[For Fargo “Palindrome” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
PalindromePeggy and Ed make a run for it.
The finale of Fargo, entitled “Palindrome,” refers to a word or phrase that reads the same way backward as forward, suggesting perhaps that the season could be viewed as such. We open on the still living Betsy, home in her own bed now as Noreen, the girl from the the butcher shop who reads Camus, watches over her. Noreen tells Betsy how Camus says knowing we’re going to die makes life absurd. But Betsy quickly dismisses this whole notion of life’s absurdity. She says that each of us are in this life with a job to do and life is simply about doing that job within the time frame we’re given. There’s a parallel here to the first episode because Betsy also notes that Camus likely didn’t have a six year old to consider. Whereas when we’re introduced to her character she dismisses that same responsibility saying her six year old “isn’t Pol Pot” when Lou asks if she’ll be OK putting Molly to bed by herself. Of course, both things are true. A child is the ultimate responsibility and, at the same time, when we take childcare one event at a time (putting Molly to bed) it is rather simple in itself. This is truly the lesson we’re granted through Betsy’s character. A mother on her deathbed learns to treasure each moment with her child as it could be the last one they share.
Then we see Peggy and Ed as they flee the Motor Motel while Hanzee shoots at them and Lou follows right behind all three. Hanzee shoots Ed. An event directly parallel to when Rye attacks Ed in Fargo: Episode One. Just like when Rye lunges at him and he’s forced to kill a Gerhardt to protect himself, this attack changes everything for Ed. His whole life turns on it. Because Ed was shot, he’s hobbled and leans on Peggy as they flee. So, when they soon find a gas station grocer, they lock themselves inside its meat locker to rest a bit, not realizing they can’t get out. Once inside and sitting down Ed tells Peggy he doesn’t think they would’ve lasted as a couple even if they escaped this mess. All he ever wanted was get back to their simple life with the butcher shop and make a family but Peggy always wanted another life. He tells her this and then dies before they’re rescued. This parallels the beginning of the season when Ed and Peggy face off over the money he wants to invest in the butcher shop while she wants to “actualize” herself and expand her horizons. They begin and end with the same opposite goals. Not exactly a match made in heaven, though it does seem that Ed is headed there now. While Peggy’s on her way to prison, certainly an adequate Fargo placeholder for hell.
Next Lou saves Peggy from the meat locker and puts her in the back of his squad car headed back to Minnesota. As he’s leaving the lame Fargo detective confesses to him that he doesn’t even know how to write this thing up for his police report and Lou tells him to just, “Start at the start and work your way to the end,” solid storytelling advice from a solid man of the law. This parallels Lou’s encounter in the first episode with the trucker who discovered the Waffle Hut crime scene. That guy didn’t know what to do either. But in the end it didn’t really matter because Lou’s on the case.
Next Mike and his Kitchen Brother bro drive up to the Gerhardt estate where they find it unlocked, empty, and feeling like home. They encounter the Gerhardt housekeeper, Wilma, preparing dinner in the kitchen, unaware, it seems, that all the Gerhardts are dead. Mike tells her no more schnitzel or strudel. It’s all American food on the menu now. Then the Gerhardts out-of-town friend drives up and starts helping himself to their good silver, muttering, “Everyone’s dead,” until Mike enters. He tells the thief about sovereignty and declares himself king, as of today. Mike says a new sovereign performs one act of kindness and one cruelty. Unfortunately for him, Mike already gave Wilma a new car and a pile of money. Thus, all he has left for today is cruelty. This reference to royalty parallels the first scene of Fargo: Episode One when Dodd talks to Rye about the Gerhardts as the royal family and how he needs to do his duty to the family. But Rye considers this an insult. Why can’t he be more that the role his Gerhardt family has given him? Meanwhile in this scene Hanzee looks on, a much more dutiful and capable family minion – but treated with disdain simply because he’s not family. Hanzee ends up feeling the same way about the Gerhardt family in the end as Rye did in the first episode. Even a life of crime can illustrate the circle of life.
Mike then goes to the home center to meet with head boss of the Kansas City organization, Saul. This is a perfect parallel to the beginning of the season when he gets the position as enforcer for the Gerhardt project. It was Saul who handed that job to him then. Turns out Mike’s moving into an office job now, though. “Buy a nice suit,” Saul tells him. Cut your hair and let the 70s go. Your work’s no longer about busting heads, it’s all about the mighty dollar now, Mike. You’re a bean counter accountant, Milligan – tiny office, blue typewriter, and all. This same blue typewriter appears in the first episode as well, when Rye gets the job of “talking to the judge” he stands right over it. If we draw direct conclusions from these parallels it appears that Mike may not long for this world, seeing as how Rye ended up dead soon after his blue typewriter encounter and given what we know about Hanzee’s vengeance capabilities.
Speaking of Hanzee, the next time we see him he’s on the road to a new identity – the proud owner of a freshly printed social security card. Thanks to his new name Hanzee’s now Lebanese and about to get plastic surgery for a new face as well. Hanzee says he’ll get revenge on Kansas City and kill them all “head-in-a-bag” dead. One thing’s for certain, he got away with all of his Hanzee crimes unscathed by law enforcement. Mike Milligan may not be prepared for what’s coming next down his bean-counter-office-job pipeline.
Lastly we see Lou and Hank home safe at last with Betsy looking lots better beside Lou on the couch. Hank asks if Lou’s going to put the UFO in his police report and they agree it’s probably best to leave it out. The UFO made parallel appearances at the beginning and end of Fargo: Season Two, the first time its mesmerizing light helped take out Rye Gerhardt and the second time that same light aided in the death of Bear Gerhardt. So, one could conclude that perhaps aliens aren’t big Gerhardt fans. Speaking of aliens, Betsy tells Hank how she saw his office (filled with alien-seeming symbols) when she fed his cats. Hank explains. He tells her how his war and work experiences with senseless violence taught him that conflict is really about miscommunication. What we need to fix all this horrible fighting among people is a common language, Hank says. So, all those etchings were his attempt to create a universal language of simple symbols – like we can all agree that a heart means love, for example. This brings to mind our introduction to Hank in Fargo: Episode One when he knows the intimate details of all the Waffle Hut local victims. This is a man who cares about people.
Then Betsy and Lou go to bed and wish each other good night, their love for each other illuminated by the moon shining through their bedroom window. This scene is perfectly parallel to their last scene in the first episode. Lou adds at the end of their good night tidings, “and all the ships at sea,” because the other characters on the show seem afloat on the wild waters of the unknown while Lou and Betsy are tucked in safe at port – home sweet home. But Lou wishes those others well in their sea adventures. He certainly fights to try and get them justice in every move he makes.
Thus we conclude the finale of season two with the same feeling we had at the end of the first season, longing. So, we must forge ahead and keep trucking along with our lives until graced with Fargo: Season Three. Greenlit last month, it’s certain to grip us wholly for yet another glorious trek into the extraordinary world of Fargo thanks to the vision and mastery of its creator Noah Hawley. Thank you for an exciting ride this season, Mr. Hawley and for the tidbit of info you dropped in a recent interview saying that season three will take place in the present day or more specifically, “It’s more contemporary … set a couple years after Season 1.” We’ll take any information we can get and chew on it until there’s nothing left, especially now that we all know Jon Snow’s alive. What else is there to think about?