In terms of who could have been the one to stop Malvo, Molly was certainly an option, but Gus asks her to stand aside for the entire finale. Why did you decide to not have her play much of an active role here?

Noah Hawley: For similar reasons. Obviously, Gus has his motivation that he doesn't want to go to another funeral and doesn't want her out there putting herself in danger. Part of the motivation to jump ahead a year was to make her pregnant and give the audience that moment where they thought, "Wait, that is the movie." But that realization comes with a set of expectations. Whether you think it consciously or not, you assume that the events of the show will play out similarly to the events of the movie. The point of sidelining her was to give her that moment where she's sitting there on the sidelines and decides she can't do that, so she picks up her stuff and goes to her car, at which point we're all very worried that she's going to walk into a woodchipper moment. And then she doesn't, but it was a way for me, in terms of telling the whole story and not just Molly's story, to set up an ending that felt both unpredictable and inevitable.

You talked before about the idea of Malvo as a man who can vanish out of a locked room. As you were writing the series, did you decide at a certain point that you were just going to treat him as a supernatural person, or did you have to say at every scenario, "How could a person actually do this?"

Noah Hawley: I'm a firm believer that when you make a Coen brothers movie, you have to accept the mystery. I had a number of discussions with the folks at MGM who kept asking, "How did he get out of that basement? Don't we have to show an open window or something?" And I said, "No, I don't know how he got out of that basement. You just have to accept the mystery." It was Billy's idea that Gus shoots him and he appears to be dead and then he sits up with that amazing grimace and smile with the bloody teeth. That was Billy's desire to do it that way, and I find it so chilling, and for a moment, you ask, "Is this guy really human or what?" And, of course, he is in the end. But there is that elemental figure who runs through the Coens' work from the lone biker of the apocalypse, to Anton Chigurh to even Peter Stormare. There is always this sense of a wild and elemental force. The Coens, in a lot of their movies, are making horror movies. There is a similar tension, and even morality, this idea that if you transgress, you will be punished, which is very much a horror movie mentality.

One of the things you set up right before the time jump was Malvo letting Mr. Wrench go and inviting him to come after him again if he wants to. That's something you could have revisited at the end, but you chose not to.

Noah Hawley: That's another element that's out there. That scene was one of the only scenes I added after the outline process, in the second draft of episode 8. I did it for a couple of reasons. One was there wasn't a lot of Malvo in that episode, and the other was that I wasn't ready to let Mr. Wrench go. I just thought Russell Harvard was so great. He gets let out into the world, and sometimes there are loose ends. If the audience was expecting him to pop up at some time in the last two episodes, and that added an extra sense of tension, I wasn't averse to that.

There was a lot of debate over the previous episode over what it is that Lester is expecting when he says "Yes" in the elevator. Malvo has asked him this exact question before, phrased that way, and when he didn't answer "No," Malvo killed Sam Hess. Does he understand that saying "Yes" will result in the deaths of everyone in that elevator? Or is he still that oblivious to what Malvo is capable of?

Noah Hawley: I don't think he has any expectation that Malvo's going to do that. I don't think he's thought it through as much. He wants to show Malvo that he's a man now. Before, he answered by not answering, and he's not going to do that again. There's a certain amount of "Whose is bigger?" going on in that moment. Lester's hubris is what led him to confront Malvo in the first place. My hope is that at the end of episode 8, the audience is wondering how Lester will get out of the room without Malvo seeing him, and then when he comes over in 9, you realize he has this almost pathological need to be recognized as something better than he was, that's ultimately his undoing.

"Something better than he was," and yet he's capable of putting Linda into his parka.

Noah Hawley: Better or worse, it's semantics.

But you were with me in that theater, listening to the crowd react with increasing dismay as he has her put on that hoodie. Was that the reaction you were hoping for?

Noah Hawley: Look, it's an interesting dynamic. Part of why people are so horrified and disgusted with Lester is that unlike Malvo, who's obviously a scorpion, when we meet Lester, he's wearing human clothes. So we're judging him against all the Judeo-Christian morality we have, and he fails miserably on all fronts. Part of it is interesting is because this is a man who planted a gun in a child's backpack. Why we would still hold out any hope for his humanity, that's a really interesting facet of how we react to stories. There are three parts to that moment. There's Lester saying he tweaked his back and asking her to go in, then there's him stopping her, and you think maybe he had second thoughts, but then he gives her his coat, and then he stops her again and tells her to put the hood up. And the audience's response escalated from a point of disgust, to horror, to a kind of — I can't even describe what the last sound people made was.

Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "TV (The Book)" about the 100 greatest shows of all time, is available now. He can be reached at