– by David Kozlowski

In traditional Hollywood Westerns or TV crime dramas, the sheriff, the marshal, or the local police are depicted as the unassailable line between good and evil, a safe zone if you will. Regardless of the type or scale of danger, you could always feel secure standing behind a lawman… although maybe not directly behind them, because bullets will inevitably fly. Not so on Fargo; creator Noah Hawley seems to hold the police (as an institution) in contempt — he portrays the law as consistently corrupt, weak, or incompetent to varying degrees.

Interestingly, each season of Fargo also focuses upon a lone, incorruptible officer who won’t back off, who faces down fear, and who (maybe) restores sanity to otherwise insane circumstances. Gloria (Carrie Coon) is willing to throw her career in the can — on Christmas Eve, no less — to see her case through. She conspires with perhaps the only other honest cop, traffic officer Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval), to shake all the trees in Emmit (Ewan McGregor) and Nikki’s (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) orbits to get at the truth.

RELATED – Fargo Season 3, Episode 6 Review: The Law of No Mercy

Hawley’s takedown of both the Eden Valley and St. Cloud police departments this week checks all of these boxes. Ray (Ewan McGregor) is dead and Nikki is apprehended and held in the St. Cloud lockup, the obvious suspect in everyone’s (except Gloria’s) eyes. Sheriff Dammick (Shea Whigham) and Chief Muderlack (David Sparrow) essentially obstruct justice by continually refusing to recognize a larger conspiracy, despite Gloria’s rundown of the facts.

Even when one of Varga’s (David Thewlis) goons sneaks into Nikki’s cell and attempts to kill her — an attempt that Gloria disrupts — these knucklehead bosses remain unconvinced. Somehow the would-be killer not only evades a building full of St. Cloud cops in his flight, but he also interrupts the CCTV coverage in the process. Varga’s thugs are not only bold and violent, they’re also highly-skilled operatives.

It’s hard to reconcile the idiocy of these small-town police departments (I’m sure the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is mighty unhappy with this season of Fargo, thus far). I don’t pretend to understand Dammick and Muderlack’s resistance to investigate a case that far exceeds coincidence and bad luck. Hawley even extends his disdain of law enforcement to the penal system too, as Varga’s crew intercepts a bus full of felons en route to the state penitentiary. Nikki is handcuffed in the rear of the bus and is knocked senseless in the ensuing assault, but we’ll have to wait until next week to learn her fate.

Meanwhile, Emmit is cracking under the pressure. He names Sy a potential conspirator and seems to be walling himself off from the world. Emmit is deep under Varga’s spell, his chances to survive the next three episodes is getting thinner by the moment. Interestingly, Varga spends the entire episode hiding out in Emmit’s house, opening his Christmas presents, and tightening his grip. Sy, however, despite the repeated weaknesses he’s demonstrated over the last few weeks, is girding for action, he’s finally hit his own rock bottom, and he may yet prove an ally to Gloria in the final equation.

We’ve gone from vise to noose, in terms of severity of circumstances. Sy and Gloria are isolated, but not yet cornered. Emmit and Nikki appear lost. Three more episodes left, probably a few more surprises,  and almost certainly a whole lotta pain. Merry Christmas every one!

Grade: A-

Who do you think survives these final episodes of Fargo Season 3? Let us know in the comments down below!

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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.