We're on the downside of Fargo Season 3, and it's clearly go-time for this story. Unfortunately, the bulk of this episode seemed focused (yet again) on unresolved moves, counter-moves, and table-setting... and then it wasn't. Suddenly, all of the various plotlines converged, in big and small ways, illuminating character tics and procedural oddities, which were frustratingly teased at the periphery of this season. Creator Noah Hawley resets the playing board, and kicks snow in our face while he's at it.
V. M. Varga (David Thewlis), the mastermind behind whatever shadowy, quasi-communist organization he represents, riles at the various threads being tugged at by Chief Gloria (Carrie Coon), Ray (Ewan McGregor), and Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Varga's game is knowledge, which he wields like a scalpel, carving up Emmit (Ewan McGregor), Sy (Michael Stuhlbarg), and the IRS man (Hamish Linklater) to re-assert his tenuous status quo.
Varga, who sleeps in the big-rig trailer parked in Stussy's vacant lot, is a quote machine this week. He drops clever aphorisms and historical nuggets to confuse and disarm his opponents, such as this little gem uttered while convincing Emmit and Sy that their business is about to double, regardless of financial or regulatory risk, "the shallow end of the pool is where the turds float." I'll give him that one. Varga keeps everyone off-balance, manipulating personal weaknesses, which he sees tattooed across their foreheads... all except for Gloria, whose intelligence and tradecraft both vexes and intrigues him.
Gloria's resistance to modern technology, which had seemed such a liability, suddenly becomes her greatest asset. Varga cannot get a bead on someone who doesn't have a presence on Facebook or Google. She's a mystery and a threat to a villain like Varga, who barters in knowledge and information. Perhaps he even sees a bit of himself in the invisible lawman who works out of a library. Varga off-handedly mentions to Emmit, "I'm so rarely seen, maybe I don't even exist," an ethos he projects and respects. Gloria is most certainly an even match for Varga -- a pair of ghosts destined to square-off in the finale.
Varga sets a tone near early in this episode, "perception of reality becomes reality." Varga exudes control, and those around him are controlled. Emmit, Sy, Ray, and Nikki demonstrate weakness, and they are weakened. Gloria, however, is not subject to such easy labels, she's the quiet, slight, and patient soul who should not be underestimated... and apparently she's no longer content to color inside those lines.
The outliers, Ray and Nikki -- ever the wildcards -- engage in a cat-and-mouse surveillance with Varga and his men. Nikki, who barely survived her violent assault at their hands, wants payback big-time. However, she's smart enough to realize what they're up against, and positions Ray (now packing a loaded sidearm) to be her bulldog in-reserve. Together they're a force for chaos, separately, they're vulnerable. When Gloria appears at their door they foolishly rabbit, making a series of mistakes, which any fan of the genre knows can only turn out one of two ways.
We've moved well past the point-of-no-return. The die is now cast for the final four episodes. The only questions remain: who will die, and how much will they suffer before in the process. Good times.
Do you think Fargo is finally revving-up for a big finale? If so, let us know in the comments down below!