Season Three of Fargo has been the Cold War to the second installment’s World War, and the penultimate episode follows suit by building a climax out of an anticlimax. This year, eight episodes worth of buildup doesn’t amount to a massacre or a standoff or even a real shootout. Instead, what we get are small victories nestled in larger disappointments, and more importantly, characters coming to terms with who they are.
“Aporia” begins with yet another murder, though this one has even less to do with the main action than the unnecessary execution of Ennis Stussy that put to whole plot in motion. The victim, perhaps unsurprisingly, is another Stussy, killed by Meemo (Andy Yu) to make Emmit’s (Ewan McGregor) confession to Gloria (Carrie Coon) appear less plausible. Of course, given Chief Dammick’s (Shea Wigham) unwillingness to believe anything that isn’t completely straightforward (and the fact that Varga’s (David Thewlis) henchmen don’t just leave it at one dead name-alike), it works.
But that doesn’t mean the confession was useless.
Although Emmit is ultimately allowed to go free (for a laughable measure of “free” anyway), his admission of guilt allows the audience to hear all that he’s been bottling up about his brother through their troubles, in addition to providing him with some much needed emotional catharsis that will keep his conscience steady in the finale and hopefully fuel his ability to bring the hammer down on Varga.
Interestingly, the sibling rivalry that spurred the conflict in the first half of the season is given a new dimension here. Although the consensus was always that Ray was the more likable brother, given his underdog status and more down-to-earth persona, the audience was always meant to believe that Emmit was in the right; his refusal to lend his brother more money was nothing compared to Ray’s complete dismantling of Emmit’s life.
But now we know that Emmit wasn’t entirely innocent either. His trade of the corvette for the stamp collection turns out to have been something of a manipulation all along, and he harbors a lot of guilt about his rise to wealth having been more or less unearned. He even claims that all of Ray’s misfortunes were his own fault.
Meanwhile, Gloria, fresh off a devastating loss of agency at the hands of the Chief, has her hope and sense of self-worth renewed by the kind, inspirational words (and warm hug) of Winnie (Olivia Sandoval). The two commiserate over drinks and the former chief of police of Eden Valley finally voices her yet-unexplored concerns about the lack of visibility that’s been plaguing her. All season long she’s tried to make an impact on the world, in ways big and small, and all season long she’s failed.
But as with most problems, talking is the first step, and once Gloria spills her guts she’s finally able to make use of modern technology. While this could be a statement about how the laconic nature of the typical Fargo protagonist is more a hindrance than an admirable quality in today’s world, and letting go of such archetypal traits allows these individuals to become more “real,” I think the more important takeaway is that our hero has finally made some progress.
But of course, the most progress made between episodes belongs to Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who’s made an ally of Wrench (Russell Harvard) and is already schooling Varga with fake grenades and blackmail. She’s become the new Mr. Numbers, in a sense, and her bridge skills are providing a bedrock for a new sense of confidence, bolstered by near-death experiences and encounters with otherworldly figures, that should prove a formidable asset in the final showdown.
After all, even the coldest wars have to heat up by the end.
- Sy is still in a coma, meaning we weren’t graced with his nervous prattling this week. He also didn’t appear on screen, meaning we weren’t even graced with his luscious new beard.
- Varga stress-eating was absolutely perfect.
- And as expected, there is no one higher up at Narwhal…or even a Narwhal, really. It’s all just been Varga.