Fargo Season 3, Episode 5 Review: The House of Special Purpose

Welp, my wife just rage-quit. You see, things got pretty nasty this week in Fargo, no one is spared their misery — granted, some fared worse than others. At the halfway point we’re no closer to realizing the actual plot of this season, which may actually involve no plot at all. It’s entirely possible that Fargo Season 3 is some kind of social studies test invented by creator Noah Hawley, to see how far he can push his audience and assess what they’re willing to endure in the name of mid-week entertainment. Alas, my wife says, “no más,” so I’m on my own from here on out.

We open on a lovely scene of blackmail via sex tape — its 2010, the height of such idiocy in America. A package left at the Stussy doorstep, marked for Emmit’s “eyes only,” but Mrs. Stussy (Linda Kash) returns home early, opens the package, and plays the tape… but why’d she do that? More on this later.

Let’s refer to this as the garden spot of the episode, the pristine peak of a frozen landfill that we’re all about to get violently shoved down. Ray (Ewan McGregor) and Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), wearing K-Mart quality disguises, film an afternoon interlude, and then send the corresponding DVD over to the Emmit household — pay up or the wife gets the tape. A crackerjack plan if there ever was one.

Back to Mrs. Stussy… wouldn’t a wife know her husband from his brother (particularly when they’re a couple years apart?) I mean, maybe the video quality was crappy, but it strains credulity. Unless, perhaps Emmit (Ewan McGregor) has a history of such behavior? The tearful sequence reinforces the prevailing theme this season: don’t trust your eyes!

As mentioned, things get mighty ugly from here on out. I hesitate to share too much, largely because I don’t want to linger over what transpires. Varga (David Thewlis) is dismayed by last week’s police appearance in the Stussy offices, and he interrogates Sy (Michael Stuhlbarg) to get at the facts. Let’s just say, you’ll never see a “World’s Best Dad” mug quite the same way again.

Meanwhile, Ray suddenly proposes to Nikki in the midst of their film session; Nikki, in high heels, skimpy undies, and a “hooker wig,” is overjoyed. Bizarre as it sounds, they’re a believable and sweet couple, this pair of broken toys — well, you know what that means, prepare for tragedy… it’s the first law of Fargo.
The downward spiraling of events this week increases in pace and intensity. Gloria has her facts, and she’s tightening the vise. Varga squeezes Sy, and decides he’s a problem that needs to go away. Oh, and here’s the IRS dropping by to say hello! More windup, not enough punch (yet).

The real focus this week is on Emmit, a good man who’s a bit deluded; and now he’s pushed into a corner, his entire life is teetering. During a prolonged moment of weakness Emmit tells Sy to fix everything, do whatever it takes. So, they’re finally going on the offensive against Ray and presumably Varga, a man they don’t understand and are surely ill-equipped to handle — but hey, at least they’re giving it a shot, right? Down the slope we go, picking up speed, no bottom in sight.

There’s a general lack of logic to everyone’s actions in this episode. That’s clearly intentional. Hawley is suppressing facts and and withholding truths, but now that we’re at the halfway point of the season it’s getting kind of annoying. Lots of stuff is happening, I’m just not sure any of it means very much.

Grade: B-

Are you sticking with Fargo Season 3 or was this week the breaking point for you? If so, let us know in the comments down below!

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David Kozlowski

David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.

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