After seven episodes, Fargo’s third season has been a tale of two shows. One half of it focuses on the rivalry between the Stussy brothers and the takeover of Emmit’s business by Varga and his goons. The other has focused on Gloria solving the murders resulting from Ray’s attempts to rob his brother. At times Fargo has struggled to find a balance between these two halves, resulting in a weaker overall product. It has also struggled to connect them.
With 3 episodes left, it looks like Fargo has finally managed and set up a promising ending to its third season.
Spoilers for “The Law of Inevitability” below
Fargo kicks things off this week with Varga opening Christmas presents under Emmit’s tree and using them. We transition to Gloria and Winnie finding Ray’s body, then cops busting into Nikki’s hotel room to arrest her. As she’s taken away, Meemo is seen watching from the parking lot, presumably having informed the cops of her whereabouts.
Nikki’s brought to a police station, where Moe Dammik questions her about Ray’s death. He also completely blames her. Nikki asks for a lawyer and says nothing else. When Dammik leaves, she looks over a photo of the crime scene for clues. Later, Gloria and Winnie are brought into the office of Winnie’s superior. Gloria makes her case but they won’t listen. Winnie is sent back to traffic enforcement and Gloria told to take a vacation or get another job.
Since she is awesome, Gloria tells Winnie to find Emmit and tell him about Ray to judge his reaction. She also starts trying to talk to Nikki, which involves lots of paperwork. Back at her own police station, one of her officers receives a call and leaves to respond. He forgets his gun and returns inside where he finds Yuri. Yuri acts all threatening and the poor cop takes the offered opportunity to leave. Yuri follows afterwards with Ennis’s case file.
Elsewhere, Emmit shows up for dinner with Sy and Mrs. Goldfarb to discuss selling his company. He acts highly suspicious and at odds with Sy’s intention to sell. He also spouts some Varga-like nonsense about the rich and the poor. Winnie arrives and tells Sy and Emmit about Ray. Emmit does a terrible job covering for himself.
Sy takes Emmit home and Winnie approaches Mrs. Goldfarb to ask some questions. When Sy and Emmit arrive back at Emmit’s house, Sy tries to discuss Ray. Instead Emmit accuses him of working with Ray. Sy tries his best to erase his doubts. He also tries to convince Emmit again to sell their business so they can run, as well as try to reconcile with his wife.
Inside the house, Varga tries to make Emmit feel better. I think. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what the hell his intention is half the time. Dude literally only speaks in metaphors and conspiracies. Sy arrives home and breaks down in his wife’s arms, upset over everything going wrong in his life.
Meanwhile, Gloria finds out the huge amount of paperwork necessary to talk to Nikki. At the same time, an officer approaches Nikki after the surveillance camera cuts off and handcuffs her so he can search her cell. Once she’s handcuffed, though, he pulls out a syringe to use on her. Gloria interrupts before he can use it and the man runs off to escape. Other officers run into the room and she tries to explain.
They check the surveillance footage and see the glitch where it shut off. Gloria again pleads her case and finally someone listens. The St. Cloud officer lets her talk to Nikki. Gloria and Dammik do so, and Gloria lays out her case one more time. Nikki will only say to “follow the money” and that Emmit may not have been responsible for Ray’s murder.
Dammik revokes Nikki’s parole and she is sent back to the state penitentiary. Gloria offers to bring her some pie after the holidays and Nikki says she likes coconut.
Nikki boards a bus to go back to state and…holy crap that’s Mr. Wrench’s music! Bah gawd! She sits next to him, and soon after Yuri steps into the road in front of the bus. The driver swerves to avoid him and flips the vehicle. The episode ends with Yuri and two others starting to cut through the barrier separating the driver from the prisoners.
After a bit of a slow start and some episodes I was not so much a fan of, Fargo has finally kicked season 3 into gear. This episode may have been my favorite since Gloria’s surprisingly disliked (well, not really surprisingly) California trip. Besides the continued ratcheting up of the plot and danger, there are a pair of predictable reasons for this that won’t surprise anyone; almost no Varga, and a lot more Gloria.
