It was fun watching season 2 of Fargo with someone who hadn’t seen season 1. In my case, it was my wife. During tonight’s conclusion, I finally let her know that Detective Schmidt (Keir O’Donnell) is also a character in that later-set storyline. She was aware of Lou (Patrick Wilson) and his daughter, Molly (Raven Stewart), being in season 1, but I know there are some newcomers who haven’t been aware of any connections. That had to make for more suspense with at least Lou. As I explained in a previous recap, I was on edge about Lou’s fate even with knowledge of his existence in 2006. The season 2 finale played with that idea really well, hinting for a moment that he could indeed die in 1979 anyway.
Of course, he didn’t. That’s probably for the best. But this episode, titled “Palindrome,” opened with a terrific tribute to another Coen brothers classic, Raising Arizona. In voiceover, Betsy (Cristin Milioti) tells of a dream she had in near-exact wording to Nicolas Cage’s H.I. at the end of that movie, and it’s a vision of the future with some of the cast of season 1, namely older Lou (Keith Carradine), grown-up Molly (Allison Tolman), husband Gus (Colin Hanks), his daughter Greta (Joey King) and the new child we saw only as a baby in the previous finale. But there’s a suggestion that it might not be the actual future, as if what we had seen throughout season 1 was part of that other universe of “what if?”
I guess there’s still a chance that season 3 could have Betsy still alive in the present with Molly, instead of Lou (I was right that she would live to the end of the season, at least, for ironic effect). But that would be confusing. No, Fargo is going to stick with its connective tissues as being real. But that flash forward made me realize something else, partly because my wife asked if we were watching a scene from season 1. I guess if I wasn’t there to explain, then she could just go ahead and watch the first season as if it’s supposed to be viewed as a continuation. And she’d get her answer in addition to seeing who survived the 27 years. Including Hanzee (Zahn McClarnon), as it happens. While not explicitly pointed out, there’s been confirmation that the ruthless Native American killer changed his face and became a mob boss in Fargo seen in season 1 (that’s him below, played by Mark Acheson).
For many of us, it’s a hindsight revelation, while for others it will be more linear. Either way, learning that Hanzee rises in power, raises those two bullied kids on the baseball diamond to become season 1 hitmen Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench (Adam Goldberg and Russell Harvard) and just winds up gunned down by Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) in a massacre similar to the sort the former Gerhardt enforcer specialized in has to be disappointing. But everyone has to go sometime. We don’t see or know how (yet?), but Peggy (Kirsten Dunst), Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) and the leftover Kitchen brother (it’s Gale, played by Brad Mann) die some day. Maybe in a way that’s a real narrative bummer for them as characters. Maybe in a way we witnessed in season 1. Surely fans are poring through the possibilities just in case Hanzee’s new identity isn’t the only Easter egg twist.
The title of the finale implies that there’s a palindromic nature to the episode or the season or the series (or it’s just a reference to the Gerhardt patriarch’s name, Otto), and while it doesn’t quite work out in a perfectly mirroring manner, I do think it pertains to the way the seasons are interchangeable in their order. Further reason that this season is the best prequel of all time.
Because this finale comes on the same night as the world premiere and the week of the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s hard for me not to think about that franchise – with the infamy it brought to the word “prequel” – and the Fargo series together. Both went back in time for its second series and are next going forward, past the original story. The two time periods of Fargo almost even align with the era the two Star Wars trilogies came out. But you can’t exchange the order of viewing the Star Wars Saga to where the ties are this satisfying. You can’t first meet Chewbacca in Revenge of the Sith and then encounter him in A New Hope and find his return interesting. But you can meet Hanzee first as Hanzee or as Tripoli and either way works. The same is true for all the overlapping characters in Fargo.
Other than it’ll take place after season 1, there’s nothing known about where season 3 will take us. It’s easy to want to see more of Molly and maybe aged versions of Mike and Peggy – though we’d want the same amazing actors in the roles – but I also can’t help but want nothing more at all. If the palindrome is intended to loosely mean the ouroboric layout of seasons 1 and 2, then where can 3 fit into that? And how many more Coen brothers movie references are there to make, anyway, especially without venturing further into the past instead, say to the Great Depression?
Well, with two seasons, Fargo has opened up a whole universe within the confines of a tri-state Midwest region that could rival even the Star Wars Galaxy. At the end of the first season, I was fine with it being the end of the series or at least the end of the story of all of its characters. I didn’t want to see the origin of Lou. But it turned out well and I am glad I got the origin of Lou. I am fine never finding out what happens to any of the characters beyond the year 2006, but maybe I’ll again be proven wrong and love what we get there, too. The beauty of this series is that it could continue to work in its bracketed story pockets or as two of them together or three or more. Maybe like Star Wars it will go on forever.