‘Palindrome’, the season finale of what has turned out to be a fantastic second run of Fargo, was a pretty low-key affair in comparison to the episode that preceded it. The gun fights were sparse, the tempo slowed down and UFOs were nowhere to be seen. It might have felt a little underwhelming at first, but upon reflection viewers should find the satisfactory tying of a bow in this Noah Hawley-penned final instalment.
Despite opening excitingly with the epic War Pigs by Black Sabbath (the episode would later go on to feature Bobby Womack’s stunning cover of California Dreamin’), last night was more about the conclusion of the war than its continuation. Quickly bringing to an end the literal narrative of the season, everyone of importance was arrested, safe or dead by about twenty minutes in, ‘Palindrome’ sought to explore both the aftermath of this bloody sequence of events, as well as the crucial themes and ideas that have been developing since the opening episode.As ever the meaning of this final chapter was to be found in its title. A palindrome is a word or phrase that reads the same backward or forward. Like ‘put it up’ and ‘step on no pets’, this episode saw that Fargo ended as it had started. The small town mentality prevailed, the same old racism was still rife, and those that had done wrong were too far gone to ever change their ways. Hank’s speech regarding the bizarre symbols in his office didn’t explain the literal appearance of the UFO last week as we had hoped, but it certainly explained the incident’s thematic meaning. He believed that a universal language would end all conflict, it would end the conflict that Lou was trying to stop. It would end the conflict that an alien race, ready to help or communicate, turned its back on, unable to comprehend the meaningless violence it saw.
There’s a whole world out there, a whole universe, full of life and culture and adventure. And yet our characters chose to continue fighting the same fights that had gone on for years. What kind of a relationship could the humans possibly have with an alien race, if they were so busy discriminating and fighting against each other? Like Sisyphus, the mythological figure mentioned a good few episodes back, the human race continues to go through the same fruitless exercises without learning from its mistakes. We repeatedly fight the same wars and perpetuate the same conflicts, leaving people like Lou Solverson (and his daughter) to try to change the world just a little bit at a time.And the world did change, even if those that inhabit it didn’t. Or maybe it is unfair to claim even that. After all, Hanzee Dent has his own “empire” to build as part of his new life as season one’s Moses Tripoli (the episode’s low point, an unnecessary link to a season that had long been forgotten thanks to the quality of its successor), whilst Mike Milligan looks set to begin a life of paperwork and bureaucracy, perhaps without the dashing sideburns we have admired so over the past months: “The ‘70s are over”.
Not quite what we were expecting, but then that is what Fargo does best, the season finale of Noah Hawley’s second go at the Coen brothers’ adored cult film was emblematic of how far the show has come. Balancing style and substance, with Tarantino-esque violence and surreal Lynchian symbolism sharing equal billing, Fargo’s last instalment until 2017 leaves us wondering just where it can all go next. Wherever it does end up by the end of season three, we will certainly be following this show all the way.