A very sad Fargo ends with a cliffhanger and a familiar face after the emotional and physical fallout from the death of Ray Stussy. His brother Emmit can’t quite handle the lies he’s already being forced to tell; Sy Feltz looks like a man for whom this will be the final emotional straw; Nikki Swango sits in a cell, framed for his murder; and Gloria Burgle and Winnie Lopez have to jump through hoops just to get people to listen to them. Patriarchy, idiocy, murder: It’s another solid episode of Fargo.
“The First Noel” plays on a long shot of the Stussy house as we see V.M. Varga , lit only by the white lights of the Stussy Christmas tree, cutting open the family presents. The family is torn apart. There’s no Christmas anymore anyway. He goes through them one at a time — spraying perfume, looking at shoes, playing with BBQ tools — symbolic of the way that Varga’s arrival redefined the Stussy family.
Slow fade (and there are several interesting ones this week) to Gloria and Winnie at the scene of the crime. Flies are already buzzing on poor Ray. Fade to Nikki in the hotel room, watching a nature film, when she hears housekeeping at the door, the maid followed by the cops, who grab Nikki as she tries to get out the window. As Nikki is taken into custody, Emmit goes to dinner with Sy and the widow Goldfarb, eating under a painting of bears that recalls the stuffed one in the Stussy foyer. This show is so full of parallel images that it’s almost overwhelming.
Nikki is at the station, being grilled by the moronic Moe Dammick. He buys the story that Varga barely even had to concoct, noting the bruises on Nikki. He even figures they were in a tit for tat relationship in which Ray held power over Nikki as her parole officer. She confirms or denies nothing, but Moe has a great line that reveals how simply he looks at the world: “Mash a potato, know what you get? Mashed potatoes.”
While Moe is offering witty bon mots, Gloria and Winnie want desperately to speak to Nikki. They lay out the case once more. They’ve got three murders — Ennis, Maurice, and Ray — so logic dictates that they’re probably connected. Jim gets the amazing line, “Only an intellectual could believe something so stupid,” and it’s hard not to be reminded of an election season in which preparing for a debate and having experience were viewed as negatives. Winnie gets pushed back to traffic detail and Gloria is told to leave. She can’t. She tells Winnie to inform Emmit about her brother’s death and tries to find a way into Nikki’s cell.
Meanwhile, the Eden Valley Library and Police Station is about to have a visitor. Deputy Mashman gets a vandalism call and goes to leave, but forgets his gun on the desk. When he returns, he finds Yuri Gurka skulking around the bookshelves. Remember Varga sent him there to investigate in last week’s episode? Before he walks off with the Emmit Stussy file, Yuri has a great bit that plays into this season (and the whole show’s) theme of storytelling, saying, “You think you see me but your eyes are lying.” When he tells the Deputy to pick up his gun and go, he does just that.
Emmit has gotten a little soused at the dinner with the widow Goldfarb, drowning his sorrows in Old Fashioneds. He even reveals that his wife has left him over a faux sex tape, then goes on an interesting rant about how the rich people of the world aren’t the ones destroying it, but all of those with their hands out. It’s the price of being rich, having to face the jackals and the sore losers. Just before Emmit can truly embarrass himself, Winnie shows up. Sy goes to speak to her, wrongly presuming it’s about the fender bender, and then calls over Emmit. Let’s just say the remaining Stussy brother does not handle the situation well. First, he blurts out, “I’ve been here since six” before even hearing about his brother, trying to give himself an alibi for a crime he shouldn’t even know has been committed. Then he throws out a motive for Nikki before even being told that Ray was murdered — only that he was dead. Oops. Emmit really couldn’t be worse at this. As Emmit and Sy leave, Winnie goes to their dinner guest with a few questions.
Sy and Emmit get to the Stussy mansion and Emmit accuses his consigliere of betraying him. Sy quickly deflects, knowing that it’s a ridiculous charge planted by Varga. As Sy asks what would his motive possibly be — “To turn millions into thousands?” — Emmit apologizes, but this partnership is clearly broken, a sense amplified by the somber scenes that follow.
In the first, Emmit comes home to find V.M., who now practically lives with the man. There’s another wonderfully symmetrical shot of V.M. on one set of stairs and Emmit on another, the former with the stuffed bear next to him and the latter beautifully lit by the Christmas tree. As Varga offers the worst kind of comfort — a children’s rhyme — we fade to Sy, getting home and collapsing in his wife’s arms. His lines resonate in a way that feels almost like it could be describing the present day: “The world. The world is wrong. It looks like my world, but everything’s different.”
Back at the St. Cloud station, Gloria is caught in a bureaucratic nightmare, unable to get the right form to talk to Nikki, but the prisoner has a different visitor. The security camera goes off and a mysterious man (played by D.J. Qualls) enters the room wearing a police officer’s uniform. He cuffs Nikki to the cell bars and is about to inject her with a syringe when Gloria bursts in to save her. The attempted murderer flees the scene, and the powers that be learn that the security tape cut out. Maybe they got hacked?
It’s too late. Nikki is being taken off to State Pen. She tells Gloria to “follow the money,” and the two promise to talk about a few things over coconut cream pie, but Nikki isn’t going to make it to her destination. As she sits next to a familiar face, someone walks into the road in front of the prison transport, flipping the bus. Yuri and Meemo emerge from the Minnesota woods, as the former begins to cut open the cage to the back of the bus. Nikki looks like she may have passed out in the accident. She has no idea what’s about to happen.
• Recognize Nikki’s busmate? It was Mr. Wrench, the deaf assassin from the first season of Fargo, played by Russell Harvard.
• What a sad hour of television. The breakdown of Sy was hard to watch, and it was difficult not to flash back to Emmit happy on the steps of his foyer in the season premiere while seeing him broken on them here.
• If you haven’t heard, FX chief John Landgraf suggested that this might be the last season of Fargo. (His exact quote: “There may never be another Fargo. Unless Noah has an idea for Fargo that he thinks he can make as good as the prior three.”) Let’s hope not.
• Will Yuri and Meemo kill Nikki? Will Mr. Wrench get off that bus? What do you hope to see in the final three episode?