In July of 1918, following his forced abdication, Russia’s last Emperor, Nicholas II (Romanov) and his family (wife and five children) were executed by Bolsheviks in Ipatiev House (so called after its owner, Nikolai Nikolayevich Ipatiev), aka The House of Special Purpose. Held at the mansion, ostensibly waiting to be smuggled out of the country, the Romanovs and many of their attendants were awakened in the middle of the night, told the house might be fired upon, and escorted to a basement room for their safety. Instead, a waiting squad of soldiers entered the room, informed Nicolas and the empress they’d been sentenced to death, and summarily shot and stabbed the entire group.
The king of Stussy lots, unaware of the shit storm that’s about to rain down, makes it home just in time to see his wife drive off. Nikki’s escalating plans include a faux sex tape and blackmail — reap a familiar “Stellaaaaa!” — leave Emmit crying in a pile of clothes, and he’s the lucky one — sweet proposals aside. First to pay the price, poor Sy is cornered by Yuri, Meemo (ever zen, lulled by the constant playlist in his ear) and Varga; the trio’s methods intensify as urine makes its way back to the Fargo foreground. Indeed, “It’s worse than we thought.”
A glimmer of hope sparks in a darkened, bear-themed restaurant (Bears [sic] Den), as Sy meets with the widow Goldfarb (Mrs. Ruby, that is, aka Laura Roslin aka the glorious Mary McDonnell), who wants to make Stussy Lots the final stage in her storage empire. Her preference to acquire the entire company (“You don’t want a Goldbarb for an enemy”) could allow Sy and Emmit the slippery escape they desperately need; this is exactly the moment to cut their losses and run. This is also the series that will never, ever allow that to happen.
As is glorious Fargo tradition, a good dose of women’s intuition is behind every excellent cop. Gloria and Winnie quickly brief Donnie before heading out to round up the other Stussy man of the hour, the nervous lead they know holds missing pieces to Maurice’s murder. Only Mansplainin’ Moe and his chronicled coincidence stand in their way; Gloria counters with the true tale, again marches right past his protestations.
Continuing to terrify with silent, seemingly out of nowhere appearances, Varga takes a slightly subtler stance with Emmit than Sy, sowing seeds of distrust between a would-be don and his possibly move-making consigliere. Unfortunately, another unintended consequence of Ray and Nikki’s poor plotting, aka Hamish Linklater’s nerdy IRS agent, Larue Dollars/Dollard makes a routine drop-in for an extended look at the Stussy books (“That’s all right; we’ll show him the fake ones”). And, while Emmit gets another lesson in exactly how far back in the luxury limo his deposed seat is, poor Nikki suffers a much worse fate. Ambushed again by Meemo and yarn-spinning Yuri, armed to teach a terrible lesson (“This is what comes after the cup”), Sy’s chills-inducing facial expressions speak to the offscreen punishment Nikki suffers for everyone’s crimes. Corralled in corners, trapped by rebels and rogues like the Romanovs, these brothers Stussy (and their chosen families) are only just beginning to understand their predicament. At a reaching hand’s appearance, the shot of a coat on the floor, we breathe a temporary and broken sigh of relief, knowing the worst is surely yet to come.
Not So Deep Thoughts:
Shots of the Stussy office elevators are beginning to feel Kubrickian. By the end of the season, I fully expect blood to gush under their doors.
What a difference a week makes. After being completely enthralled by Varga’s wordsmithery the last episode, that scene in Sy’s office, V.M.’s racist ranting and his (and the boys’) cruelty quickly cut off any lingering fascination I might have had.
Right in his “World’s Greatest Dad” cup! Ugh.
No matter how violent, there’s always — at least it felt like — been something likable about Fargo‘s villains, but after this hour, that’s impossible. Perhaps Hawley’s trying to teach us all a nasty lesson about fetishizing violence and those who perpetrate it.
Nothing prepared for that horrible parking lot scene with Yuri, Meemo (silent traitor!), Sy and Nikki; so thankful we didn’t have to witness the beating. Sy took that on for the audience and oh, what a brilliant performance by Michael Stuhlbarg, whose face relayed — said — everything. The whole of the hour was peppered by his reactive expressions, desperate protestations, and wonderful utterances. This hour contains the actor’s Emmy reel.
The final scene, when Ray discovers Nikki in the bathtub, truly broke me.
I’d be remiss not to mention Ewan McGregor’s outstanding work here, as well. We tend to take it for granted that he’s playing two very subtly different and yet similar roles, he’s just that good. I especially love both brothers’ inability to finish their thoughts.
Music this hour:
— Jeff Russo (@jeffersonrusso) May 18, 2017
— Jeff Russo (@jeffersonrusso) May 18, 2017
Great lines — honestly, every single Fargo sentence is quotable, so here are just some of the zingers:
Nikki to Emmit as he’s proposing: “For Pete’s sake, I’m wearin’ a hooker wig.”
Nikki after she answers, “Yes”: “You have made me the happiest woman ever. Now, let’s make a sex tape.”
Grace to Emmit: “Don’t make a scene, daddy, I saw the tape.”
Varga to Sy: “Do you know what a chicken is? A chicken is an egg’s way of making another egg. It’s all a matter of perspective.”
PigVarga: “A fat woman is inherently untrustworthy as she is a sensualist, you see. There’s no difference between a pastrami sandwich and a dick in the mouth.”
Sy’s veiled correction to Ruby Goldfarb: “The office isn’t safe. I mean, uh, the lines are down.”
Sy to Ruby: “Ever had that feeling like you stepped off a map?”
Describing Emmit’s philanthropic efforts: ” … better access to veterinary care …”
Sy to Emmit about Varga: “”He put his shvance in the mug Esther gave me. I had to throw it away.” (“Shvance” is the Yiddish term for “penis”.)
“Enemies are at the gates … inside the gates, fornicating with our cookware.”
Emmit to Sy: “What is the point of you? You’re supposed to be a fixer. Nothing’s fixed, Everything’s broken. They sent my wife a sex tape.”
Sy to Emmit: “Why would your wife want to watch your brother have sex?”
Nikki to Ray when he asks if they’re worth the $100 k (“It’s a lot of money.”): “What makes them rich? Larceny.”
Sy calling Nikki: “Congratulations, you’re officially the stupidest person alive.” (Nikki: “Who is this?”) “It’s Menachem Begin [former Israeli Prime Minister].”
Nikki’s response to Sy about Emmit’s sex tape denial (“It never happened”): “That doesn’t make it any less of a fact.”
Ray to Winnie and Gloria, explaining that the car “accident” is a family matter the brothers would let go: “Think of Jesus. His actions.”
Varga to Emmit: “Look, we are making a soufflé here, do you understand? … And it is fluffy, and it is delicious, but you can’t agitate it while it rises. Or else, poof.”
Varga to Emmit about Larue: “Is he married? Was he wearing a ring, does he have kids? We can use that.”
Nikki to Sy: “$200,000 and we want the stamp.” [Sy: “For what?”] “It’s the principle.”
Yuri to Sy: “This is what comes after the cup.”
Yuri to Nikki: “Have you been to Siberia? It’s very much like this. Except the dirt, dirt soaking in blood. Frozen red. All of Russia, hundreds of years, millions the tsar killed, then it was Lenin, then Stalin. Ten thousand, twenty thousand, but here you have, like, what? Malls … few dead Indians. Twenty million Russian died fighting Hitler. Twenty million. I see from your face that you can’t even imagine that. The pogroms, the starvation, twenty million more. Mothers cooking and eating their babies. That’s why the snow falls white, to hide the blood.”