TV

‘Fargo’ Frozen Five: Swango Stands Alone


The Fargo Frozen Five is a weekly countdown of five notable things from FX’s Minnesota murder show, meant to serve as a supplement to our standard recap coverage. It will probably get weird at times. In a way, that’s kind of appropriate.

5. “Things of consequence rarely happen by accident.”

The big development this week is that we are now down one Stussy. Two Stussys, total, if we’re counting Ennis, which we probably should, because that’s kind of how we got here in the first place. Anyway, Rest In Peace, Ray, you stamp-obsessed greasy loser (I say this with love), victim of your own lifelong feelings of inadequacy and also a shard of glass to the jugular. Our first main character death of the season. A crack in the dam.

This is notable for a few reasons. One, it means Ewan McGregor is no longer pulling double duty as the brothers Stussy. Probably for the best. It was a cool idea that gave the show the opportunity to do some business with mistaken identity (bank, sex tape, etc.), but it wasn’t quite as fun in practice. Nailing one Minnesota accent is hard. Nailing two, well, bless your heart, Ewan.

Another reason it’s notable is that it changes the Emmit/Varga dynamic a bit, solving one of Varga’s problems while potentially sending Emmit into a tailspin. It says something that Emmit called Varga instead of an ambulance. Dude is all in now. It won’t work out great for Sy.

But most importantly, it means we now have an injured, loner, doubly wronged Nikki Swango holed up in a motel, with a hit out on her and a coat hanger in her hand for self-defense. This is exciting. I mean, not for Nikki. It is, to use a technical term, “bad” for her. But for me, a viewer who would very much like to see a competitive bridge player and hustler named Nikki Swango attempt to take down an organized crime operation through trickery or violence or both, it is a promising turn of events. Fargo is getting very good. Again.

4. “We got a Tastee Freeze and a Dairy Queen.”

Shouts go out to Gloria Burgle for being the best and also for not having any time for Varga and his mushmouthed historical tangents. Please note the following image, which I have GIFed instead of screencapped because you really need the motion to grasp how completely unimpressed with him she is.

Also, when Varga asked her about Eden Valley, she replied with the quote at the top of this section, which a) say what you will about Eden Valley, but two chain ice cream joints ain’t bad, and b) is now my second favorite Dairy Queen-related line of dialogue in any TV show, coming in just behind the time on Justified when master criminal Boyd Crowder revealed that his big plan for going straight involved buying a DQ franchise. I still wish that had worked out. I wanted to see Boyd deal with a whiny customer. I would have liked that.

3. “The shallow end of the pool is where the turds float.”

This was another great episode when it comes to Varga saying cool and/or dope sentences, highlighted by the one above, which seems dubious on a scientific level but which we will allow on a lyrical technicality. He also had things to say about World War I and the moon landing and various Hitlers, but all of that was completely overshadowed by the thing where we saw a close-up of him picking at his gross teeth until his gums started bleeding. It was easily the worst thing I’ve seen on television this year, and on a very short list alongside John Turturro’s eczema-riddled feet on The Night Of and other things I have thankfully blocked from my brain of worst things I’ve ever seen on television. I’m still skeeved out. Let’s all agree to never discuss it again.

2. “I’m so rarely seen, maybe I don’t exist.”

This line, said by Varga as he appeared at Emmit’s side to help cover up Ray’s death and pin it on Nikki, was the most interesting one in the episode. Part of it is because Varga is a strange and mysterious figure who, on another show or maybe even on this one (see: aliens, season two), I would suspect of being some sort of undead vampire-type figure who has lived for thousands of years and accumulated wealth by profiting off of disasters throughout history. But the bigger part is how it frames his battle with Gloria, who also “doesn’t exist,” as we saw when he tried to Google her and as we’ve seen every time she tries to use some form of sensor-based electronics (doors, faucets, etc.). They’re like two sides of the same coin, and while I still hope Nikki Swango turns into Scarlett Johannson from Lucy and gets her revenge in a storm of bullets, I would also really enjoy watching these two circle each other suspiciously for a few more episodes.

1. “Screw it.”

Gloria Burgle is headed back to Ray’s apartment while Varga is there scrubbing a murder, and when she made the decision the show dropped in some violins that sounded enough like the music from The Leftovers that I almost got my Carrie Coons confused. I now hope Gloria Burgle has a secret Wu-Tang tattoo. I would like that, too.

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