This review contains spoilers.
3.10 Somebody To Love
This season began with a criminal investigation interview that questioned the nature of truth and the distance between it, objective fact and the ‘stories’ that we tell ourselves. It ended in a superficially similar way, Gloria and Varga eyeing one another across the table, each quietly insisting on their own ‘truth’. The scene was a minor masterpiece in tense ambiguity and was made all the more satisfying for avoiding any confirmed resolution either way. It was dramatically different from the opening, and more effective, not least because the two characters were far more evenly matched.
Gloria and Varga were not merely the only two pieces left on the board after this bloody finale but also the most diametrically opposed. Varga, the season’s Satanic figure, was a product of chaos and darkness, a smelly malignancy whose modus operandi is to confuse, distort and overwhelm. Gloria, on the other hand, was almost entirely good (in the vein of Fargo’s earlier white knight cops) with a Sherlockian talent for cutting through the clouds of obfuscation and zeroing in on objective fact. She even tells Varga, in reference to his latest yarn, ‘I’m pretty sure you’re making that up’. A casual return, rather than a firm accusation, it was done not to prevent Varga from lying but to warn him that his lies were ineffective. No matter. At some point the door of that interview room will open and the truth will walk in. Whatever that is.
The season’s concern with truth and ‘knowability’ was well served by this finale, which was written and performed with intelligence and welcome subtlety. This was Fargo at its best, in which an overtly unusual circumstance (Varga as an all-knowing, near-supernatural villain) is played out in a recognisably mundane scenario.
A similar pattern was evident in the death of Emmit Stussy. Having escaped Varga’s unwelcome grasp and made an apparent perfect getaway from Nikki’s determined vengeance, the elder Stussy brother appeared to have pretty much got away with it. Bankruptcy and probation must have felt like an almighty relief to someone who had already discovered that, no matter how far you fall, you never quite touch bottom. How wrong he was, and how sharply incongruous was the substitute Angel of Death, extracting violent recompense, in near silence?
As well as Emmit’s denouement was delivered, there was an inescapable sense of anti-climax to the entire Stussy plot, which had, prior to Ray’s death in episode six, been the motor of much of the season. Emmit’s remaining screen time had been devoted more to character than plot, examining the mental state of a man who had had nearly all the life crushed out of him. Everything he did was ineffectual, from his confession/imprisonment escape plan to his attempt to shoot his way out of Varga’s embrace to his fatal encounter with Nikki and the State Trooper. Ewan McGregor had been slightly more impressive as Ray earlier in the season but at this late stage, his Emmit proved to be his finer work. A haunted, quivering wreck, McGregor brilliantly essayed a man at the end of his tether and who, in contrast to the usual pattern of such people in fiction, found no reserves of potency in the limits of his desperation. In this light, his killing appeared as something of a well-executed afterthought, a punishment for enjoying the final crumb of comfort left to him.
At best, it was a death delayed; the completion of the project that Nikki abandoned when she became distracted from her goal. Her mission, to exact vengeance for Ray, had turned her into a cold and clinically effective operator, able to get the better of Varga in a one-to-one situation and, in league with her, literally, silent partner, the destroyer of his ground operation. In her final scene, however, she lost something. He cynical cockiness was still in place, as was her fearless resolve. What was missing was her focus. The State Trooper appeared as a surprise on screen, both to the audience and the characters, and left her dangerously exposed. She was swiftly punished for this error (as too, was the unfortunate officer), losing both her life and the completion of her goal. Unless, of course, you regard her earlier act of financial generosity to Wrench and his subsequent role as proxy, as related. Maybe she did win her revenge posthumously. Depends on which story you prefer to tell to yourself, I suppose. Or, to put it another way, on which truth.
Read Michael’s review of the previous episode, Aporia, here.