This Fargo review contains spoilers.
Fargo Season 3 Episode 9
Tonight’s episode of Fargo was a masterclass in false tension. Well, I suppose the tension wasn’t false if it was felt, it’s just that the tense moments never exploded into something climactic. True confessions didn’t lead to imprisonment, paper weights were mistaken for grenades, and standoffs ended with to be continued. It’s like someone reminded the writers last minute that there was one more episode to fill. I don’t mean to sound disappointed by all of this, because this episode was commendably clever and full of deep, interesting character moments even if the hour didn’t end with a bang.
The episode opens with Meemo carrying out the murder of a Marvin Stussy. It’s a simple plan; if more men named Stussy are dying, perhaps Emmit isn’t guilty of his brother’s murder, even if he confessed. Marvin is stabbed to death with a piece of glass to the neck, and later another Stussy is killed by having his nose and mouth glued shut, just like Ennis Stussy. Not afraid to spill blood to cover their tracks, it’s likely that Varga and his men will rack up a bigger body count by the end of next week’s hour.
Meanwhile, Emmit sits with Gloria in holding confessing to the accidental murder he committed. However, it’s more than just a confession. Emmit lays his soul bare, going back to their original feud, recounting how he conned his brother into taking a car over a priceless stamp collection, damning him to a life of convicts pissing on his shoes. “30 years I’ve been killing him,” Emmit says plainly, no longer able to lie to himself and his brother’s ghost that what he did all of those years ago was fair. It’s another impeccably acted scene by Ewan McGregor, who I’m sure has done enough this season to warrant an Emmy nomination. Gloria ends up leaving there meeting relieved, excited that she may be close to putting the whole case to bed.
Then Winnie calls with news of the new Stussy murders, and soon after that Sherriff Dammik comes into the precinct beaming. He breaks it to Gloria that the real killer, responsible for all four Stussy murders, is in the back of his car. It turns out that Varga hired a man to conspicuously flee the scene of the last copycat kill, planted evidence for all of the murders in his vehicle, and saddled him with a sob story motive about why he selected men named Stussy. Once again, Dammik isn’t willing to hear Gloria’s protestation, unable to recognize that everything had been hand delivered too cleanly. Gloria is forced to release Emmit, and when she explains to him why, both parties sit flabbergasted wondering how Varga defeated their plans again.
At her lowest point, Gloria goes to have a drink with Winnie and really unwinds. She explains her theory about how, due to malfunctioning electronics, she sometimes believes that she doesn’t actually exist. It’s a sad theory to hear someone say out loud, and Winnie responds properly by lovingly embracing Gloria. Besides her interactions with her son, Winnie is the first person to treat Gloria warmly. Winnie and Gloria’s partnership and subsequent friendship has been one of the highlights of the season, and since I’m such a pessimist, I hope that the writers didn’t make us fall for Winnie only to off her for max dramatic effect in the finale. Anyway, Gloria heads to the bathroom and for the first time in ages, the darn sink and soap dispenser recognize her hand. It’s a small triumph, but she needed one.
The only person doing any sort of triumphing is Nikki. Dead-set on bringing Varga down, with the memory of Ray motivating her revenge, Nikki uses the aforementioned fake grenade and the help of Mr. Wrench to steal Varga’s rig and make off with sensitive information regarding his financial holdings and the illegal situation with Stussy Lots. Nikki sets up a meeting with Varga in a public place, and the two match wits and fire power, with Nikki proving that maybe her strategic strengths in bridge translate to staying one step ahead of an oily swindler. With so much energy on display and a sniper in play, it’s a shame that their magnetic meeting ends with a “see you tomorrow” and not something bigger. That being said, it is interesting that the episode’s cliffhanger centers on Larue Dollard from the IRS receiving an envelope full of Stussy Lots evidence presumably sent by Nikki. Even if Varga is able to out fox Fargo’s foxiest character, it looks like the hammer is coming down on his operation one way or another.
So maybe the episode ended with a transfer of files instead of a shootout. That’s fine; the time spent listening to Emmit and Gloria talk about their feelings and watching Nikki and Varga play Chicken is golden without any chaotic violence. It’s something of a quiet penultimate episode, but one of the more thoughtful episodes of the season. If next week’s finale brings the heart like this and amps up the action a bit, there’ll be nothing to complain about.