Danger will have a full recap of last night’s Fargo finale later today, but there are a few questions only creator Noah Hawley can answer. So we called Hawley up last week, and after yelling at him for killing Key and Peele for 20 minutes, we spoke about “Morton’s Fork,” and the series as a whole.
UPOXX: Is Lorne Malvo actually Satan?
HAWLEY: (Laughs) No, but there’s only one actor alive who could say that line, “I haven’t had a piece of pie this good since the Garden of Eden,” and really sell it. I mean, obviously, he died. He’s human after all. I like that thing that the Coens do. They have these almost elemental theories. Anton Chigurh, the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse, Peter Stormare. There are these moments where you think, are they human? So I think we played with that idea to some degree. But no, he’s just a bad man.
UPROXX: Was there ever any question that Gus would be the one pulling the trigger?
HAWLEY: There were a lot of questions about it for me. Part of making a true story that isn’t true, it has to feel real, and I wanted to avoid that hero’s journey structure that we’re all so trained to expect and want — that at the end of the day, it’s high noon between our hero and our villain — because that doesn’t actually happen in real life. And if you look at the movie, in the end, when Bill Macy is arrested in the motel room, Marge isn’t there; it’s not her jurisdiction. And that feels real, and you buy that because it feels like real life. In order to have Gus do it, it had to feel real to me, and the way we did that was to set up a mano-a-mano end game, but have it be Lester and Malvo, and then if I’ve done my job right, you’ve forgotten entirely that Gus is in that cabin. So there’s a surprise element to it.
UPROXX: It caught me off guard, because it wasn’t what I expected. But the ending was sold for me when Molly makes that comment about how she’s chief, so she’s won, even if she wasn’t the one who ultimately got Lester and Malvo.
HAWLEY: And in the first episode, Verne says to her, “You’ll make a good chief one day.” But the other thing that made the Gus/Malvo end game work for me was the fact that while on the one hand, you may see it as a victory for Gus, it’s also a victory for Malvo, whose driving motivation in life is to seek and turn civilized people into animals, and he pushes Gus to commit murder, really. So it’s not a storybook ending. There’s some darkness and some grey to it that made it the best way to end the story in my mind.
UPROXX: Why did Malvo spare Lester in the elevator? Was it for the thrill of the chase, or did he see something some relatably evil in him?
HAWLEY: I think, like I said, it’s Malvo’s goal to see how far he can push civilized people. I think he’s actually shocked and delighted at Lester — he did not expect this. The Lester that he met was a milquetoast guy. He underestimated him. In this moment, Malvo’s been chasing this bounty and working this guy for six months, but Lester comes along, and in that moment, Lester’s more interesting. He has no problem killing everyone in the elevator, and then basically telling Lester, “Hey, let’s spend some time together. I want to see what I made.” Lester steps in that elevator, acting brave, but then something terrifying happens, and he kind of chickens out and runs away.
UPROXX: Speaking of that, why did Lester end up in Montana?
HAWLEY: Some of that was just the location. We shoot in Calgary, and we’re about an hour from the mountains. We’d been shooting away from the mountains the entire time, so it seemed nice to end on this incredible mountain vista with a frozen lake. That’s obviously not Minnesota. But I like the idea that he’s fled, and he knows there’s no way he’s going to explain any of this. And he’s very close to the Canadian border.
UPROXX: There’s an obvious fascination with riddles in the finale, and the entire season actually, but I can’t tell if you’re the type of guy who stops and thinks about them, or if you’re someone who answers all riddles with “he should eat all three,” as Webb suggests.
HAWLEY: I like a story within a story. There were three Coen Brothers movies that really informed the season: No Country for Old Men, Fargo, and A Serious Man, which is one of my favorite movies, and I love that it starts in the shtetl with this very strange allegory about the Rabbi who’s either dead or not dead. And there’s this whole Schrödinger’s cat element to it, and it has the whole Goy’s teeth section. I really liked that, and knowing that we were going to do this parable sequence about the rich man, and I also really like the story Molly tells in the last episode about the man’s gloves. So I just decided to make that as a framing device with the episode titles. The underlying theme of A Serious Man is, accept the mystery. The idea that there are more questions than answers in the universe, and you sometimes have to accept that Malvo went down into that basement and then he disappeared. How did he get out of that basement? Sometime you just gotta say, it’s a Coen Brothers movie.
UPROXX: Do you have a favorite Coen Brothers homage that you slipped into the show?
HAWLEY: Let’s see. It’s hard to say. It was fun to put them all in there, and to always be thinking about them. Then there are things that are but aren’t. Stavros is a very Coen Brothers figure, but he’s not a direct adaptation of any of them. There is a wood chipper in there at some point. We do a lot of things that hopefully aren’t gimmicky or distracting. I think the great thing about this moment in time is that people who watch your show, they want to spend more than the hour thinking about it. It was a nice way to start a dialogue, I thought.
UPROXX: Whatever happened to Stavros?
HAWLEY: We shot a scene — it’ll be on the DVD, in the deleted scenes — there was a scene where Gus, following up on the company car thing, goes to talk to him, and Stavros is sitting in his study, throwing copies of American Phoenix into the fire. But at the end of the day, that end moment with Stavros, that pull-up with the overturned car, was such a powerful moment that the scene itself didn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know. That glove sequence in 1.10 [the finale], it was originally scripted that she explains it to him, but on the day of, on set, I changed it so that she just says “goodbye.” It’s not my place to explain necessarily what things mean. I like the idea that they mean many things, and it’s up to you to decide what they mean to you.
UPROXX: One of the things that I decided is that Malvo is the “It” in Lou’s story.
HAWLEY: I don’t know that that’s a conclusion to draw. I think, unfortunately, as we’ve seen, evil isn’t just one thing, or just one person. But once you see it, you recognize it. That’s all I’ll say about that.
UPROXX: Were there any characters you thought about killing before deciding not to?
HAWLEY: I’m trying to think. Y’know, everything was on the table in the room. But there were no big fights about, “We gotta kill this one or save that one.” It was really interesting to me, in episode eight, when the camera pans away from Gus and drifts into the woods, almost everybody that I spoke to said they thought that it was for Gus, that we were going to find Malvo and he was going to kill them. That was never my intention, nor did I anticipate that response. But I realized that we had done our job building this dread into the series, knowing that it’s a close-ended story and having killed a lot of people, anyone could go. It’s a hard world for the little things. I think everybody felt really protective about Molly and especially Gus — he’s such a purely good guy, and those guys don’t usually survive in these stories.
UPROXX: If there is a season two, whose story would you most want to pick up with, or would you rather deal with a whole new group of characters?
HAWLEY: Here’s what I’ll say about that: at the end of the movie Fargo, Marge has seen this awful Coen Brothers case, and she gets into bed and has this moment with her husband who got the three-cent stamp and they’re going to have a baby. The movie ends, and you think, she faced the worst, and her award is that tomorrow, life goes back to normal. We liked that idea — it’s not a modern idea. The modern idea is that our law enforcement heroes, they become demon hunters who are haunted; they have to become dark souls to combat dark souls. If I’m saying it’s a true story, it’s not really credible that she wakes up tomorrow, and it’s another crazy Coen Brothers case. She would stop being her. She’d become that haunted demon hunter just because that’s the human experience. If you’re exposed to too much stuff, it’s hard to return to that innocence. So my feeling is, there’s a whole history of true crime in the Midwest that could be explored.