This Fargo review contains spoilers.
Fargo Season 3 Episode 5
Sy Feltz has been my favorite character so far on this season of Fargo. Michael Stuhlbarg played a pathetic cuck to darkly comedic effect in the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man and now he’s playing another in a TV series inspired by one of their films. Sy has gone from a posturing tough guy consigliere to a sniveling wimp who keeps making his unfortunate situation worse, yet I cannot quit laughing at how hopelessly inept this supposed “fixer” keeps acting.
After Varga discovers that Sy had spoken to the police, he fears the worst and decides to put the squeeze on Emmit’s right hand man. Sy instantly folds from the intimidation and is forced to sit idly as Varga insults his wife and sticks his “schmok” in Sy’s mug. Taking it a step further, Varga then forces him to drink from said mug. Shell-shocked from the humiliating affair and visibly hurt that Emmit would make this man a partner, Sy scurries off to a meeting at a restaurant with the Widow Goldfarb, “the so-called storage queen of The Great Lakes region.” Still reeling from the events with Varga, Stuhlbarg milks Sy’s discomfort for every laugh that it’s worth, telling the widow with almost teary eyes about how he feels like he’s gone “off the map” and into the “unknown.”
The Widow Goldfarb reveals her intentions to partner with Stussy Lots, but now that Emmit and Sy have apparently lost all control of their company, Sy makes it known that he’d be willing to sell her the business entirely. It would seem like a smart play if the shmuck hadn’t been followed by Varga’s men to the restaurant. Sy then races off to meet with Emmit, who’s dealing with his own crisis. It turns out that Ray and Nikki have taken their impersonation act to the next level and filmed a sex tape with Ray posing as his brother. Lewd content is the blackmail du jour of our modern age, and Ray and Nikki intend to use their tape to extort $100,000 out of Emmit.
However, their blackmail letter is intercepted by Emmit’s wife before he can even respond to their threat to show her the tape, and she promptly packs her things and leaves him. When Sy arrives, Emmit is crying in the closet, but his self-pity quickly turns to rage when Sy starts babbling about issues that Emmit deems secondary. In Emmit’s eyes, Sy’s only job is to stop predators like Varga and Ray from getting to him, so what purpose is he serving? Unwilling to admit that he’s in over his head, Sy hilariously blames Emmit’s problems with Ray on Emmit keeping “the shackles on” him. Emmit tells Sy that he has free rein to handle the situation as he likes, but of course he keeps screwing up.
Sy calls Nikki to chide her and Ray for screwing up their blackmail plan, but his mocking tone quickly dissolves when Nikki simply flips the situation back on Sy. Instead of the original plan of $100,000 or they’ll show Stella the tape, Nikki now says that they want $200,000 to tell her the truth about what happened. Frazzled by taking yet another loss, Sy arranges a face to face meeting with Nikki, completely unaware that at the same time Varga is using Emmit’s fragile state to start turning him against poor Sy. David Thewlis really shines this week, taking his cold, unfiltered way of doing business to new levels.
Sy’s incompetence is even able to cause Nikki trouble. While trying to shake down Nikki, Sy’s tail of Yuri and Meemo finally crash one of his secret meetings. Nikki’s sharp tongue and Sy’s inability to push back against the goons lead to Nikki getting brutally beat down. The action takes place offscreen, yet it’s still one of the more unsettling acts of violence in the series. Being a coward and a cad, Sy leaves Nikki lying in the parking lot, but somehow she’s able to make it into her car and back home.
The other two big pieces of action involve authority figures getting closer to discovering the shady dealings of both the Brothers Stussy. While Nikki is off getting roughed up, Ray is picked up and taken to the station by Gloria and Winnie. This being Fargo, Ray almost stammers and fidgets his way into a confession before Gloria’s difficult new chief dismisses their theories and allows Ray to go free. Meanwhile, Emmit and Varga are surprised at the Stussy Lots office by an IRS agent played by Hamish Linklater, totally against type from his role in Noah Hawley’s other series, Legion. Pressure is coming from all angles, and it makes this the most eventful episode of the season.
With characters and conflicts crossing streams left and right, the uneasy peace on Fargo can’t be kept up for much longer. This thing is a powder keg waiting to blow and there’s no telling who will get caught in the blast. Next week expect Ray to retaliate over what happened to Nikki, while Gloria will likely be searching for “Vanessa,” the owner of the air conditioner that killed Maurice. We’re at the halfway point, and it looks like it’ll be all downhill from here.