We get one more comedic exchange from Budge and Pepper as they’re sitting in the driveway, pondering if life is but a dream. But heads up: another undercover car is arriving. Pepper is cautious; Budge says it could be their backup. When no one exits, even after they approach the car and draw their weapons, they know something is wrong. When they get close enough, they realize the driver (the poor salesman) has his hands taped to the wheel. He apologizes to the agents as Malvo quietly approaches his prey from behind. Malvo shoots Pepper in the forehead and Budge in the neck. He walks up to the driver. "Please," the guy says, "I've got a little girl." He probably should’ve bought that insurance from Lester, huh?
Molly is on her way to the scene, completely unknowing what has just occurred. Things were too quiet and she left the precinct to check what was going down at Lester's. Can she arrive in time to save another life?
Inside, Lester is throwing clothes out of his suitcase, stopping only when he grabs the Salesman of the Year award—the trophy that got him in this situation in the first place. Downstairs, he hears the open car door alarm coming from outside. He looks out, sees the door open, the trails of blood. The washing machine sound wracks his brain and he runs upstairs.
Malvo isn’t far behind. After pulling the bodies behind a wood pile, he breaks into the house through a sliding glass door. He pulls his gun from his coat and hears Lester on the phone, desperately asking for the police, saying, "Yes, this is an emergency." Malvo thinks he has him. He walks upstairs.
"This is Lester Nygaard, you gotta…I think the FBI…you need to send somebody." Malvo is quietly stalking his target, getting closer. "I need help now," says Lester. "I need you to come, please!" he pleads, panic in his voice. Malvo walks into the bedroom, sees clothing strewn everywhere. "Lester Nygaard!" Lester repeats. "Please! Just hurry up. I’m upstairs in the bathroom, there's no lock on the door!" His voice is getting weaker. Oh man, Lester is a good actor. He knows exactly what he is doing. "Oh, God—you've gotta hurry,” he says, really selling it. And then, SNAP—the bear trap!
Malvo walks right into it, buried within that pile of clothing, and it snags his leg, brutally. Lester jumps out of the bathroom and shoots, but Malvo ducks. Lester is too slow to reload; Malvo grabs the salesman award and lobs it at Lester, hitting him square in the nose, making everything come full circle: They meet thanks to a broken nose, and this is how it’s going to end. Malvo picks up his gun and Lester retreats to the bathroom. Malvo sends three bullets through the door, more. Lester reloads and it sounds like Malvo is approaching. He tries to remain quiet, stands up, and opens the door. Malvo has escaped the trap, leaving a trail of blood behind him.
Lester follows the stains, searching. The trail leads outside to where the car was parked; he has fled. The other car doesn’t appear to be there, either. Did Malvo have a moment of decency and let the young father get away? We'll never know. But Lester looks satisfied. He scared off the big bad wolf.
The wolf is not in good shape. If you’ve been following the entire series, you were likely thinking about the story Malvo told Wrench about the bear who chewed off his own leg to escape a trap and die on his own terms. As Malvo drives to his cabin, we see he didn't have to sacrifice his foot to set himself free, though his leg is badly injured. He made a tourniquet out of a belt and hobbles into the cabin…where Gus may still be lingering.
Malvo struggles to the couch, grabbing what looks like a doctor’s kit along the way. (Is he going to chop off that leg now?!) He takes out that nasty curved knife and cuts away his pants. He injects the wound with local anesthesia or medicine and makes a pulley system out of string so he can—oh, gross—set his bone back into the skin. (Makes you wonder, not for the first time, where Malvo received all of his survival training.) Malvo splints and bandages the leg, and then we see it: exactly how pissed off he is that this happened. That for what must be the first time, the protégé outsmarted the master. The wind, wolves howl outside. A wolf appears outside of the window. Is this his pack, calling to him? There are footsteps… and a gun.
“I figured it out,” says Gus. “Good for you,” says Malvo.
“Your riddle, shades of green; I figured it out,” Gus replies, though technically Molly gave him the answer. Malvo turns, stares at him. “And?”
Three shots. Malvo’s head falls back. Gus shot him three times in the chest, and the blood is beginning to blossom out of the wounds, staining his white sweater. Malvo coughs, but is not dead. The sound of the living rattles Gus, who is shaking and bumps into a table. Blood has stained Malvo’s teeth. He struggles to get up, to prove he’s not defeated. He smirks. Gus shoots him in the side of the mouth, in the temple. Malvo stares down Gus until he finally goes. And then Gus nearly collapses under the weight of what he’s done. He grabs Malvo’s hooked knife (as some kind of trophy?) and walks away.
Molly arrives at the scene and she and Gus embrace, wordless. He takes her inside where she studies the man who turned her life upside down, for better and worse, now motionless. She looks around and notices a briefcase; it’s Malvo’s tape recorder and cassettes. One tape is labeled Lester Nygaard, which she plays. It’s the phone call from the motel, essentially the evidence she needed to connect Lester to the murder of Pearl, which led to the slaying of the chief. She was right all along.
But Lester had one more scheme to get away with it all. Two weeks later, in Glacier National Park in Montana, Lester is enjoying a snowmobile ride in a new orange puffer jacket. He comes to the edge of a trail swarmed with cop cars. Lester veers back into the woods, the cops following on their snowmobiles, vehicles they’re likely much more capable of handling than Lester. He drives into a clearing, a lake, actually, but hits a bump and the machine falls on its side. He runs, ignoring the sign that reads: DANGER THIN ICE.
The cops yell for him to come back, but that one thing that is making Lester run, that one thing that has kept him a free man for this long—that selfish, self-preservation instinct—has taken over, and he is oblivious to everything else. That includes the giant cracks that begin to form over the lake with each step he takes.
They become thicker, longer…and Lester realizes it too late. He stops, and the cracks continue in front of him. He falls in. There is nothing but the sound of water and the wind. The camera pans down, his hat remaining on the surface. Lester escaped this fate once before, when Numbers and Wrench were planning on sending him down an icy hole, but it became his ultimate demise, by his own hand.
Molly takes the call. "Are you sure?" she asks, then nods. "Okay, well, let me know what the divers turn up." She returns to the living room, where the family is watching Deal or No Deal again, arguing over the contestants’ playing techniques.
"What'd I miss?" Molly asks, not bothering to pass along the information about Lester she just learned. She sits between them, arm around Greta, hand on Gus’ knee.
Gus got an interesting call, too, one informing him that he was getting a citation for bravery. "You? You're afraid of spiders," says Greta. "Buzz Aldrin was afraid of spiders, too, and he went into space," says Gus.
"Proud of you, hon," says Molly.
"They really should be giving it to you," Gus concedes. "No. No, this is your deal," says Molly. "I get to be chief." And so another kick-ass mom-to-be carries on in the tradition of Marge Gunderson.
As with any finale, there are lingering questions: What happened to Milos? To Wrench? Will Chazz be released from prison? But it's a satisfying closing with justice served. Life ends, life goes on; just as in the film, Molly/Marge has done her job and isn't dwelling on it. She’ll continue as chief, Gus will deliver the mail, and they’ll welcome a new addition to their family. They won’t live happily ever after—no one does—but for now, they’re happy. And that’s all we could have asked for.