One of the most consistent questions in regards to the narrative of Fargo Season 3 is a familiar one: who’s going to get their revenge? Would Ray finally show-up his wealthy, condescending, and quietly scheming older brother? Will Gloria be able to find justice for the ugly way her stepfather was murdered? And, in the last two episodes specifically, can Nikki and Wrench find a way to bring down Emmit, Varga, and their whole corrupt operation after all? It’s a naturally engaging subject — everyone has a slight against them that they’d like to settle — and the way Fargo creator Noah Hawley has set up his world, everyone seems to get a taste of vengeance in the end, whether right or wrong.
As such, “Somebody to Love,” the final episode of the third season, played out like a settling of accounts from all ends, with one or two fake-outs thrown in to lend the episode a few small surprises. There may have been a moment there where you thought that Emmit was finally just going to shoot Varga in the head with Meemo’s gun and let what happens next happen, but that’s not who Emmit is in his heart. He is easily manipulated and distracted, and also happens to have a backbone made of gummy worms. When Varga uses his most powerful weapon — his vocabulary and storytelling prowess — to make his little pawn doubt his power in the situation, Emmit folds almost immediately. Indeed, one of Varga’s greatest coups is that he has made this successful, well-connected business and family man into a whimpering criminal, a person who is most notable for the sheer size of his financial debt.
That Hawley is so open about criticizing late capitalism is one of the most memorable enjoyments of Fargo‘s third season, but it’s important to note that most of the show’s analysis remains surface level. There’s never much of any talk about the tough decisions and mistakes that led Ray and Emmit to have such different lives and by extension, Hawley seems to suggest that it is, indeed, all about what you’re given by your parents, fiscally and otherwise. In other words, Fargo Season 3, for all its symbolic power, witty dialogue, and thoughtful, evocative performances, has been boiled down to the stuff of parable, for better or worse.
This is the same worry that Varga seemed to have when he initially brought up the feud between Emmit and Ray to his anxious pawn, likening them to the fraternal battles of the Bible and other texts. Is the central feud of the late Stussy brothers just another story of two brothers who can’t coincide or is it something more personal and harder to square? The question relates to the season on the whole as well, as one of its primary considerations is whether the forces of corruption, greed, and political control will be stopped by someone (or something) new, or if its all over but the crying and dying.
Hawley, for his part, seems to think that everything balances out ultimately, that there is an overriding karma to the world, or at least his world. After Meemo and Varga survive Emmit’s attempted assassination of them, only Varga escapes the tense, bloody ambush in the storage building where Nikki and Wrench setup the handoff with Varga. Some 15 minutes later or so, Nikki is shot in the head by a state trooper while trying to execute Emmit in a way that would please Ray Wise‘s godlike wanderer. Five or ten minutes after that, Emmit is shot in the back of head by Wrench during a big family dinner with a mildly rehabilitated Sy, three years after Gloria and Winnie had to zip up Nikki in a body bag. Five minutes later, it’s intimated that Varga will walk away from all of his crimes, despite the work done by Gloria, Winnie, and Hamish Linklater‘s IRS agent. The cycle continues on.
No one ever has the upper hand for long in Hawley’s world, which may very well be true of life as well, but the tidiness in which he presents this philosophy neutralizes the more strange and genuinely moving parts of his narrative. In fact, with the exceptions of Gloria and Winnie, this rigid type of storytelling makes the trajectory of the season a bit predictable and programmatic. The entire season now feels like a carefully choreographed dance around the subjects of modern morality, justice, and storytelling, but the thoughts expressed on these matters are at once a bit broad and repetitive. Even when his characters seem to be acting impulsively, guided by desire and passion rather than reason, it’s rarely felt as if the characters are out of their depth or overwhelmed by the swell of feelings from within. Even when Varga and Meemo are ambushed, the binaca-spraying baddie only seems to frown in disappointment without any sense that he was surprised by Nikki and her new friend.
All of this could be felt most potently in the final scene in a Homeland Security interrogation room, where Gloria now works after finally leaving the police force. If I were a cynic, I would say the scene amounts to little more than exchanges of “nuh-uh” and “yeah-huh” over the possibility of Varga getting away with his nefarious shit again. It’s Carrie Coon and David Thewlis who once again elevate the words and the tension with small nuances of character, such as the way Gloria pauses and lets her eyes stray for a moment before refuting that a powerful man is coming to free this devil. It’s a tiny inference of the world within Gloria, the one that we got to see shades of in the penultimate episode of the season, and that’s where Hawley often finds his most rewarding and insightful scenes. By letting his thematic ideas and familiar perspective take precedence in almost every episode, Hawley has made Fargo‘s third season more about the violent greed and volatile shame that rules America and its legal system rather than its victims, its accomplices, and the small amount of lucky souls who make it out alive … at least, for a time.
Episode Rating: ★★★
Season Rating: ★★★★