One key aspect of Fargo lacking for most the episodes this season is balancing the absurd. Absurdity always plays a signature role in these stories. Whether it’s Jerry’s father-in-law confronting Carl Showalter, the way Lester killed his wife, Dodd and his nephew attacking the goons at the donut shop, Fargo is filled with these moments playing on the absurdity of the criminals involved. Season 3 has done the same, of course. Varga may be the most absurd character yet.
But as I’ve talked about before, typically there is a balance, and typically the cop characters provide said balance. It’s what makes the goofiness work. In previous episodes this season, Fargo packed the hour with scenes like Yuri in the library this week. While I definitely feel the danger present in his unspoken threats to the poor police officer who found him, there’s also a ridiculousness to the whole thing which is classic Fargo.
However, when you pile on scene after scene like that one, Fargo quickly loses the effect of them. The characters stop feeling like characters and instead like bad cartoons. This has plagued multiple episodes of season 3 so far.
Thankfully, the past two episodes have grounded the absurdity and made for a much better product in the process.
Instead of the overwhelming silliness so often present with Varga, his henchmen, and the Stussys, Fargo gave us an episode packed with real human connection and good people trying to stop bad things. Rather than multiple Varga monologues trying too hard, we saw Nikki trying desperately to compose herself when faced with a photo of Ray’s body. Instead of more goofy rivalry involving Sy, we get the scene of him breaking down in his wife’s arms. Moe Dammik continues to be an impossibly naïve and stubborn cop, but Gloria finally started winning him over.
Even the absurd scenes had a much-needed balance within them. Yuri monologues yet again while breaking into a police station, but this time I actually care about his target. We know he’s a good guy and want him to escape the danger. Or take Emmit’s complete failure to convince when Winnie Lopez tells him of Ray’s death. His grief about Ray shines through, as does his panic about the police finding out the truth.
I can even forgive how ridiculous it is that the man who came for Nikki ran right past the three cops who enter the room, yet somehow dismiss what Gloria says. Though I find it hard to completely ignore. I mean, come on, he literally had to bowl you over while running away. How did they not grab him?
All this makes for a better product. Maybe some will find it too familiar. Those who greatly enjoyed the first half of season 3 seemed to specifically because it felt fresh. Me personally, I love a story I’ve seen before so long as you tell it well. Especially when fresh was not preferable to something new.
I hope the remaining three episodes don’t return to scene after scene of Varga mutilating himself while shoving his junk in coffee cups or spouting casual racism/sexism while Gloria vanishes again. I prefer this version of Fargo much more.
- I’m beginning to suspect Goldfarb is involved with Varga. Whether she works with or against him, I feel like a connection exists. Winnie Lopez appears to be on the case!
- Speaking of Winnie, she does a nice job leading Emmit. She mentions Ray is dead, but not that he was murdered, and let’s Emmit jump into the trap of implying he already knew it was murder.
- The Numbers and Wrench theme continues to be the best theme ever. Maybe I just love percussion too much but the second it kicks in I hype up. Also, MR. WRENCH!
- Wow, notice how the St. Cloud police started listening to Gloria the second something suspicious happened? I honestly wonder at this point if Moe Dammik is crooked and actively trying to damn the investigation. I prefer that explanation to him genuinely being this bad a cop.
- Did Nikki notice anything while examining the photo of Ray? She tends to be sharp about such things.
- Emmit is starting to go full Jerry Lundegaard/Lester Nygaard. You never want to go full Jerry/Lester.
- In all honesty, what was the point of Varga opening all the Christmas presents? What information could he have possibly obtained there? Even when he barely appears, I find myself rolling my eyes. I feel awful about criticizing this character so much because David Thewlis is trying his hardest. He certainly isn’t the problem.
- At least he’s better than Moe Dammik. What an awful, one-note character. He literally only exists to stand in Gloria’s way and contributes nothing positive or interesting to the story. He detracts from my enjoyment every second he appears.
Images Courtesy of FX