The clock ticked over to 2011 in the last episode of Fargo and we left Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) safely in jail, ready to admit to some of his transgressions — killing his brother Ray (Ewan McGregor) chief among them. This week, we open on a grisly murder of another Stussy, a man named Marvin in St. Cloud, MN who is unfortunate enough to be stabbed in the neck by Meemo (Andy Yu). So we’ve seen Gloria Burgle’s (Carrie Coon) step father, a Stussy, fall in an unrelated murder. It quickly becomes apparent what the reason for this grisly killing is, but first, we have to get through some exposition.
When Gloria conducts an interview with Emmit, one of the first things he says is that no matter what no one who shows up is his lawyer so don't let them in. Smart move, though this will not be enough to thwart V.M. Varga (David Thewlis . The second thing Emmit admits to is killing Ray, but even more interesting is the story of what we didn’t see: how Emmit did, in fact, con Ray into giving him that damn stamp collection. It’s a nice turn to see Emmit, who has been remarkably self-involved for the entire time we’ve known him, admit to some wrongdoing. “30 years I’ve been killing him,” Emmit says. “That was just when he fell.”
Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is acting out her Kill Bill revenge fantasies with Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard). The duo goes after Meemo and his crew, who are transporting something nefarious in an 18-wheeler. They scare the shit out of everyone by throwing a paperweight designed to look like a grenade into the cab, stealing it and discovering that it’s Varga’s mobile office where all his deep, dark secrets are kept. They take a suitcase full of papers and hard drives and leave the cannoli. Meemo doesn’t have to tell Varga what happened. When he shows up at the Stussy Parking Empire offices covered in dirt with his mouth drooping down around his ankles, Varga knows something is up. At that moment, Nikki calls to let Varga know she’s got the numbers to all his Swiss bank accounts and isn’t afraid to use them unless he meets her — alone.
Back to these Stussy murders: Gloria gives Officer Lopez (Olivia Sandoval) a call after she interviews Emmit to check up on Mrs. Glodfarb’s (Mary McDonnell) alibi. Lopez tells her about Martin Stussy. While Gloria is checking up on that alibi and telling her kid she thinks she’s about to put this one to bed, Sheriff Dammik (Shea Whigham) turns up at the crime scene of one George Stuffy, who has been killed in the same manner as Gloria’s step dad. He figures out that the person doing it is alternating their kills but thinks it’s a Stussy serial killer. A neighbor spotted the “killer” and got his license plate, so it’s just a matter of time until these Keystone Cops catch up with him.
Mrs. Goldfarb is lying her ass off for most of her meeting with Gloria, which interesting because it means she’s got some motivations way beyond the ones we know about (season 4 ideas, anyone?). The cops on the manhunt for the Stussy serial killer return and Dammik tells Gloria she’s got to let Emmit go because a guy confessed to all four killings. Emmit is pushed right into Varga’s arms. The bad guys are winning.
Except that Nikki is here to make it just a little bit harder for Varga. She lays out her plan for revenge to him, starting by telling him about how the hotel they meet in is where she and Ray played in the Wildcat tournament. He tries to countermove by offering her his poison tea. If these two are playing chess, he has no idea how outmatched he is. He offers her a job, she bats it back by asking what he does. He tells her he works for a company called Norwal, she says he’s full of shit, and she knows a boss when she sees one. He offers her more money, she says she’s cool with just continuing to blackmail him. She lays out the myriad ways she sees through him and his stupid plans, pointing out how cocky he is. As Mr. Wrench takes Meemo out of play, Varga tries to add zeroes to her imaginary salary. She calls his bluff and gives him a day to get her $2 million. If he were really as smart as he thinks, he’d know she’s going to destroy him whether he does it or not. BTW, how rad would it have been if her walk away music were Beyoncé? Even without it, she’s the most watchable thing in the episode. Angry Nikki is the most charismatic person in the world.
I feel the true agony of defeat watching Emmit get into a waiting car with Meemo and Varga, with the latter telling him that good in the world is a problem. Thankfully Noah Hawley, who co-wrote this episode with Bob DeLaurentis;, doesn’t leave us on that bleak note. Instead, we get a big old dose of Lopez flavored optimism. Over drinks, she gives Gloria the bucking up of a lifetime in the form of a much-needed hug. It turns something on in her, because she goes to the restroom and the damn automatic faucet finally turns on for her.
Then things get exciting if you’re a dork like me.
We join Larue Dollard (Hamish Linklater), the I.R.S. man who tried to take Stussy and Varga down, in his office where a brown envelope is waiting for him. It’s full of printed out hard copies and a zip drive of the Stussy Lots LTD account. If the I.R.S. can bring down Al Capone, let’s see what they can do to V.M. Varga.
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