There’s an important scene in Fargo’s second season finale, “Palindrome”, maybe the most important scene in the series. Hank, after surviving being gutshot, tells his daughter and son-in-law about what he did when his wife passed way back when, how he tried to create a new universal language for everybody to use. Because conflict comes down to miscommunication, the inability to see what is being communicated to you. If everybody could just hear and see one another, then there wouldn’t be war or violence. Peace would rule over the world.
Of course, that isn’t always true. But it can be argued that it’s mostly true. Look at the way that Fargo deftly examines how lack of understanding destroys nearly everybody on the show. The Gerhardts are wiped out because they thought they could all survive organized crime’s commercialization and transition into big business. They believed that they were special somehow, that they could become something bigger than the world asserted that they would be, but it’s just not true. They were one empire, they became outdated, and then they were slaughtered because they were unwilling to adapt. They didn’t hear what the world was telling them, and so they were done.
But we can believe that we hear one thing only to have another actually be true. Mike Milligan has gone through the entire season running into good luck, seeing the Gerhardts dead without lifting a finger, catching the Undertaker off guard, and when it comes time for him to reap the rewards, he sees himself as a king ready to sit upon his throne. But the issue is that he didn’t understand what those rewards actually would be. He thought that he would be given territory, that he would go from doing all of the work to ordering around people who would do that work. But in a brilliant turn of events, Mike is brought into a corporate environment where he’s given a 9-5 job, a small office, and a desk. He thought the world would reward him one way, when, in fact, this is how the world works now. You save money and people like you for it. If he wants more power, he’d better start saving more money. When Mike sits down in his chair, surveying his new domain, it hits him that he was wrong. And now he pays for it.
And, of course, Peggy believed that there was a way she could “actualize” herself and rise above the constraints set in place for her as a woman. The rhetoric that she employs in the police car is completely understandable, as she understands how impossible it is for her to realize her potential. Ed wants to have a child with her, but she realizes that a child is going to make it impossible to do anything more with her career or with her other hopes and dreams. Only she doesn’t know what else to do anyway. She’s confused, frustrated, angry. All she understands is that she’s dissatisfied. When Ed, as he’s dying, tells her that “sometimes nothing’s wrong”, it’s true that he didn’t see anything wrong, but she still has feelings, and those feelings are valid. All Lou has to say is that “people died” and Peggy shuts up. She has nothing else to say because there is nothing left to say. She rebelled and she lost because the world isn’t going t give her the best of everything. Even now, it doesn’t give women the best of everything.
Hanzee, on the other hand, realized that he would never find peace as a Native American man and decided to obliterate his attackers before disappearing into a new identity. It’s revealed here that Hanzee is the leader of the syndicate that runs Fargo in Season 1, that he had plastic surgery to change his face, and that he saved Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers, using them as his solders. Hanzee fought for a long time against his fate, against being the token minority in the Gerhardt clan, but his fighting can only go on for so long before he realizes the futility of it. It’s why he succeeds where Peggy fails. Peggy doesn’t see the futility of her struggle, while Hanzee finally does after he takes down the Gerhardts.
But, in the end, Fargo is about everyday people working their everyday jobs and being rewarded for it. Lou, Hank, and Betsy are all content with their lives, and they get to be at peace at the end of the day. It can seem like kind of a depressing message, that a lack of ambition and desire for something greater is what inevitably brings peace, but it’s a matter of communication. Betsy understands what comes next, her child Molly growing up and having a family of her own, stores becoming supermarkets, the world becoming more commercialized. It’s that understanding that saves all of them, that steels them against the existential crises that permeate people’s lives. Life has meaning when you pour it into something, like a child. Life can be fulfilling even when it’s simple. It’s not a lack of ambition that keeps Lou safe, as he’s constantly fighting for what he believes, but it’s contentment, being happy with simply existing around people that are important to you. And there’s something to be said about finding happiness and contentment in the little aspects of existence.
It has been a great year for Fargo, as this season is even better than the first, and “Palindrome” easily sticks the landing, providing satisfying fates for each of the characters on the show. Not only that, but each character’s fate accentuates the major themes of the season, the idea that people cannot understand what is being communicated to them, and that those that do are the ones to make it through the day. It’s a grounded, great way to end a season that was occasionally very weird, but consistently brilliant. Hopefully, when we see Fargo again in 2017, it remembers what made this season as fantastic and as memorable as it was.
What did you think of the finale? Do you agree with the fates put in place for each character? Let me know in the comments!