Nothing says “Midwestern crime” quite like the image of a streak of blood in pooling spilled milk. Both the milk and the blood belong to Marvin Stussy, the third victim of the crazed Stussy Killer making his way across Minnesota. All Stussys be warned. You could be next.
Actually, there is no Stussy killer. The surname-obsessed serial killer is the latest fiction created by whoever V.M. Varga really is in order to throw the authorities off his trail. You see, Emmit Stussy didn’t kill his brother, even though he confessed to the whole affair to Gloria. And not just the accidental assault involving stamps. He confessed to the emotional assault involving stamps. Ray was right. When their dad died, the older Stussy brother took advantage of the younger, who was pudgy and struggled with girls. Of course the Corvette was the more valuable inheritance, Emmit convinced him.
“Thirty years, I’ve been killing him,” Emmit tells Deputy Gloria Burgle. “That was just when he fell.”
The Stussy brothers represent one of the great missed opportunities of Fargo season 3. This story offered the show the opportunity to dig in and examine a broken relationship between brothers — how similar they can be, literalized by the dual role, contrasted with how poisonous the relationship became. The raw materials were always there for a compelling take on that dynamic, but something kept it from connecting. Was it the constraints of having the actor play both roles, which may have pushed the creators to limit the time Ray and Emmit occupy the same space? Was it Ewan McGregor’s miscasting? Or the makeup effects? (Ray never looked believable, and McGregor’s Emmit contact lenses made him look like a dead-eyed shark.)
How disappointing that the most potent emotional moment between the two characters had to come out in a monologue, after one of them has already died, rather than a more dynamic scene!
When the dust settles on season 3 and we all have some more time to process the story both as a whole and as a continuation of the anthology, I strongly suspect that the Ray-Emmit connection will be signaled out as the year’s greatest flaw, with the most interesting aspects of the story (Nikki and Varga) branching out from that weak core.
And then there’s Gloria, the most Fargo-ish element of the season and, ironically, the character who seems most out of place within the narrative. This week’s story may have provided an explanation for why that might be. And while thematic clarity is great, not being boring is better.
After the Stussy Killer strikes again, some obvious evidence leads the new chief directly to a guy vaguely matching Meemo, who’s obviously some desperate dude willing to take the rap for some cash. So Emmit is free to go, and Gloria has lost a sense of purpose. “You think the world is something,” Gloria says. “And then it turns out to be something else.” The Coens’ character I think Gloria shares the most in common with is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell from No Country for Old Men. He, too, was an old timer who suddenly found himself in a world that he didn’t understand. Gloria refuses to use computers out of some sense of “good ol’ days” purity, and she’s trying to catch a man whose power stems directly from his ability to manipulate the fiber optic cables that prop our world up today. To someone like that, Gloria doesn’t exist. (And a Google search of her name will lead to the same conclusion.) She was cast aside by her husband, and she fears that her son will do the same thing. Does she even exist without the job she no longer understands and a disintegrating family?
The truth comes out in the season’s most emotionally beautiful moment, which unsurprisingly involves Winnie Lopez. The only thing that tethers us to this big blue ball spinning a thousand miles an hour is the people who hold on to us. And that connection often goes unnoticed. When you look to institutions for that affirmation, you’ll eventually be disappointment because institutions — like jobs and romantic relationships — change. But the friend who believes in you and the kid who will bring burgers remind you that you are real.
Elsewhere in the world of Fargo, two characters are relishing in their newfound purpose. Nikki and Wrench have become avenging angels, and their heavenly crosshairs are focused squarely on Varga and his operation. They start by pulling off a really dope hijacking using only a grenade-shaped paper weight, before pulling the bank records out of the back of the semi. The sequence continued the energy and spirit from last week’s stellar Nikki and Wrench story line, and gives me a lot of hope for the finale.
Finally, Nikki is back to putting those bridge kills to work. The master strategist we’ve been told about is finally proving it, and she’s got a deaf dude in a fringe jacket helping her. This is the Fargo I’ve been waiting for for pretty much the whole season, but it does feel like too little, too late. Will next week’s finale have a shocking, tax-related revelation courtesy of Hamish Linklater’s IRA official? Probably! But here’s to hoping that the show can double down on some crazy before this book closes, possibly for good.