‘Fargo’ Leaves A Door Open In Its Terrific Third Season Finale

Senior Television Writer
06.21.17 68 Comments

Fargo just concluded its third season, and I have a review of the finale coming up just as soon as I ask you if there are phones in Belgium…

“So for now, just know that sometimes the world doesn’t make a lot of sense, but how we get through it is, we stick together.” -Gloria

“But which of us can say with certainty what has occurred — actually occurred — and what is simply rumor, misinformation, opinion?” -Varga

I use two quotes at the start of this review because there were two wholly incompatible worldviews presented throughout Fargo season three: Gloria’s belief that there are things that are true, and that we are bound by our responsibilities to one another; and Varga’s belief that the only thing that matters is how much you can get away with. That split has been there in earlier seasons, too, where the innate decency of the Solversons stood in contrast to the amorality of Malvo, Lester, the Gerhardts, etc. But the show in those years sided with Molly and Lou, tending to spare the good characters while unleashing violent justice upon the wicked, as if Noah Hawley were typing the scripts at the bowling alley bar while Paul Marrane looked on approvingly.

Season three did not operate this way, up to and including its ambiguous final scene, where Peter and the Wolf face off in a Department of Homeland Security interview room, each of them confident in predicting who will come through that door in a moment: for Gloria, that it will be three DHS agents there to take Varga to a jail cell; for Varga, that it will be a man too powerful for Gloria to override as Varga is set free.

“Somebody To Love” ends with both of them waiting to be proven right, and Hawley told me he wanted to leave it for the audience to decide(*). It’s a Schrodinger’s Box of a finale: until that door opens, Gloria could be right or wrong, and same with Varga. Ordinarily, the show’s moral ethos would point towards Gloria being correct about Rikers and the Snickers bar, but so much of season three has been about the way the world no longer makes sense, and how easy it is for the Vargas of the world to transform reality into whatever they desire, so I fear the powerful man will be arriving rather than the three DHS agents.

(*) It is one last unintentional echo of Carrie Coon’s other spring show, whose finale also left viewers to decide what exactly happened, and what was real.

After a rough start to the season filled with too many echoes of better-developed characters from Fargo stories past, these last few hours were pretty amazing: beautiful to look at, finally taking full advantage of the cast Hawley and company had assembled, and deftly mixing concrete answers with Choose Your Own Adventure ones like the interview room door.

On the one hand, we know for sure that Nikki Swango died in a shootout with a state trooper, that Mr. Wrench wiped out Meemo and Varga’s other henchmen and years later executed Emmit Stussy, that Sy awoke from the coma but is badly incapacitated, and that Gloria left Moe’s department to work for the federal government. And on the other, there’s mystery about the mechanics of the bowling alley, if not on what actually happened there (Nikki and Wrench were spared, Yuri was judged and sentenced), what connection Yuri has to the Yuri of the season’s East Berlin prologue, and who is coming through that door. It’s a fair enough balance for a season that has been much more about the elusiveness of truth in the modern world. And if justice wasn’t served in every story, it felt appropriate to the darker tale Hawley and his collaborators weaved this time around.

RIP, Nikki Swango, who ironically was doomed by the same man who saved her. Had she not felt the need to deliver Paul Marrane’s warning to Emmit — when it arguably would have been better-served on Varga had the opportunity arisen — and get the wording right, she likely would have been driving her truck away from Emmit’s corpse by the time the trooper rolled up. It’s a sad end for the season’s best character, but not an undeserved one. Nikki’s love for Ray was real, and it was his decision to try to steal the stamp that set her down this path, but she did murder Maurice, and set up Meemo and the others to be slaughtered by Wrench. These are not innocent people, but neither were Nikki’s hands clean even before she gunned down a cop who was only doing his job.

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