Literally the Devil: Why Lorne Malvo Was the Real Winner in Fargo’s Finale

Fargo ended last night with one hell of a finale, and more than anything, the conclusion really drove home an idea that’d been lurking around in my head since the pilot aired two months ago. Billy Bob Thornton’s character is the Devil. Not in a literary sense, but a literal one. He’s literally the Devil, and that’s pretty rad.

Spoilers for all of Fargo follow.

It’s hard to deny that something is very wrong with Lorne Malvo. Let’s ignore the fact that he’s apparently so completely intimidating that he can Jedi mind trick people into doing things. Or his supernatural escape from Lester Nygaard’s basement. Or his cheeky use of the Biblical plagues in a blackmail attempt. Or his claim that he’s, “a student of institutions.”

The creators of Fargo more or less spell it out for us in one line. Taking a bite of apple pie, Malvo comments, “I haven’t had pie like this since the Garden of Eden”; a pretty on the nose reference to the temptation of Adam and Eve.

I mean, they even gave him wings for goodness’ sake.

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That’s just the surface level stuff though. There’s a reason why Malvo is Devil in Fargo, and his actions give us a far more interesting peek into his true nature.

Easily the most diabolical thing about Malvo isn’t his superhuman ability to murder and get away with it, but how easily he corrupts and taints the people around him. Like the biblical Devil, Lorne Malvo isn’t just evil personified; he has an agenda, an ambition, even a twisted morality to him.

Fargo revisits, on several occasions, a wolf as a visual motif. Malvo is certainly a wolf in this series, and that’s a fair reading of the imagery, but I think it goes a little deeper than that.

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“You know what wolves do? They hunt. They kill.”

The wolf represents what Malvo, aka the Devil, thinks humans should aspire to. As his riddle revealed, humans evolved the ability to see more shades of green because of predators. In Malvo’s mind, there are only predators and prey in this world, and only by embracing this notion can people ever transcend their own humanity.

“What if you’re right, and they’re wrong?,” asks Lester’s cheery fish poster.

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That’s more or less the question that Malvo poses to the people he meets. What if civility and kindness are wrong, and those dark, primal urges you feel are right?

Malvo pits Sam Hess’s two sons against each other over an inheritance that doesn’t exist. He goads the blackmailer into giving into greed. And of course, Malvo gives Lester the push he needed to become a killer, then took it all away in a classic Faustian bargain.

But Malvo is defeated in the end right? Good triumphed over evil when Gus emptied a revolver into him, and surely no Devil has ever been beaten by a couple of bullets.

Well, yes and no. Sure Malvo is dead, but if his goal all along was to push people into accepting their hunter nature, who really got what they wanted?

Let’s breakdown the last exchange between Gus and Malvo.

“I figured it out… your riddle,” Gus says.

“And?” Malvo replies.

Malvo isn’t expecting Gus to answer in words. Instead, he wants to see Gus pull the trigger, to turn one more man into a wolf.

Did you notice Malvo’s face right before he died?

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In the end, the devil always wins.

4 Comments

  1. I would also add that his name, Lorne Malvo, sounds pretty evil. Lorne obviously sounds like Lord. Malvo contains the prefix ‘mal’ witch is closely associated with the concept of evil in the Latin Languages, examples: ‘malo’ in Spanish and ‘malus’ in Latin meaning evil. So, Lord Evil!

  2. Ffrnf’s comments about the name are interesting. I can’t find any commentary that actually dissects the name “Lorne Malvo”. For someone who is always toying with people and victims (the character), it’s worth noting that the word “malevo” is Spanish/Latin for “ruffian, criminal, or evil one”, accomplished by moving the “e” from Lorne. That leaves the word “lorn”, which is from the Middle English, meaning “forsaken or ruined.” The combination of the two terms would be “Lorn Malevo” or the “forsaken evil one,” for example. Just a thought.

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