“The problem is not that there is evil in the world, the problem is that there is good, because otherwise who would care?” — V.M. Varga
Multiple themes tie together the four stories of Fargo — the original film and the three FX seasons — but this quote is at the heart of all of them. Each iteration has its own embodiment of undeniable good — Marge Gunderson, Molly Solverson, Lou Solverson, and Gloria Burgle — and all four characters are forced to deal with an outside form of evil, whether it’s the bumbling hit men of the film or killers from somewhere other than the Upper Midwest in every iteration of the FX series. As the third season of Fargo approaches its end in a tense penultimate episode, we see this theme rise again: Evil is at the gates and good people are willing to stand up to it.
If Gloria represents pure good and V.M. pure evil, Emmit Stussy and Nikki Swango are the ones caught in the middle. This week, that trap widens to include anyone in Minnesota named Stussy. “Aporia” opens with two murders designed to mimic the deaths of men named Stussy in past episodes. A man named Marvin Stussy has his throat cut just like Ray and poor George Stussy ends up with his mouth and nose glued shut, à la Ennis Stussy in the season premiere. The idea that there’s a serial killer who only ices people named Stussy should sound like unfathomable pinheadery, but Varga and his team go a step further in their plan, actually finding a patsy who confesses to all four murders. The Mad Stussy Killer will go away for life. Case closed.
There’s only one problem with this plan: Emmit Stussy is currently confessing to Gloria Burgle. In a fantastic scene between Ewan McGregor and Carrie Coon, the more successful brother lays out what happened, going all the way back to the day he convinced Ray to take the Corvette instead of the Sisyphus stamp. The scene is one of the show’s best, playing with mirror images in the interrogation room and the theme of storytelling that has become even more prominent this season. As Emmit says, “A lie is not a lie if you believe it’s true.” And the cops are about to believe the lie that a madman killed Emmit’s brother.
Meanwhile, Nikki is about to start her masterful plan for vengeance. It begins with a fake grenade, which she tosses through the window of the truck that Varga & Co. use as an office and/or house. Her partner, Mr. Wrench, opens fire on the car following the truck, and then jumps in with Nikki. The two speed off, pulling over long enough to break into the cage in back and take just enough material to blackmail Varga. He soon gets a call from the Bridge Queen, who tells him, “Hope you got your checkbook handy.” V.M. Varga may have considered all the standard business problems with his leveraged takeover of Stussy Lots, but he never planned on Nikki Swango.
It’s not long before Varga is sitting across from Nikki in a hotel lobby, the same establishment where Nikki and Ray were third runner-up for the Wildcat Regional Bridge Tournament. He rather hysterically tries to give Nikki some of the same tea that put Sy Feltz in a coma, and then tries to offer a job instead. When a man like Varga meets a formidable enemy, he either kills them or convinces them to join his team, right? At the same time, Meemo is in a room above the lobby with a rifle pointed at Nikki — and either Varga planted men in similar trench coats around the lobby or he’s really got Minnesotan fashion circa 2011 down to a science. He didn’t plan on one element, though: Mr. Wrench, who gets a jump on Meemo and then signals to Nikki that she’s clear of the scope. She isn’t buying anything that Varga is selling, telling him, “I want to hurt you, not be your pet. I want to look you in the face and rip out something you love.”
Another great scene between Gloria and Emmit follows, as the best cop in Eden Valley realizes she’ll have to let a murderer go, and possibly to people who will now silence him forever. Gloria has a line that clearly echoes some of the political unrest of 2017, as she says, “You think the world is something and then it turns out to be something else,” and then she tells Emmit to go. He’s stunned. Gloria’s last hope is that he’ll give up Varga, but he just can’t do it. He walks out to a creepily smirking Meemo, waiting to drive him who knows where, and Varga in the back seat. Emmit walks from one prison to another.
After that, we get a beauty of a scene between Gloria and Winnie drowning their sorrows in Moscow Mules. They’re drinking away their misery as Gloria laments that the good guys lost, but Winnie counters with hope. As Gloria brings up The Planet Wyh, and its android who constantly offered help but was never allowed to give it, she also mentions how she feels invisible, even literally to automatic doors and sink sensors. Perhaps that’s why this season of Fargo has felt so much more somber than the others — because its version of good isn’t just ignored and dismissed, but totally invisible. And then we get a glimpse of hope: first, in a heartfelt hug from Winnie that says more than a speech could, and then a bathroom scene in which the equipment finally sees Gloria Burgle. She laughs and smiles in a way that only Carrie Coon can pull off. It says it all: She’s still here and she’s still fighting.
How might that final chapter play out? Well, it starts with an envelope for IRS agent Larue Dollard that’s full of accounting documents and a flash drive. Maybe good can still win this fight.
• Do you think the Stussy murders happened because Emmit was at the police station, or was that merely a timing coincidence for a plan already in motion? If it’s the former, Emmit’s confession technically got two more people killed.
• The definition of the episode title, “Aporia,” feels so perfect for this show: “an irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction in a text, argument, or theory.”
• Who do you think will make it out of the finale alive? Who will “win” the battle between Nikki and V.M.? And what will happen to poor Emmit Stussy, who could have prevented this madness if he had just taken the Corvette from his father decades ago?
• Do you expect any more ties between this season and the others, or do you think Mr. Wrench will be the only one?