Fargo, Episode 110: "Morton's Fork"
Original airdate: June 17, 2014 on FX
Spoiler warning: This page contains descriptions of events in this and previous episodes.
Noah Hawley's 10-episode darkly comedic crime drama managed to overcome the burden of trying to live up to the classic Coen brothers film it is (only very loosely) based on, impressing critics at the outset of the season and continuing to do so as the season progressed. But what did reviewers think of the way the season ended last night, in which viewers were treated to something akin to a happy ending (albeit one for a series in which nearly every major character died along the way)?
Below, we collect the reactions from a variety of TV critics and recappers to the 90-minute finale, and in some cases to the season as a whole. (Scores are displayed—converted to our 0-100 scale—only if a publication has assigned a score/grade to the episode.)
Decent but unspectacular ratings mean that the show has not yet been renewed for a second season, though if it does return, it will be with a different cast and characters, with a new story taking place in the same general location.
Extremely positive reviews
Contra Costa Times
One of the most captivating and pleasurable viewing experiences of the year. ... If the final episode -- "Morton's Fork" -- was a letdown in any way, it was only because it didn't deliver the kind of jaw-dropping shocker that we've become accustomed to from vaunted TV dramas in recent years. ... Still, the finale was a triumph. It managed to sustain the thrilling, suspenseful tension that had accelerated through the run of the series. Moreover, it tied up all the loose ends and solved all the show's riddles.
The Daily Beast
The explosive finale of FX's Fargo limited series wasn't lacking in spewed blood, comeuppance, and the kind of understated intensity that's made the risky adaptation of the Coen Brothers film classic at once menacing and suspenseful, pulpy and fun, and—in turn—cable's must-watch drama of this past spring.
What's impressive about this series is that it's been able to tap into archetypal figures of good (Gus, Gretta, Lou, Molly) and evil without resorting to hokey two-dimensional caricatures.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
It just may be one of the most engaging, brilliantly acted, unpredictable products ever seen on TV. ... This should be the model for more programs down the line: A limited series with a tidy ending that doesn't leave us hanging.
As much as a part of me wanted Molly to be the one pulling the trigger, Gus' actions do make narrative sense.
Philadelphia Daily News
A finale that's satisfying and a little unsettling.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Tuesday night's finale gave fans everything we could have wanted and cemented a place for "Fargo" among television's best, not just for this season but for any season.
Tampa Bay Times
Fargo the TV show had no right being as good as it turned out to be. ... Is any show on TV right now as filled with pure dread as this one?
Despite an inordinately high degree of difficulty, "Fargo" didn't just ace its routine, but even managed to stick the landing. ... If there were moments along the way that might have felt as if "Fargo" was working too hard at being quirky, everything fell into place in these final hours, which managed to be both surprising in the details and oddly satisfying in the ultimate resolution.
It's rare to find a show that just nails it from beginning to end. In its first season, FX's "Fargo" absolutely exemplifies the best in long-form entertainment. ... The finale didn't pull any last-minute twists or tricks. It just allowed events to progress to their natural conclusion.
This finale gave me mostly what I wanted, and the stuff I didn't get, maybe I didn't need as much as I thought I did. I have criticisms. There was a certain amount of compression that didn't always work, and some of the stories were noticeably truncated; Lester fleeing over the ice on a snowmobile was a terrific image that felt like something more reverse engineered than an organic conclusion. It worked, but it wasn't as elegant as the show had been in its best moments.
I think what ultimately disappoints here is that Fargo has felt so cleverly, cleanly structured throughout ... yet this finale feels like it deviates from that structure and starts hopping all over the place.
Film School Rejects
Now that the series is over it's hard to see a lot of meaning in much of it. There was a lot of neat stuff, some very clever and well-directed sequences, some great performances in fairly thin roles and an engaging story while it lasted. ... [But] there's something unfaithful to [the Coen brothers'] work in how neatly wrapped up the show is.
So much of the season was about Molly's work on the case, and her dogged pursuit of Vern's killer, that to have her only cross paths with a living Malvo once, and briefly (during the blizzard shootout), feels a bit unsatisfying.
I remain lukewarm to "Fargo's" bad habits -- notably story elements which are not ruthlessly vetted by the production team and which have rendered the series somewhat less than believable at times, and on a few occasions farcical.
To me, the ending reads as far more ambiguous than it did to many. ... What made Fargo thoughtful and terrifying (it's one of the few shows the tension of which I've ever been physically unable to tolerate to the point where I jumped ahead at one point and then looped back) was its willingness to engage deeply human and decent people in encounters with real evil — not to show how they then became evil and corrupted by it, but to show how it forced them into combat on terms that they didn't want. Molly and Gus escaped with their souls, I think, but they're not fine. Everything is not fine.
In the end, as Molly steps into her well-deserved position of authority, it signals a necessary change where the old ways are ostensibly shown the door to make room for something more just, equitable, and promising. And for a series that has been fantastically bleak and misanthropic at times, that comes off as an uplifting and rewarding conclusion.
Maybe because of this focus [on smaller moments], the finale didn't have the grandeur of the often visually epic miniseries. ... [But] in the end, Fargo turned out to be a more lively, majestic, lyrical reimagining of the movie than we could have expected.
Ultimately, it was a satisfying finale because the bad guys got theirs—but it wasn't always clear that things would turn out the way they did. ... I still think Fargo peaked with Episodes 5-8, which made for unbelievable television, but I'm not sure there was a way to make this finale much more satisfying.
Whereas Fargo the movie felt like more of a fable, its televised spawn is a sprawling, allegorical quilt. "Morton's Fork," per its titular namesake, delivers comeuppance without offering easy answers to the series' deeper concerns.
There are some signature Fargo beats in the episode ... In the end, though, it felt more like the season finale of a straight murder thriller like Dexter or – gulp – The Following rather than a series that has been consistently lauded as one of the best of the year thus far. ... So now I'm left asking no one at all if I just had some gosh darn wool pulled over my eyes in the previous nine episodes, or if it's only this immediate reaction to the finale that's pulling my blackened heartstrings.
Den of Geek [U.S.]
I feel like it just could have, should have, been better. What was the point of a 90 minute episode when so much time is devoted to little allegorical stories? ... All that being said, I still enjoyed Fargo on the whole immensely and would recommend it to just about anyone.
Fargo was the most surprising show of the year. ... Many of the episodes were far better than they had any right to be and will hold up in the future. The finale? I'm not so sure. It wasn't bad but it was a little disappointing. It was strictly average and that's not what the series deserves.
Overall, I'm glad I stuck with the crime miniseries ... But my first reaction to the "Fargo" finale was disbelief and annoyance that it had Gus catch and ultimately kill Lorne Malvo. ... "Fargo's" plot resolution ticked all the "conclusion" boxes, and normally, I would respect the desire to provide a well-defined wrap-up, given that so many shows have trouble with endings. But it's as if the desire to wrap up the plot neatly also led the show to avoid philosophical and metaphysical complexity, which is a great thing in storytelling. ... [But] all things considered, "Fargo" was well worth visiting. The season was smartly laid out and crisply paced, and the cast was terrific.
Instead of tracing the long arc of Molly's professional triumph, the show was actually tracing the redemption arc of the previously insufficiently macho Gus. ... Fargo is not exactly out to shortchange Molly of her moment—it's just that, as with so many antihero shows, it is ultimately not as interested in Molly as the men around her.
What do you think?
What did you think of last night's episode, and of the entire season? Are you hoping for a second season? Let us know in the comments section below.