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‘Fargo’ Season 3 Finale: Bled Out


Carrie Coon in “Fargo.”

Chris Large/FX

Season 3, Episode 10: ‘Somebody to Love’

The third season of “Fargo” ends with the ultimate cliffhanger: Is there justice in this world or isn’t there? Can we talk to our children, as Gloria does, about the fact that “sometimes the world doesn’t make a lot of sense”? Or is the system so rigged that injustice cannot be treated as an anomaly? Although Gloria ends this superb episode with the confident prediction that she and her son will be enjoying deep-fried Snickers bars at the state fair while V.M. Varga is shipped off to Rikers, even she is shaken in her convictions. If not for an accident of timing, she would have resigned her position, defeated by a case in which justice was not served and her efforts to pursue it were obstructed at every turn.

The season finale brings us to the “little bit of money” part of “Fargo,” the moral reckoning part, in which our hero — in this case, Gloria — surveys the carnage and is left aghast at the pointlessness of it all. Like Frances McDormand’s character in the Coen brothers film, Gloria stands as our shining beacon of decency and rationality in a world overwhelmed by chaos and violence. Director Keith Gordon, who’s done beautiful work on these past two episodes, suggests this through an elegant visual metaphor: Situating Gloria like a rock in the middle of the frame, Gordon stages the cleanup scene involving the final two bodies, Nikki Swango’s and a state trooper’s, through time-lapse and dissolves. She’s there to see justice through to the bitter end.

Yet justice takes different forms in “Fargo” this season, because the two intersecting cases — Varga’s takeover of Stussy Lots and the feud between Ray and Emmit Stussy — are not the same, however much they’ve literally bled into each other. One is an act of capitalist savagery. The other is the culmination of personal animus. A “little bit of money” accounts for the takeover more than the feud, even though Ray and Nikki began by trying to take back what they felt Ray was owed. Money is the yardstick by which a person’s value is measured and dignity allotted: Emmit, prudent and wise, has steadily amassed wealth and privilege and become a pillar of the community. Ray, shortsighted and dim, has steadily amassed a beer gut and the urine of parolees on his shoes. Snatching the two-cent stamp was always a symbolic goal for Ray; raiding Emmit’s safe deposit box or blackmailing him with a sex tape were examples of the “Fargo” phenomenon by which a petty crime rages out of control.

But let’s spend a moment on Varga’s scheme, which is significant. After plenty of time away, we finally return to Larue Dollard, the I.RS. agent in charge of auditing the books at Stussy Lots. (Given the level of hostility many people hold toward the I.R.S., the agency must be grateful to see such a model functionary onscreen. Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear pocket protectors.) Dollard lays out the entire case against Varga to Gloria through the papers he has festooned on the walls and the conference-room table, but he makes a surprising admission: Varga and his associates weren’t running a vast money laundering operation, but what Dollard calls a “leveraged bleed-out,” which is when a parasitic entity attaches itself to a healthy company, borrows (and pockets) millions in its name, and then dumps the debt-ridden company to a low bidder.

“That’s a crime?” Gloria asks. “Not when it’s done properly,” Dollard replies.

With the Varga plotline, Noah Hawley and his writers have cleverly elevated the legal violence of leveraged buyouts to the gruesome violence of a capitalist raider who will kill whomever he has to in order to secure his investment. At the end of all this brutality and death, there’s the smiling face of the widow Goldfarb, who’s gotten the assets she wanted for the thinnest of pennies on the dollar. We may not ultimately know Varga’s fate, but we do know that Goldfarb has made a clean getaway from the scene of the crime, without so much as a blemish on her public reputation. She’s been waiting in the weeds all season, and now she’s made a perfectly legal acquisition on the back of events that were anything but. The smaller animal has gone limp in her jaws. That’s business.

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