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Billy Bob Thornton on shocking 'Fargo' finale: 'Isn't life funny?'

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Billy Bob Thornton on #fargo finale: Malvo works for God and the devil
Billy Bob Thornton talks #fargo finale. 'Isn't life funny?'
Malvo abides. Do you take comfort in that? #fargo

WARNING: The following interview contains major spoilers about the season finale to "Fargo."

Leading up to Tuesday night's season finale of "Fargo," we had watched Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) transform from a spineless spouse who murders his wife out of pent-up rage to a calculating husband who sets up his (next) wife for an execution-style murder so he can get out of Dodge (or, in this case, Bemidji).

The agent (or angel?) behind Lester's life change is a murderous mischief-maker named Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) who, by the finale's end, has shuffled off this mortal coil and gone to a celestial place that probably doesn't charge extra for pets.

Was Malvo taken by surprise or did he want good guy Gus to pull the trigger? We rang up Thornton for his take on Malvo's final moments.

Did Malvo undererstimate Gus and, to a lesser extent, Lester?

It depends on how you look at the show. If you look at it as a linear crime story, yeah. If you look at it as Malvo is a guy here to facilitate fate, then not so much. And that's the way I choose to look at Malvo. He sort of works for God and the devil. It's Malvo's job in the universe to expose people for what they are and lead them to it.

Which would explain why he didn't just kill Lester in the elevator ...

I think Malvo knows Lester is going to meet no good ending, kind of like the guy in the underwear at the beginning of the show. Malvo lets him run off in the snow. He knows he's going to end up frozen to a tree stump somewhere. Lester will take care of himself, though, as we see, Malvo isn't against the idea of helping that eventuality along.

Gus going into Malvo's cabin sure didn't seem like a good idea at the time. Maybe I'm the one who underestimated him.

Well, when Malvo sees him inside the cabin, he doesn't really try to do anything about it. You notice that? It's not like he tries to kill Gus. Malvo doesn't really kill anybody but bad guys, other than Vern, the police chief at the beginning. That's the only time Malvo kills a decent person, and it's because things are going bad really quickly. He knows Lester was trying to set him up so he took care of that one out of self-defense.

Well, he did mess with those kids who now live in Lester's old house. After Malvo's ghost stories, they're not going to be able to fall asleep any time soon.

Even if Malvo is the god of people's fate, he doesn't lose his sense of humor. And he was angry that Lester wasn't there. "OK, this jerk had to buy the house. Let me leave him a parting gift."

Did you talk about Malvo's death scene much before you shot it?

It wasn't really discussed, to tell you the truth. I wanted to do something and I mentioned it to the director and he said, "Fine." And I had worked with [director] Matt Shakman before, and he's a cooperative guy who'll let you try whatever you want. We did it two or three different ways. But I haven't seen it yet, so I don't know which one they used. I'm hoping they used the one Matt and I talked over.

Let me describe it to you. Gus shoots him. There's silence and about four beats and then Malvo jerks back to life.

Sounds like they used the right take. (Laughs)

There are a lot of emotions flashing across Malvo's face at that moment. What's he thinking?

A bunch of things. "Nice job, Gus. I taught you well." "I guess this is it. My job is done." And "Isn't life funny?"

He's not angry at Gus?

Not at all. Not at all.

Because Gus shooting Malvo exposed Gus for what he was -- a brave and decent man?

Absolutely. If Gus hadn't shot him, Malvo wouldn't have respected him. He'd still be a weakling and inept in his eyes.

So Gus passed his apprentice test?

Yes. And, you know, maybe Malvo's not dead. You never know. Maybe he just takes on another form somehow.

Malvo abides. Hmmmm ... I don't know if I can take comfort in that. But maybe that's how "Fargo's" second season starts.

(Laughs) Not for me, probably. I think it's best to leave this one as is and not push my luck. It was fun while it lasted, though.

Twitter: @GlennWhipp

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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