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Fargo Season 3, Episode 9 Review: Aporia

Each week you and I meet here in this virtual space to talk about Fargo, to compare notes and (sometimes) even find amusement in my struggles to make funny — we’ve all got our hobbies — but before we get rolling, I want to acknowledge that this might be the smartest episode of television I’ve ever watched. Did I hook you? Well, it’s true. Creator Noah Hawley and writer Robert De Laurentiis have pulled together all the little threads and bits of nothing from this too-short season of Fargo to remind us that they’re pretty good at this TV show-making thing. They still have a few hole cards left to turn over next week, but this next-to-last episode is a master class in character, plot, and mood.

We open on a quiet Minnesota residential street threatening to escape winter, the trees still flocked with snow. A man in a robe runs outside to get his newspaper, returns to his kitchen, and is surprised and killed by a stranger… all because his last name is Stussy. A killing to send a message. Of all the horrors perpetrated across three seasons of Fargo, this might be the most unsettling. Casual and random evil.

At the end of last week’s episode, Emmit (Ewan McGregor) regained his senses and turned himself in, confessing to Ray’s death. A sad, shattered man who finally realized how much he’d lost. He wants to be punished, but he knows that it won’t save him, he’s already sold his soul. Emmit isn’t trying to be the hero, he just wants a piece of his sanity back. That’s not how things work in Fargo.

There’s a famous (if often misused) quote, “the greatest trick the devil every pulled was convincing the world that he doesn’t exist,” written by Charles Baudelaire in 1862, a French poet. Who? That’s kind of the point, we grow up hearing these meaningless phrases and sayings, but do we ever think about who said them or why? This particular quote has turned up in films like The Usual Suspects, which of course described the fictional villainKeyser Soze — an enemy in plain sight who doesn’t really exist. So here we’re obviously talking about V.M. Varga (David Thewlis), right? Maybe not. He’s clearly intended to be a manifestation of the devil, except that the real evil in this world is our willingness to let such men get away with whatever they want. So, it’s left up to the least of us, the overlooked and underappreciated, to be the heroes.

Emmit’s sudden rush to confession unnerves Varga, who’s desperate for Emmit to sign some important papers. Varga plays a card I didn’t see coming. He starts killing people with the last name of Stussy, to intimidate Emmit from sharing too much info with the police. Except, that’s not his actual game. Varga arranges an elaborate frame of a homeless man to cover for Ray and Ennis’ killings, which is evidence aplenty for Chief Dammick (Shea Whigham) to close the case and kick Emmit loose. Gloria is crestfallen, she had all the facts and justice on her side too, but just when she moves to turn Emmit against Varga, it all falls apart.

Enter the wildcards. Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard) return for some payback. This super team-up of brains and brutality flips the tables on Varga, seizing his big rig and making off with hard drives, bank account numbers, and enough evidence to bring Varga down. She extorts him for a cool $2 million, not because it’s a particularly important sum of money, but because it hurts Varga, a man whose pride far outweighs his considerable bank balance. Nikki might actually be smarter than Varga, she and Wrench certainly get the upperhand this week, but we all know how short-lived that can be in this show.

Back to Gloria, the unsung and (as yet) unrealized hero of Season 3. Gloria sees that all of her efforts to uphold the law and ensure justice are pointless. Futile. She’s suddenly as broken and adrift as Emmit. In walks Winnie (Olivia Sandoval), the St. Cloud traffic cop that nobody notices and everybody underestimates; she restores Gloria’s hope and faith with a simple gesture. A hug. Suddenly, the case turns, not on a piece of crucial evidence, but by a simple human connection from the least of us. In a nutshell that’s Fargo, it’s what the show’s been saying all along… I think. Look, I’m kind of making this up as I go, but I think I’m right. I guess we’ll see next week in the season finale. Be there!

Grade: A+

What kinds of fireworks are you expecting out of next week’s Fargo Season 3 finale? Let us know in the comments down below!

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