My best guess (and strongest hope) about this episode’s title, “The Lord of No Mercy,” is that it’s a reference to James 2:13 in the Bible. The passage reads, “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” The idea that it’s something religious is firmed up for me midway through the episode when “John the Revelator,” a blues song about John the Apostle and when all (literal) hell breaks loose in the book of Revelation, plays. In the tangled web of V.M. Varga (David Thewlis), Emmit and Ray Stussy (Ewan McGregor), Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg), and Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), there’s a lot of merciless judgment from God on the way. To be followed by something way worse for Yuri Gurka (Goran Bogdan) and Meemo (Andy Yu), who are beyond merciless and into dirty deeds done dirt cheap territory. Or maybe not, as some theologians believe God sees as sin as a sin as a sin and so murder is the same as lying which is the same as adultery and you’re all going to hell for it. Meet you there.
The episode starts with a recap of Nikki’s brutal beating from last week. Obviously, Ray is angry, and inevitably he blames Emmit and Sy because he still has no idea that Varga exists. Nikki has figured out what Yuri and Meemo’s game is, at least, although she hasn’t figured out “the play” against them and her introduction to Varga promises to be epic.
We get some insight into where Varga got his shell company idea: apparently he read Moneyball and is obsessed with Franz Ferdinand (the Duke, not the band). He is a Lehman Brother; he is an assassin for hire. He is a moon landing conspiracy theorist. As he’s explaining how the moon landing was faked to Sy, Emmit’s contribution to the conversation makes it clear he’s still on board to become ultra wealthy. Vargas lays out how they’re going to defraud the I.R.S, through a fake set of books, some legal maneuvers, and by being too big to fail. He scores a temporary victory in getting the guy from the IRS out of their office, but we all know that pissing off the I.R.S. only leads to mountains of paperwork and the persistence of a mosquito.
As soon as the Stussy Parking office is clear of him, Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) and Officer Lopez (Olivia Sandoval) show up to interview Emmit about the case they’re on the precipice of breaking. Varga inserts himself and manages to say all the things he possibly could to antagonize Gloria (including demoting her) and make himself suspicious. As she lays out the case for Emmit, she ignites his already existing ire for Ray. I love her disdainful facial expressions with every attempt he makes to sidestep her or be clever. I also love the way the camera pans over his face, his mouth hung open to display those decaying teeth of his, as he Googles her later. Unfortunately for Ray, as a direct result of this interaction, his death warrant is signed by Varga.
Ray and Nikki flee their home after another visit from Gloria and Lopez, while unbeknownst to them Yuri and Meemo are tailing them with orders to kill. Expert Nikki has Ray using only cash until they realize he forgot the giant, alarm-tripping stack of cash he took from the bank while pretending to be his brother. One of these people is a career criminal. The other is barely getting by with his mind intact. When Ray returns home, he finds Emmit on his couch, waiting to make peace. Emmit gives him the stamp he’s been griping about for 20 years. It’s not enough. They struggle over the framed treasure until Emmit slams the whole thing into Ray’s head. A huge shard of glass is embedded in his neck. Emmit tells him not to pull it out, but he does, and an artery gushes. Ray is dead. Cain killed Abel. There’ll be hell to pay.
Even worse, Emmit calls Varga to clean it up. Varga quotes Lenin to him, bringing into question his ties to Russia (is that the source of dark money in 2010?). Nikki, who went for ice, comes back to her motel room moments after Meemo clears out. Ray’s death is the only reason she’s still alive. He’s been called to the scene of Emmit’s crime, and Varga is planning to set Nikki up for to take the blame and set Ray up as an abuser to explain all her injuries.
We’re set up for a showdown in the next episode, as Burgle has a change of heart and decides to head back to Ray’s house for a late night drop in, rather than waiting until the next day to check up on him. What a mess she will find.
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