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[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Fargo‘s season finale, “Morton’s Fork.”]
Fargo has wrapped on its first acclaimed season, and creator Noah Hawley feels “justice was done” for the the show’s villains.
Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) died by gunfire and Lester (Martin Freeman) fell to his death in a frozen lake. Just as importantly, the show’s heroes lived to enjoy the rest of their lives — a rarity in today’s TV landscape. But Hawley says he always knew he wanted that for Molly (Allison Tolman) and Gus (Colin Hanks).
“There was a point after episode 6 when there was a lot of feedback on how dark the show had become and the fear that it would end darkly. That was never my intent,” Hawley tells The Hollywood Reporter. “There is this running theme in the Coen Brothers movie that the past will catch up with you if you live long enough.”
Here, Hawley reveals what scene Thornton asked him to cut and shares his thoughts on a potential second season.
What was the most challenging aspect of the finale for you?
Endings are always tough. I sort of think about stories as a pyramid or a triangle. At the beginning or the base you have all these options. The closer you get to the end, the fewer options you have. I love the idea that if you can avoid becoming a slave to the plot, then you’re in good shape. If characters drive the story, then you can give a satisfying ending to people.
The ending defied expectations in a few ways — namely that Molly didn’t catch Malvo.
We are trained that with good vs. evil battles, we have these high noon faceoffs, but real life rarely works like that. It was about sculpting an ending that felt real. The end of the movie Fargo, when Bill Macy is arrested, Marge (Frances McDormand) isn’t there because it’s a different jurisdiction so she wouldn’t there. It plays like real life. I always knew that Molly wasn’t going to be there, just like Marge wasn’t there.
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The scene with Molly and her new family was mundane, but a happy ending. Did you always know it would be happy?
Yes. I like the moment of her getting the call. It was this huge event in her life, and now it was time to move on. As this huge thing happened, she had basically developed the family that was going to be her life here from out. We shot it as a oner. There is a power of a camera following her in and her sitting down on the sofa and letting them breathe. For the first time, we use the original theme from the movie, which is such a beautiful and powerful piece that I wanted to hold that for the right moment. Jeff’s (Russo) score is so amazing, but it is a final connection to the movie.
Where did the scene with Molly’s dad sitting on a porch with his gun come from?
In No Country For Old Men, there’s a great scene where Tommy Lee Jones goes to visit the old guy in the wheelchair. They talk about his uncle or grandfather who was shot by Native Americans on his porch. That movie talks about how Tommy Lee Jones’ dad was a sheriff. I liked the idea that there was a history that connected law-men, and I liked that Lou (Keith Carradine) could tell his daughter “I’ve seen this before. Once you see it you can’t unsee it. As a father I don’t want you to see what I’ve seen.”
The show has a decent amount of long monologues. How do you decide when and where to use them?
You have Keith Carradine. He does so much with the material. There are a lot of parables and those moments. I really like that story within a story element. In a melodrama, he would say to her, “You’re caught up in something really dangerous.” In the Fargo world there’s a story. It’s for her to interpret.
It felt right that Gus killed Malvo. How did you decide that would be the case?
In the Coen’s work, there is coincidence and realism and they accept that dynamic. At the same time, the universe keeps putting Malvo in front of Gus to deal with this cowardice he has.
How did you decide on Lester’s fate?
I think there is a sense from Fargo, the movie, that justice was done in the end. If I’d been working all this time, and then people didn’t have the same feeling of watching my show as watching the movie, I would be remiss. There was a point after episode 6 when there was a lot of feedback on how dark the show had become and the fear that it would end darkly. That was never my intent. There is this running theme in the Coen Brothers movie that the past will catch up with you if you live long enough.
What was your favorite part to write in the finale?
When I worked on Malvo’s endgame, originally I had something more intricate where Billy went through a transformation to make himself look like an FBI agent. The only conversation I had about it with Billy, he said “It feels like a lot of effort just to get close to these guys. It’s also the only thing he’s done where you see him doing it and you know what he’s doing and then he does it.” I thought he was right about that. So I changed it to Malvo grabbing the guy from the used car lot and using him. I also decided the guy from the used car lot would be the guy who decided not to buy life insurance from Lester in the pilot. I liked that.
Are you already thinking about a second season?
I basically just wrapped post-production on the finale, so I’m going to try to get a couple weeks off here and try to turn my brain to what’s next. I love telling stories in this tone of voice and making a Coen Brothers movie, you get a lot of leeway you wouldn’t get otherwise.
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