I feel like it’s important that we say something about last night’s brilliant Fargo finale, if only to mark the end of a great season of television. It’s a hard show to write about, however, and it has been all season long. Fargo is not a show that lends itself to chasing theories. It’s not a highly GIFable show. With the minor exception of Alison Tolman’s Molly Solverson, the series hasn’t really created any great Internet celebrities, and there’s not a lot about the next season to talk about because we don’t even know for sure that it’s coming back, and if it does, we have no idea what the cast will look like, or where the storyline will take us.
There’s not a lot of subtext to Fargo. I’ve read half a dozen interviews with Fargo creator Noah Hawley this morning, and I’ve yet to find an interesting angle. But maybe that says something about Fargo itself: It’s managed to be a creatively impressive, critically adored season of television without ever becoming an Internet phenomenon. It did not play to the tumblr crowd. It was not a show we needed to worry about being spoiled on Twitter, and Fargo didn’t litter itself with foreshadowing clues,nor was it a show made to be infinitely deconstructed. There was no ambiguous Sopranos-like ending, or a terrible Dexter-like ending, or a deceitful trick-ending. It ended neatly, but in a way that was also tremendously satisfying.
In the end, Fargo was a simple show made up of characters with complicated motivations. There were two despicable villains, but there were no heroes in the traditional sense. It was just good people dealing with a terrible situation triggered by the actions of an assassin and a man who refused to be stepped upon anymore.
In a way, I’m grateful that Fargo didn’t really become one of those Internet shows, because we were allowed to enjoy and appreciate it on its own strong merits. It was brimming with brilliant performances. It changed our perception of Martin Freeman. It gave us Alison Tolman. It erased the bad memories of Colin Hanks from Dexter, and it reminded us that while Billy Bob Thornton may be a terrible person in real life, he is still a very fine actor.
But most of all, I’m grateful that Fargo chose to kill off the bad guys — and never to glorify them or their actions — and to spare the lives of the characters with whom we’d become attached. There were darker, more devastating possibilities where Gus or Molly or Greta or even Lou was killed, but Noah Hawley let us have this one. He didn’t give us the hard ending; he gave us the one we wanted. For that, I am thankful.