The finale of the Fargo’s third season is so unpredictable, so confoundingly inexplicable, that as I’m writing this review I’m really having trouble parsing it. If I had to rate it I’m not sure I would be able to, but thankfully all I really have to do is come up with a kind of easily digestible critical interpretation that tries to make sense of an hour that repeatedly reinforces the idea that life is inherently meaningless.
So here goes…
We open with Emmitt (Ewan McGregor) and Gloria (Carrie Coon) signing papers, both preparing to seal their fates and vacate long-held positions. Emmitt attempts to threaten Varga (David Thewlis) into letting him go and fails spectacularly, while Gloria gets a call from Chekhov’s IRS agent that makes her stay her retirement from the force. Then all hell breaks loose.
Varga and his men are ambushed by Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Wrench (Russell Harvard). The henchmen (including Meemo) are all killed, but the boss manages to escape through an elevator shaft. Nikki leaves to find Emmitt and deliver her own brand of justice, while Gloria is informed of the slaughter. Finally, Emmitt realizes that the Widow Goldfarb (Mary McDonnell) was working for Varga all along and flees before being held at gunpoint by Nikki who ends up being killed by a state trooper. Gloria realizes that all she’s been doing has essentially been for nothing.
Flash forward to five years later and Emmitt seems to have overcome his guilt and has his family back—then he’s killed by Wrench. Gloria is an agent of the Department of Homeland Security and winds up with Varga in custody ready to send him to prison—but the episode ends before he’s arrested and he claims that he will get away.
So what are we to make of what can only be described as a massive anticlimax?
Funnily enough, though Fargo (the series as well as the film) has always been about the chaotic collision of human irrationality and random chance, its endings have always been relatively straightforward. All previous installments have ended with some form of retribution and a return to normalcy for the heroes.
Yet here, despite the lack of closure, we see the story come full circle in a way it never has before. Emmitt’s life ends exactly where it was in the season opener; Nikki dies after deciding that murder is the only solution to a problem, which was exactly what happened with Maurice; and the final scene is a perfect echo of the prologue in East Germany, in which an interrogation turns into a conversation about the nature of truth.
About that final scene: it’s as perfectly stated a thesis statement as I’ve ever seen. All season long we’ve been shown examples of things that both are and aren’t, things that are contradictory or implacable by their very nature. By season’s end we’re well primed on the nature of doubt and how it can render all prior motivation null. So as we sit and wait in perpetuity to find out if Varga will get away with what he’s done, he’s simultaneously in prison and free. Gloria is simultaneously a success and a failure. The story is simultaneously a farce and a vindication.
So, although this finale is anything but satisfying, it is appropriately so. From the moment we faded from East Germany to Minnesota without knowing if Jakob Ungerleider would be charged with a crime he did not commit, we should have known to expect ambiguity. We should have known that the questions we asked would not receive the answers we wanted, or would simply not be answered at all.
Why did Varga go to such great lengths to con Emmitt when he was already rich and why stick around when things got dicey? Why was Nikki saved by otherworldly forces only to be gunned down in the most abrupt way possible? Why was Chief Dammick seemingly the worst cop in existence?
The answer to all of the above is a resounding “Because.”
And so passes Fargo Season Three, simultaneously the best and worst season of the series; an installment that told a unique story in a unique way, which will surely be received both poorly and with praise.
- I’m not sure what to make of the title; though unconditional love has been a theme throughout the season, it doesn’t really come into play here, apart from in Nikki’s desire to avenge Ray.
- I didn’t mention Sy in the review, but he did appear briefly in the episode, having come out of his coma sometime between 2011 and 2016. He’s not looking great, and the fact that he didn’t get a happy ending is unsurprising but heartbreaking.
- Nikki’s death scene, for me, recalled the original movie perhaps more than any other scene in the series.
- If there’s a Season Four, it’s pretty much guaranteed that Wrench will show up, right?