Why The Fargo Finale Shoot-Out Feels So Offensive

Photo: Courtesy of FX.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for the finale of Fargo season 3.
Fargo season 3 was technically about the Stussy Brothers (both played by Ewan McGregor) and they way their decades-long rivalry over a single stamp eventually rippled out into tragedy all around them. But, the final episodes of the FX drama proves this season’s MVP was actually the violent avenging angel Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). With Nikki’s fiancé Ray Stussy accidentally killed by the frame holding the aforementioned stamp, a bloodthirsty Nikki was eventually released on the world. She was angry, she was calculated, and she wreaked vengeance upon the malevolent V.M. Varga (David Thewlis). Nikki was everything a woman is told not to be, if she wants to be "likable." That’s why her death in season 3 finale "Somebody To Love" is so insulting.
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Nikki sets a trap for Varga, and takes out his entire crew with a wide sweeping tactical mission. Everyone is eliminated, save for Varga himself, because he’s crafty like that. With that problem taken care of, Nikki goes to seek revenge against Ray’s brother Emmit, who is the "good brother." He has a close family, a successful business, and is a pillar of his community. The only problem is he tricked Ray out of getting the Stussy’s heirloom stamp during childhood and ended up in bed with international criminals as an adult. As Emmit’s car breaks down on some random road, Nikki appears to ask if he needs a life. Just kidding, she’s there to blow his brains out for killing the love of her life. Unfortunately for her, a BOLO — which means be-on-the-lookout, FYI — just went out, so a Black cop named Crowley (Michael Brown) pulls over to see if everything is alright between Nikki and Emmit. When the only living Stussy brother announces Nikki has a gun, the officer pulls out his own gun, and demands the woman doesn’t take another step. She ignores him and reachers for a shotgun. In one quick second, both Nikki and the cop shoot each other, leaving both of them dead. Rich middle-aged white man Emmit Stussy, however, is totally fine.
In Fargo’s last minutes, a Black man and a heartbroken woman are killed as a white man walks away, not one hair out of place. We know this, because we see the police officer’s blood-splattered face and shirt, pointing out exactly where he was fatally shot. The Fargo team makes sure we notice the gore, since the camera slowly pans over the man’s body. We’ve seen enough real-life Black men murdered in very similar traffic stops — almost always on the other side of the law enforcement-driver equation — why do we need to experience another one? Especially on a show with so few people of color in the first place? This hits too close to home, considering the actor who played Officer Crowley, Michael Brown, shares a name with the 18-year-old young man whose death prompted the Ferguson protests of 2014.
If the treatment of Crowley’s death isn’t offensive enough, the camera takes great pains to illustrate Nikki’s violent death, too. It slowly crawls over her lifeless body as well, resting on the kill shot wedged directly in the middle of her forehead. The audience is forced to look at Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s very convincing, wide-open dead eyes for nearly 30 seconds. That’s 30 seconds of staring at a dead woman as blood quickly drains from her skull. As the camera moves out we realize just how long Crowley and Nikki’s bodies were left on the floor like trash. There was enough time for Emmit to freak out and drive away, only to be replaced by local police who need to draw chalk lines and take photos of the crime scene before removing anyone. Although that’s procedure, the sheer amount of time this all takes feels disrespectful.
To add insult to injury, Emmit, the actual source of all of Fargo season 3’s pain, arrives back at home to fall into his wife’s arms and beg forgiveness. He’s given five more years of happiness with his family and his vast millions of dollars, while a Black man doing his job was gunned down and left on the street like roadkill, along with a woman. It’s more upsetting the more you think about it. At least, as a parting gift, Fargo allows us to see the moment Emmit Stussy is murdered as well.
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