Emmit Stussy is no master criminal. He blurts out his alibi before he’s even been told his brother is dead, much less that foul play is involved. And in his extremity, he lashes out at the one person he can actually trust and withdraws to the jaws of the wolf that has already been snacking on him a bite at a time. Even more damningly, it seems to be turning him into a rich douche who thinks all his problems are due to other people’s inability to control their jealousy of his uber-ness, and not, for example, allowing an international money laundering operation to take over his business and murder his attorney. It’s a bad look, but all too believable, as in my own limited experience it doesn’t take accidental fratricide for those with money to start resenting those without when it doesn’t bring them all the happiness and satisfaction we expect of it.
Anyway, this is especially hard on Sy, who has the most affecting and queasily funny moment of the episode when he weeps in the arms of his wife. A wife who seems very sweet and not particularly heavy, contrary to Varga’s derogatory assertions, which probably shouldn’t be surprising since everything he says is at least 40% a lie. And his goons are no different; just look at the way Yuri’s intimidation of deputy Donny is equal parts threat and gaslighting. Varga may be the creator of the quicksand that Emmit finds himself sinking in, but when he’s also the only person who seems entirely comfortable swimming around in it, he has a way of seeming like the only plausible person to turn to.
|A face that screams "I CAN HELP!"|
As a more experienced criminal, Nikki is more ready than Emmit to go it alone, and it takes most of the episode and an attempt on her life to get her to take a single tentative step toward teaming with Gloria. This after stonewalling Chief Moe entirely in the interrogation box. I hadn't realized until now, but for what is inarguably a televised crime drama, Fargo has never spent a lot of time in this classic genre setting. It's normally popular for a reason; it's a confined, intense (not to mention easy on TV budgets) location, that allows the actors to do the heavy lifting and for the dynamic between cop and criminal to shift in an exciting way. The dogged detective can stop playing coy, and level some direct accusations at the wily criminal, and with those cards starting to be turned up, the gamesmanship moves to another, more overtly antagonistic mode. But perhaps because so much of Fargo convention is based around the detective struggling to wrap their head around the scope of the “unfathomable pinheadery” that is bloodying up their towns, by the time they catch up to the criminals the crooks tend to be either dead or dead to rights.
That’s where Moe thinks he has Nikki in “The Law Of Inevitablility”. I’d say he doesn’t realize that he’s only in an episode 7, but it’s more like he’s doing his damnedest to make it a season finale through sheer force of willful ignorance. He has become an incredibly frustrating character, and while I remain convinced his face turn is on the way, this episode stretched his obstructionism past the point of tolerable. Even with the motivations I’ve generously read into his backstory, this thing has gone well past the point of denial. He continues to act as though discovering multiple murders and thwarting an assassin impersonating an officer is somehow terrible police work, and at a certain point it just stops being believable. And that point, I think, is precisely when an assassin is discovered infiltrating the police station with a syringe full of poison in coordination with a digital hack disabling the surveillance systems.
|"That guy? He's always here. Tuesdays he brings donuts."|
In any case, Moe may think he’s putting the screws to Nikki, but he’s no match for her. She is in a tough spot and offers up little in her own defense, but to quote Deadwood, he mistakes for fear what is in fact preoccupation; she is having a conversation he cannot hear. She probably assumed that Ray was already in custody when she was brought in, but his death hits her like a ton of bricks. What he takes for frightened sullenness is genuine shock and grief (and in all likelihood, internal bleeding). Mary Elizabeth Winstead does some fantastic work communicating this roil with minimal dialogue, turning a great highly verbal performance into an internal one. This is the type of sneakily difficult acting trick that always impresses me, as it strikes me as extremely complicated to calibrate how to show the audience everything while the character is hiding it from the others in the scene.
The nothing she gives Moe is enough for him to declare premature victory. But Swango hasn’t played her last card yet, and as nightmarish as Yuri and his cohorts have been shown to be, they’ll be no match either. All these men would be quaking in their boots if they had heard the voiceover from the nature documentary she watched earlier, about a female millipede turning the tables on her attacker with poison. Look, I talk a lot about the rules and fundamentals of storytelling on here, and if you've read more than a few posts you probably already know I'm mostly just pulling it all from my ass. But I am dead certain of this: there is no more ironclad cinematic law than if a character is watching a nature documentary, the voiecover will consist of 100% plot spoilers. So things may look dire as Yuri cuts through the cage of the overturned prison bus, I’d still bet my last greenback that she outlives him. If I were that type of betting man, I’d guess salvation comes in the form of a familiar deaf con assuming the Big Bad Wolf was sent to silence him, and officer Donnie showing up to scatter the rest of the pack. That would make me pretty happy, but this is also the type of show where I’d be even happier to be wrong.
COEN BINGO AND OTHER RANDOM SHIT
- Nikki getting dragged out of the motel’s bathroom window mirror’s Jerry’s arrest at the end of the Fargo film.
- Mashman’s fleeing when confronted by Yuri is also very similar to Malvo’s cowing of Gus in the S1 premiere.
- More directly, Nikki sits next to Mr. Numbers on the prison bus, making him the only character thus far to appear in all 3 seasons, following his cameo as a child in the S2 finale.
- The abruptness with which Gloria drops her attempt at sweet talk is the most charming part about it by a mile.
- For a show that normally eschews TV’s more fanciful tendencies in terms of depicting violence, it’s awfully convenient that crashing the bus seems to flip a switch that immediately knocks all 10 people on it unconscious. I can go along with it if the payoff is good, but also...come on.
- Is “leptard” a regional insult?
- Given that karate assassin is played by DJ “The Recognizable Face” Qualls, I’m guessing we haven’t seen the last of him.
- Maybe I’m just misreading the pantomime for “studies intently”, but it looks like when Niiki grabs the picture of Ray’s body, she is scanning the edges of the frame. Looking for what? The source of the glass? Any clue?