What is true in the world of Fargo? Pay close attention to the way the words disappear in the opening of each episode: “This is a True Story” gives way to “This is a Story” to just “Story.” This episode opens with a trio of stories from the nefarious V.M. Varga (David Thewlis), told to the perpetually terrified Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg). It ends with the crafting of a new yarn, one that will be used to keep Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) out of jail for murdering his brother, Ray. Fargo is a show of intertwining tales, some true, most false, all fascinating.
First, it’s story time with V.M. Varga, constructed in a way that mimics the opening words of each episode. He starts with a true story about the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. He moves on to a fantastic anecdote about World War I, which began because Gavrilo Princip happened to stop off for a sandwich just as the Archduke, whom he had recently failed to assassinate, pulled up outside, giving him another opportunity. That is a damn good story. (Also, it’s probably untrue.) Finally, the whopper, the pure “Story” that the moon landing was faked on a soundstage in New Mexico. He then quotes Gotthold Lessing: “Let each man say what he deems truth, and let truth itself be commended unto God.” Truth on Fargo is in the eye of the beholder.
These stories are told in the context of revealing to Sy that Stussy Lot Ltd. is about to expand with $50 million in new loans. Sy encourages a more cautious approach, but V.M. doesn’t do cautious, punctuated with one of his best lines: “The shallow end of the pool is where the turds float.” Emmit is on V.M.’s side now, and V.M. is going to take care of the little IRS situation. Meemo (Andy Yu) handles it in relatively short order, forcing the investigation closed for at least a month. You have to love how Meemo wears the same suit and sets up his table in exactly the same way just to tell the agent to leave. This show loves symmetry.
As Meemo is leaving, we see that Ray and Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) are following. They go to that lot, where we see that V.M. is basically living in that giant truck that Sy once worried held sex slaves. Ray wants to go after them with a gun, but Nikki stops him. She knows it’s too dangerous. How could she know that Ray will be dead soon anyway? She quickly surmises that Emmit is into something deep, essentially figuring out the Varga situation with one surveillance trip. Ray is more emotional, upset that someone beat her up and seeking vengeance.
V.M. is poking at his bloody gums when his eyes widen a bit with panic on the arrival of two police officers: Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) and Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval). They’re here to talk to Emmit about the murder case and the parking-lot fracas. V.M. interrupts, offering to take them to his office, but Emmit protects them from that. Watching Coon and Thewlis finally get to interact is a delayed delight. “I didn’t get your name.” “True.” Gloria talks about the Stussy homicide and basically lays out the Maurice-Ray connection and her theory of the case. V.M. gets it first, and he looks fascinated. Emmit gets it next, but denies there’s any sort of feud. He now knows that his brother hired someone to break into his house and possibly kill him. It’s time to end this family battle.
Remember how the Eden Valley Police department is woefully antiquated when it comes to tech? This could end up helping them because V.M. can’t break in online like he did to poor Irv Blumkin and Emmit Stussy. He has to send Yuri (Goran Bogdan) to the station directly to investigate. We’ll see how that plays out next week, but for now it also serves to preoccupy Yuri, leaving Meemo alone to take care of Nikki.
After Gloria and Winnie coming looking for Ray and Nikki, the Bridge-playing couple flees. They end up at the Ambassador Motor Inn, which bears a striking resemblance to the Sioux Falls Motor Motel from season two, but that’s probably just a coincidence. Most important, Ray forgets the getaway money from the bank, so he has to go back to get it, leaving Nikki alone. We see Meemo waiting in the shadows. Could this be the end of Nikki?
In typical Fargo fashion, the threat to Nikki is a fake-out. It’s Ray who is down to the final minutes of his life. In one of the best scenes in the history of the show, Ray comes home to find Emmit waiting in his apartment. Emmit is done fighting. It’s a great scene of hurt brotherly feelings and open emotional wounds. Emmit is honestly sad while Ray holds on to a well of anger. Emmit calls brotherhood a “certain madness” and notes how no one else in the world dislikes him as much as his flesh and blood. He wants to end it, handing Ray the stamp that started it all. Ray won’t take it. They fight and the stamp, in its frame, smashes into Ray’s head. Glass splinters into Ray’s face, including a rather large shard in his jugular, which he pulls out, spraying blood all over the kitchen. Ray slumps to the floor. Emmit is terrified as he watches his brother bleed out. He picks up the phone and calls the only person who can protect him: V.M. Varga.
Meanwhile, Nikki comes back to her room where Meemo is waiting with a wire to kill her. I’m a little surprised that Meemo would leave the door ajar, but Nikki slowly pushes it open, crafting a hanger into a weapon. She kicks open the bathroom door. Meemo is gone.
He’s at Ray’s apartment with V.M., already beginning the cover-up. V.M. tells Emmit to go to his meeting with Sy and that they’ll frame Nikki for Ray’s death. He had been abusing her and tonight she’d had enough. V.M. Varga is writing yet another story. As Gloria radios for Winnie to meet her at Ray’s apartment, we’re left to wonder if the Eden Valley Police Chief will be the one to prove it isn’t true.
• It feels like just a few days ago that Emmit would have called Sy after the accident with his brother. V.M. got under Emmit’s skin enough to replace Sy as his right-hand man.
• This was the shortest episode of the season at a “normal” 45 minutes. It’s fun to see how much this show can mix it up in terms of length, and this one was tight and clever, although I’m starting to worry that there isn’t enough time left in this season to wrap everything up. There are only four episodes left!
• Several music cues this week, but “John the Revelator” by Son House is the best one as Nikki and Ray get to the motel.
• This show is full of what-ifs. What if Ray and Nikki hadn’t fled? What if Nikki hadn’t stopped Ray from confronting Meemo, Yuri, and V.M.? What if Ray had just accepted the damn stamp? His ego and refusal to end the feud killed him.