I gotta be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to the Fargo Season 3 finale. There were a lot of balls up in the air and no clear way to tie off all the dangling plot threads. Last season’s finale, with the crazy motel shootout and the sudden spaceship appearance, kind of left a bad taste in my mouth — don’t give me space aliens in my neo-noir, crime drama and then fail to explain it. Unfortunately, as events in this finale play out, prepare to be somewhat disappointed… but in a good way, I guess.
Gloria (Carrie Coon) writes a resignation letter in the cold opening, she’s cleaned out her desk and headed for the door when the phone rings. IRS guy, Larue Dollard (Hamish Linklater), has built an epic case of fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion — some of it actually illegal. Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) sent the care package to Dollard to take down Emmit. He’s papered his conference room walls with the documents, it looks like a big deal but it’s really not — we later learn this is all just a false show of bravado, another red herring in a season of red herrings, and it makes the case (again) that we can’t trust our eyes.
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However, with that single phone call everything changes. Gloria’s back… in an IRS team-up! What? Not the sexy, dramatic moment you were hoping for? OK, then how about Nikki and Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard) sawing-off shotguns and prepping for a heavy assault inside a dimly lit motel room. That’s more like it, amirite?
Varga (David Thewlis) has sequestered Emmit (Ewan McGregor) in his house, playing out this minor subplot’s endgame. He’s surrounded himself with a platoon of patrolling gunmen, fearful of the Swango and Wrench alliance — rightly so. Emmit is tired, he just wants it all to be over, and though he makes a desperate play to kill Varga, he predictably fizzles. Emmit’s story (and by extension, Ray’s story too) is the least interesting of the season; things just happen to Emmit and he does little to stop them. It’s not that Emmit is an unsympathetic character, rather it’s that he’s barely present at all, an ultimately inconsequential plot device. Fargo Season 3 has been all about Varga, Nikki, and Gloria.
Nikki lures Varga and his fireteam to an abandoned storage facility. They head for a third floor rendezvous, which is shot like a horror movie. A grim corridor of death awaits as they exit the elevator — It’s a trap (sorry, my inner Star Wars nerd got loose for a moment)!!! Shockingly, we don’t witness the bloody ambush — creator Noah Hawley is showing restraint? Naturally, Varga makes a hasty exit, sacrificing his own men to save himself. Nikki and Wrench subsequently settle their accounts, and Wrench reluctantly walks away with a pile of cash — he’s proven to be the most loyal and honest broker in this warped season, next to Gloria of course.
And then there’s Ruby Goldfarb (Mary McDonnell). I keptwondering what an actress of her stature was doing in such a tiny cameo role? It didn’t add up. And now we know why: she was the big boss all along; the least among us rises again. Goldfarb takes over Stussy Enterprises and shows Emmit the door in an epic power play!
Alas, Nikki’s story ends in tragedy and disgrace. She tracks down Emmit on a lonely stretch of Minnesota highway and levels a shotgun on him… until a state trooper rolls up and things go South. I can’t say it makes much sense, Nikki is a smart character, a survivor — it betrays her intelligence to go out in such a stupid fashion. But she’s happier now, I guess, reunited with Ray (if you believe in that kind of thing).
But wait, there’s more! Another time jump, and it’s five years later. Emmit has reconciled with his family; Sy is… alive; Varga’s still in the wind; and the big IRS case resulted in a limp misdemeanor and probation (Emmit’s illicit earnings allegedly stashed overseas), until Mr. Wrench proves his loyalty one last time and finally settles Nikki’s score with Emmit.
On a more positive note, Gloria has moved on, she’s a special agent in the Department of Homeland Security. Varga turns up in a DHS holding cell, and so we finally get our Gloria vs. Varga faceoff (referring to himself now as Daniel Rand, a software salesman out of Brussels — Hawley is a Marvel fan too, apparently). We’ve come full-circle, the ending scene is reminiscent of the season’s cold opening in East Germany. The dialog here is sharp and there’s a fun back-and-forth tension to the scene, but it doesn’t tell us very much. Varga tries to convince Gloria that he is about to go free and she contends that he’s headed for federal lockup… we wait for the door behind Gloria to open. Will Varga, Rand, the Devil, or whoever he truly is walk away free or in handcuffs? The clocks ticks down and the lights go dark, roll credits. Hunh?
It’s a convoluted, kind of unsatisfying ending… but I gotta give Hawley credit, he avoided the formula. I’m glad the season ended on character rather than spectacle. Season 3 really didn’t connect with Seasons 1 and 2, and that’s OK. There’s no good way to end any complicated story, particularly one this quirky and oddball. What’s actually so surprising about this finale is that it’s all about the ladies. Noah Hawley is a progressive! It’s not the slam bang ending we were expecting, but dammit, it’s the ending we deserved! We wish you well in your future endeavors agent Burgle, it’s well-earned.
Was this the ending to Fargo Season 3 that you expected? Let us know in the comments down below!