Fargo: Gus Grimly Is The Secret Hero Of The Story
For the last six weeks, Fargo has tried painting police deputy Molly Solverson as the series’ hero, destined to be the one to bring madman Lorne Malvo to justice. However, her time in the spotlight has been a clever ruse, meant to distract us from the true hero of the story: Gus Grimly.
Yes, that Gus Grimly, the worst police officer in Minnesota. The man who let Malvo go after pulling him over in the pilot episode. The man who arrested Malvo without probable cause or evidence, which did nothing but help Malvo escape police suspicion. And yes, the Gus Grimly that just apparently shot Molly Solverson because he fired his gun blindly into a whiteout, without knowing who or what he was shooting at.
Yes, that Gus Grimly is going to be the one to take Lorne Malvo down.
The series has done a fantastic job with using symbolism and parables to give the show a philosophical undercurrent. The series is completely enjoyable at face value, but there is plenty of material to be mined from its narrative if you’re willing to dig a little bit, or pay close attention to the things characters tell each other. It’s in those subtle clues and conversations that we can draw evidence that points to a big, inevitable showdown between Gus Grimly and Lorne Malvo, the yin and the yang of the Fargo universe.
Ever since the pilot, Gus has been on a self-chosen path of redemption. He knows he made a mistake in letting Malvo drive away, and has been trying desperately to rectify that mistake since then. In that desperation he made an even bigger mistake, when he arrested Malvo in the fourth episode, “Eating the Blame.”
“Eating the Blame” is where we start to see Gus’ arc begin to take shape. He’s bewildered and frustrated by how well Lorne can lie his way out of situations, and seemingly predict the outcomes (“You’re making a mistake!”). When Lorne is let free, Gus asks him how he lies so easily, to which Malvo replies with a riddle:
“Did you know that the human eye can see more shades of green than any other color?”
He tells Gus that when he finds the answer to that riddle, he’ll have his answer to his question.
From Molly, we learn that we can see more shades of green than any other color because as humans were evolving, we needed to find a way to detect predators amongst the foliage that once covered the now-civilized parts of the world. Malvo is a predator, while people like Gus are his prey.
Throughout the series, Malvo keeps referring to humanity’s primal instincts, and how we’ve begun to bury those instincts with time.
“Your problem is that you’ve spent your whole life thinking there are rules. There aren’t. We used to be gorillas.”
Malvo’s entire mentality is based around the belief that, deep down, men are still primitive animals; and he is very much a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He refers to wolves several times in the series, telling Stavros that the Romans were raised by them, which is what made their empire so great. He also scoffs at the notion that Mowgli could have been raised by wolves in The Jungle Book, then grow up to befriend other animals.
Malvo himself was likely raised by wolves (not literally, of course), coming from a violent background that only helped breed violence within himself.
“There are no saints in the animal kingdom. Only breakfast and dinner.”
So, why all the talk of wolves? Well, that brings us back to Gus. Gus is a terrible police officer, and has let Malvo slip through his fingers on multiple occasions. However, I believe he’ll be the man to bring the wolf down because of one simple fact: Gus is not a real police officer. His real job is in animal control.
Gus is constantly getting called to catch dogs that have run away from their owners, and is even called to Stavros’ home to investigate the “murder” of his pet dog (who was, interestingly enough, killed by Malvo). He’s never handled big cases like this one, which is why he keeps fumbling at every turn. He’s not cut out for this sort of thing. But, then again, no heroes are. The hero’s journey exists as a way to test and mold normal men and women into heroes who ultimately save the day.
Of course, we still have four episodes to go, and at this point anything could happen. Even if Molly isn’t dead, and has simply been gunned down, she may be out of commission for a while, leaving Gus to finish the job. Or, perhaps she and Gus will both serve as our heroes, Molly going after Lester (we know she’s a skilled ice-fisher, and a lot of fish imagery keeps popping up around Lester), and Gus going after Malvo.
In the greater scheme of things, Gus and Malvo are standing at two opposite sides of the spectrum of human nature. Malvo believes men to be animals living in a world without rules, and therefore without heroes or villains. Gus, on the other hand, believes in people. When his neighbor tells him that “Only a fool thinks he can solve the world’s problems,” Gus replies by saying, “Yeah, but you gotta try, don’t ya?”
Gus can’t even fathom what it looks like on the other side of the spectrum. To him, the world is more black and white, and when an anomaly like Lorne Malvo comes onto the scene, the concept of so much evil is unbelievable to him.
“When a dog goes rabid, there’s no mistaking it for a normal dog. Us people, we’re supposed to know better, be better.”
When the time comes, Gus is going to do what he’s meant to do. He’s going to catch that rabid dog and put him down.