Spoiler alert: This post includes plot points and other details from the Monday finale of FX's "Fargo."
What do the fall of Saigon, French philosopher Albert Camus and schnitzel have in common?
They all found their way into Monday's "Fargo" finale, a tense, talky and ultimately satisfying hour and 10 minutes in which the set-in1979 prequel to Season 1 came full circle: Cancer-stricken Betsy Solverson (Cherry Hill's Cristin Milioti) dreamed of a future that didn't include her. She caught a glimpse of her daughter, Molly, grown (Allison Tolman, reappearing with Colin Hanks, Keith Carradine and Joey King) and a family of her own, and later had a conversation with the baby sitter, Noreen (Emily Haine) that went like this:
"Camus says knowing we're going to die makes life absurd," said Noreen, who isn't destined for the diplomatic corps.
"Well, I don't know who that is. But I'm guessing he's someone who doesn't have a 6-year-old girl," replied Betsy.
"I don't care if he's from Mars. Nobody with any sense would say something that foolish. We're put on this earth to do a job and each of us gets the time we get to do it. And when this life is over, and you stand in front of the Lord, well, you try telling him it was all some Frenchman's joke."
Would Betsy Solverson (who, by the way, is where Molly gets her stubbornness, not matter what Betsy tells Noreen) have spent any of the time that's left to her watching a show like "Fargo"? Perhaps not.
But even if Noah Hawley's ongoing homage to Joel and Ethan Coen's 1996 film has lost none of its dark humor, it managed somehow not to make a joke of life, or death, even as the body count grew. And grew.
It would be easy to forget how many people died in last week's episode alone — I, for one, feared Betsy had — and the finale opened with a montage of dead Gerhardts. And the killing wasn't quite over.
Ed (Jesse Plemons) and Peggy Blumquist (Kirsten Dunst) were still on the run, he with a gunshot wound that left a bloody trail and focused his mind to the point where he could finally admit that their marriage wasn't working.
"You're always trying to fix everything, but sometimes nothing's broken," he tells her, not long before the whole question of their future together became moot.
Later, Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) and the ever-delusional Peggy have a conversation in which he gently but firmly challenges her perception that she, whose hit-and-run precipitated a bloodbath, is actually a victim.
He also tells her about his experience on the USS Kirk during the fall of Saigon, a story of dramatic rescues and helicopters being tossed overboard that would seem more made up than anything in "Fargo" if it didn't happen to be true. (The story of the Kirk was recounted, with footage, in Rory Kennedy's documentary "Last Days in Vietnam.")
Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine), who outside the members of the Solverson family, might have been the person I most enjoyed hearing from this season, came to a sad, but not fatal end, in a small office in Kansas City, but not before gifting the Gerhardts' native American housekeeper, Wilma (Arielle Rombough), with a new car, a wad of cash and a promise that her days of cooking schnitzel and strudel were over. Somehow I don't see him becoming a company man. (Adam Arkin, who reprised his role as Milligan's boss, also directed the episode.)
No, we never got an answer about the UFO. (Apparently it's "subtext.") But we did find out what Betsy's father, Hank Larsson (Ted Danson), was up to in his office — trying to create a new, picture-based universal language in the hopes of stemming violence — and if she doesn't seem unduly worried by his explanation, why should we be?
As for Hanzee Dent (Zahn McClernon), the native American Gerhardt henchman who emerged as a key player as the season went on, he headed off with an equally improbable new name, in search of a new face to go with it.
And I can hardly wait to see what Hawley does next time.