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Did Gus Grimly redeem himself in Fargo’s “Morton’s Fork?” 

Photo Credit: Matthias Clamer/FX
Photo Credit: Matthias Clamer/FX

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of the season one finale, so I watched it last week. And while I loved a lot of it, I found myself contemplative about Gus’s actions. I do think both Lester and Malvo got what was coming – although I would’ve liked it more if Lester had to actually go to jail. But the fact that law enforcement finally got the proof they needed to convict Lester of his wife’s murder was justice enough, I guess. His ultimate end was poetic in a way. I also liked that Malvo got “caught.” I just don’t love how it all went down.

From the beginning, we know Gus has been trying to redeem himself, trying to fix his mistake. He was on duty when Malvo was driving through Duluth in a stolen car. He was the one who pulled Malvo over for reckless driving and could have taken him to jail. It’s interesting to think about what would’ve happened if Malvo had actually allowed Gus to put him in cuffs. We wouldn’t have had much of a story, would we? And I really can’t fault Gus for letting Malvo go. In his situation I can honestly say I would’ve done the same (which is why I’m not a cop). Malvo was so menacing that he scared me too. I don’t think I would’ve had the guts to be brave in that moment.

So when Gus sees Malvo lurking in Stavros’s neighborhood he seizes his chance. The problem? Gus doesn’t really have a reason to arrest him this time. Gus can’t prove Malvo is connected to the Bemidji crimes, so they have to let him go. Not only does Guy not redeem himself at this time, but his superiors have even less respect for him now. I’m just happy nothing came out of Malvo stalking Gus’s apartment after he was released.

Gus had a lot to lose before, but now that he’s married with a kid on the way he’s even more vulnerable. So when the cops suspect Malvo is back in town Gus makes Molly promise to stay away from the action. It’s a bit unfair considering her line of work, but I get it. It’s too bad Molly didn’t have Gus make that same promise because Gus manages to find Malvo’s hideout, where he lays in wait. Now, here’s my question: Why didn’t Gus call this in? I know he’s not on the force anymore and doesn’t have a legal obligation to do anything, but I feel like it’s his moral duty. I don’t think Gus alerting the authorities would’ve made Malvo’s rampage any less bloody or horrible because the cops didn’t know where he was. And they thought Lester was well enough protected.

Photo Credit: Chris Large/FX
Photo Credit: Chris Large/FX

Lester and Malvo’s confrontation was great though. I think we all thought Malvo would take him out quickly, so when Lester manages to actually set a trap we’re all surprised. Malvo makes the decision to leave and triage himself and maybe also come up with another plan of attack to get to Lester. Back at his hideout, Malvo finally comes face to face with Gus. I had a problem with how Gus killed Malvo if I’m being honest. There is absolutely no question that Malvo deserved it. He absolutely deserved to die or at least be held accountable for all the death and destruction he’s been responsible for. But Malvo’s gun was nowhere near him so there’s an “imminent threat” problem. I know I’m being intellectual about this, but I guess I’ve seen too many cop show/procedurals not to. Because on an emotional level I absolutely feel like Gus did the right thing. I think he knew that if Malvo was taken into custody there was a chance he’d hurt the people Gus loved. Maybe Malvo would’ve even managed to get himself out of jail somehow. So while I think Gus made the right decision to kill Malvo, I guess I would’ve felt better about it if Malvo had been able to put up more of a fight.

All that being said, I still found this episode and the entire series incredibly satisfying. I think the story was interesting and unexpected, the acting nuanced and engaging and the writing stellar. I would very much like for the show to come back every year with a new case and new characters. The best TV makes you think. It makes you wonder what you might do in any given situation, if you agree with the protagonist or antagonist’s actions and morals. In that way this series succeeded. I was fascinated by Lorne Malvo. I was surprised by Lester Nygaard. I was compelled by Molly Solverson. In so many ways, this series was memorable and relatable and remarkable. So even though I do think Gus Grimly was ultimately redeemed, it wasn’t in the way I hoped or wanted. But that’s my problem.

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  1. TimZz

    Gus should have been locked up after shooting Malvo like that. I was surprised he wasn’t in cuffs when Molly showed up. Equally so seeing him all cozy with his family at the end. Ridiculous.

    1. Konrad

      Thank you! So I was not the only one. Gus should be in prison for shooting unarmed man.

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