spellbinding.
Noah hawley spent the entire series trying to build moral archetypes in Gloria Burgle and V.M. Varga; the results were mostly uncompelling (if somewhat delightful) exercises in good and evil. But the choice Noah Hawley gives us here, when Gloria and Varga finally meet face to face, is a riveting one because it invites us to try and reaffirm our own beliefs with challenging questions. (In this scenario, it’s not simply left for us to decide who’s good and evil, but rather asks us to reflect on society’s proclivity toward one or the other). Perhaps, divorced from the blunders which have defined the tenth episode thus far, this sequence alone could have been a defining and transcendent moment for showrunner Noah Hawley, whose entire motto was for us to question and reflect on what the “truth” actually means.
Unfortunately, it seems that the truth in Fargo is only compelling when enshrouded in mystery and ambiguity, because the more Hawley tries to clear up his version of the truth, the more dishonest and fictional Fargo’s ultimate message becomes.