This review contains spoilers.
3.7 The Law Of Inevitability
Ray Stussy was a pitiable figure in life. Somehow, he’s even more so in death. Not only has he been posthumously accused of being a domestic abuser, but the two people to whom he (could have) felt closest, his brother and his fiance, spent the aftermath of his death in a state of stunned submission. Stunned, not because of grief but because of the constraints that his death has placed on them.
For Nikki, the constraint is literal. Repeated shots of her handcuffs and the bars of her cell and prison transport underline her physical restrictions, while her dulled, numb expression reveals her psychological trap. The quick-thinking trickster has all but gone, she is little more than a hollow shell. It’s a temporary situation but one that nevertheless carries the weight of her trauma. It’s important to recall that Nikki was the architect of Maurice’s ‘accident’ and that, far from an innocent, she is someone that has wandered, largely under her own steam, far out of her depth.
She still deserves sympathy. Not least because ‘wandering out of your depth’ is so widespread a trait in Fargo that to emotionally divest from characters that do so would mean robbing yourself of almost anyone to root for. Nikki, like Ray, like Emmit, like Sy, never asked for any of this and yet her she is, helpless at the centre of a slowly closing trap. The two attempts at killing her, both the abortive one in the police station and the dramatic one that ended the episode, advance the point that she is not simply the victim of a collision of circumstances, but the active target of some very dangerous and (largely) capable men.
The sense that the trap is closing was just as prominent in Emmit’s storyline. His jerky, nervous paranoia, evident in his absent-minded manner at dinner and his angry accusations at Sy, are the signature behaviours of a man whose problems are increasing at the same rate as the opportunities for escape diminish. He is now entirely Varga’s man, a puppet who must simply await instructions (or death, or worse) and who treats the possibility of off-loading his problems to Ruby Goldfarb with all the bitter disdain of a man who is so convinced that he’s going to hell that there’s no point even arguing the toss. Here too, is a victim of his own making.
Gloria makes an interesting direct counter-narrative to both Nikki and Emmit. Despite the best efforts of Sheriff Dammik, who attempts at constraining her include pulling rank, forcing her to abandon the case to another jurisdiction and simply steamrolling her with his pathetically simplistic ‘mashed potato’ theory, Gloria remains doggedly on the case, spitting out a supernaturally accurate summary of the case as she sees it. This rapid-fire, expanding precis is becoming something of a party trick for her. Not that it helps her much. She’s still left to skulk about, trying to gain access to Nikki through charm and manipulation of the St Cloud Police bureaucracy. She is, despite it all, getting ever closer to blowing it all wide open and remains the only lead character with any kind of hope of leaving this season with any sense of freedom.
Or perhaps not the only one. Varga remained a marginal figure this week, at least on screen. This is doubtless a tactical move, keeping his head down while his henchmen go to work and act as his proxies. Yuri certainly seemed to be channelling his boss, with his veiled, crypto-philosophical threats and air of menace. It’s an imperfect impersonation. Yuri lacks the loquaciousness and is more of a doer than Varga, a man of action whether in obtaining police files or carrying out an audacious attack on a prison bus. It demonstrates how effective Varga’s little unit actually is; the smart accomplished trio that also includes the quieter, observant Meemo, seen here continuing his stakeout of Nikki’s motel. Although not everything has gone to plan, they haven’t made a major error yet. As Nikki and Emmit fall by the wayside, it increasing looks like a showdown between the Varga crew and Gloria is imminent. They’re the only ones with any freedom to move.
Read Michael’s review of the previous episode, The Lord Of No Mercy, here.