As expected, the Fargo season 1 finale was casualty-filled. And just as we hoped, justice was served—in that very dark and unexpected Fargo way.
Episode 10, “Morton’s Fork,” opened with a closing: We hear deep breaths as the camera pans across a snow-filled landscape, focuses on tracks, a fallen snowmobile, mountains … and a hole in the cracked ice. Only an hour later does the significance of the scene become clear.
Until then, the deep breaths and black, icy waters transition to Lester sitting in his car in downtown Bemidji, breathless after witnessing the murder of his wife. It’s a replay of the end of last week’s episode, when Lester sent Linda into his insurance office where he believed—correctly—that Malvo was waiting to execute him. By extension, Lester has murdered a second wife, and now he needs a plan.
Lester’s breathing slows as Malvo walks away. He decides to go into the crime scene—his passport is there, after all. We’ve watched Lester progress from unintentional murderer to calculating criminal over 10 episodes, but how quickly his thought process has been able to make that switch is staggering. There is no more panic, no more fear—and definitely no more trace of regret as he devises his next moves. His biggest concern is self-preservation, and he’s getting mighty good at that.
Inside, Linda is motionless on the ground, head in a puddle of blood, surrounded by feathers pulled from her hood from the bullet. Lester unceremoniously steps over her, opens the safe, grabs the passports, and flashes back to Malvo: “Is this what you want?” But he reconsiders. He puts the passports back in the safe, places his car keys in Linda’s hand, and walks out into the cold. He looks both ways, sees a sign for Lou’s—it’s just around the corner, reads the advertisement—and begins to set in motion his alibi.
He takes a seat and tells Lou that Linda will be over in a minute, she just had to stop by the shop to pick up something. “She dropped me off, said order the grilled cheese, so I guess two of those,” Lester says, writing his script as he goes. He’d like a beer—”it would change things for the better,” he says—but Lou’s is a family place, so he settles on two ginger ales instead. And then he announces that he’s going to use the bathroom.
That tricky Lester sneaks out the side door and around the front of the diner to a pay phone, where he reports shots fired just seconds ago, sounding like they came from inside one of the shops. He slinks back to his table, making sure to open and close the bathroom door to really sell his return.
Lou comes back over and Lester repeats his “Linda had to stop by the shop and pick something up” shtick, which Lou, observant and wary, says he’s already told him. As calm as Lester is trying to appear, he’s not a professional criminal the likes of Malvo, and his cracks are showing.
Speaking of Malvo, the former cop/diner owner mentions how a fella—silver hair, little goatee—came in earlier asking about Lester. In another half-second of nerves, Lester wants to know what Lou told him. Luckily for him, it wasn’t much: The guy wouldn’t leave a number; Lou didn’t like his demeanor. Lester apologizes for the bother; Lou says he thought Lester ought to know.
Lester looks uncomfortable trying to drink his soda. He flashes back to printing the boarding passes, tucking them in his parka … which, he realizes in a moment of horror, are still in the coat on Linda’s dead body. He freaks out for a second, jumping out of his chair, but sits back down as cop cars, sirens blaring, fly by. He sits back down and bites into his sandwich, plotting his next step.
Cops have surrounded the office, and that moody Fargo theme music plays, replicating the scene in front of Lester’s house when he killed his first wife. Molly arrives, and Bill tells her she didn’t have to come. “Well we both know that’s not true,” she replies. (By the way, the scene when she gets the call about the crime is excellent—Allison Tolman’s delivery of the line, “Someone killed the second Mrs. Nygaard,” is perfect.)
Bill think it’s a headshot, but of course he didn’t actually look at the body on account of being squeamish and all. Pregnant Molly kneels down and notices Linda is wearing Lester’s coat—”meaning maybe it’s not Linda’s supposed to be lying here,” she tells Bill, instantly putting together the clues.
But before she gets any further, Lester pushes his way into the office and puts on his best Oscar-worthy performance—or Emmy-worthy, in the case of Martin Freeman—yelling “aw jeez” and beginning to weep as Bill and Molly hold him back from the body. They take him over to the waiting area, where Molly immediately begins questioning Lester as a suspect, not a man who needs consoling. Lester launches into his alibi about the ginger ales and Molly’s dad keeping the grilled cheese warm.
Molly asks if he thinks it’s connected to the Las Vegas murders, which she questioned him about just earlier that day. She’s showing no sympathy. But before Lester can give an answer—was he going to play along with her theory or come up with one of his own?—Bill interrupts. “She’s wearing your coat,” he says, deciding to do some police work at the most inopportune time. “Molly saw that so she’s wondering…”
Lester is pissed that they picked up on this clue so quickly. “What do you mean she’s wearing my coat? What does that mean? Her coat got a rip so I…” He runs out of reasoning and lets the emotions he thinks he’s supposed to be feeling in this moment take over. “Oooh wait, uh,” he starts. “You think?” He begins to break down. “You’re saying…”
It’s a good stalling tactic. Even better, he says he’s gonna be sick, knowing no one will force him to continue answering questions in that situation. They grab him by the arms and say they’ll take him to the station for more questioning when Lester has another flash of devious brilliance—could he just go over to the body and say goodbye? Molly doesn’t want him anywhere near that body, but Bill approves and even tells him to take his time.
Can he get into that coat without them noticing? Lester leans over Linda’s body, hand over the pocket. His fingers rest on the tickets…and Molly comes over. “I can’t have you touching the body,” she says. The camera conveniently doesn’t show his hands, making us wonder if he did somehow manage to grab them. (We later find out that he was unsuccessful in stealing the evidence.) And he’s escorted away.