Sometimes you just can’t bury an old feud.
The episode begins with Ray the bedside of a now bruised Nikki, who details the beating she got from a Russian and an Oriental. She saw the car, but couldn’t get the license plate. Ray springs into action as he searches all over the home for a gun and bullets. He locks and loads as the two head out.
Meanwhile, Varga tells Sy about a bank’s overnight collapse as the stock became worthless. Perception of reality became reality. Another true story: World War I began over a sandwich. Gavrilo Princip, one of seven conspirators, failed to blow up the Archduke of Ferdinand with a hand grenade. Demoralized, he he stopped to get a sandwich, but as he ate, the Archduke’s driver pulled outside the restaurant and stopped.
So with his target delivered right to him, no way would Gavrilo miss twice. Last story: the moon landing is false. In fact, it all took place on a sound stage in New Mexico.
Sy is confused as hell, but the point Varga’s making is that Stussy Lots will soon secure $50 million in new loans- money that will buy 16 more lots, pay bonuses to the partners, and double the company’s size in three months. Sy just sees this as a lot of debt piling up and would prefer a cautious approach, but Varga doesn’t because the shallow end of the pool is where the turds float. To Sy’s surprise, Emmit agrees with Varga.
However, there’s still the matter of Agent Dollard, who is looking at books, but not the books, though Varga doesn’t tell Sy that. Sy is confident that the IRS will uncover any secrets, but Varga doubts Dollard could untangle something this intricate. In fact, Varga doesn’t think finance is in Sy’s fortay. Emmit doesn’t speak in Sy’s defense, though, and Varga will handle the IRS in the meantime.
Indeed, Agent Dollard waits at the office until he’s joined by another agent- Meemo in disguise- who slides over some documents and explains that, as his client’s representative, he’s here to protest this cockeyed inquiry. Dollard also receives the 30 day notice of requesting the documents he needs and who he would have to interview. So yeah, Dollard’s out. Meemo soon leaves with Ray and Nikki following not too far behind.
They follow him to a parking lot where he meets up with Varga, who emerges from a semi-truck. Ray is ready for a firefight, but Nikki doesn’t want him starting something yet. Revenge can wait. In the meantime, they’ll just do surveillance and they watch as Varga soon departs.
Back at home, Ray, worried about Nikki’s internal injuries, suggests that she go to the emergency room. But Nikki knows that the cops are looking for her and Varga’s folks could be watching the hospital. She surmises that Emmit is up to something and Sy may have been dragged into some shady dealings. After all, Emmit did have money trouble awhile back during the real estate crash. He tries to borrow, but the bank won’t lend.
Not a loan shark, though, but a shark in a suit is still a shark. Nikki is certain that Ray will get his chance for revenge, but they need to know the play first.
While Varga picks his teeth beyond belief at the office, he spots two officers entering the office to meet with Emmit. They are, in fact, Gloria and Winnie, who speak with Emmit about a crash involving a company car. Varga soon joins the three and, when asked about his identity, tells the officers that he’s merely an associate of Emmit- an associate in terms of ladies’ shoes.
When Gloria asks Emmit if he’s seen Ray, Varga interrupts, as this was supposed to be about a traffic incident, but turns out the incident is connected to the death of Ennis Stussy. Based on evidence, the culprit is Maurice LeFay, and Ray happened to be his parole officer.
So between a vehicle from Emmit’s company rammed into Ray’s car, Ennis having the same last name as Emmit and Ray, and that Emmit and Ennis lived in towns with similar names, it’s all very curious. Gloria then asks if there’s any feud between Emmit and Ray, but Emmit insists that there’s no feud. Varga again intervenes to know the connection between the victim and Emmit’s alleged brother.
In his mind, this all sounds like mere surmise- two brothers, a traffic skirmish. He’s not sure what the detective is getting at since hey, there were 24 Hitlers in a phone book in Germany, 1932. They couldn’t all have been responsible for the Final Solution. Chief Burgle asks Emmit if he and Ray had a disagreement over money, prompting Emmit to realize that Ray tried to rob him.
Varga shuts down the discussion and tells the officers that if he or Emmit find something, they’ll be sure to inform the authorities. Though Gloria and Winnie clearly aren’t convinced, they prepare to take their leave. When Varga asks if Eden Valley is a nice place, Gloria tells him that the area has a Tastee-Freez and Dairy Queen. Sounds like heaven. When the officers leave, Varga realizes that Ray may have a backbone after all.
Following this, Varga searches Gloria Burgle’s name, but finds nothing on her or the Eden Valley Police Department. He tells Yuri to head to the computer-less department and find a file on a victim named Stussy, as well as keep an ear to the Goldfarb meeting this evening. Meemo, meanwhile, is to find and execute Ray and Nikki.
Speaking of, Ray and Nikki hide when they hear Gloria and Winnie searching outside of Ray’s home. Finding no one, the two leave and decide to come back tomorrow. Keep in mind that Ray’s Corvette is still parked on the street.
That evening, the two pack up and leave in a different car. They arrive at a motel while Meemo, having tailed them, parks at a spot and waits. The two set up in their room, but before Ray can head off to get some aspirin, he realizes that he doesn’t have the getaway cash. And he can’t use a card since that can be traced. As such, he leaves to go and get it. When he leaves, Meemo prepares to make his move.
Nikki soon leaves her hotel room to get some ice, but leaves the door ajar in the process. At the same time, Ray returns home and finds the ransom sack and Emmit, who surrenders and is willing to give Ray whatever he wants. Ray thinks that Emmit came for money, though Emmit is still upset about the dog’s ashes that Ray threw away. After all, he got that dog for Grace.
Emmit’s been doing some thinking: Ray is the only person he knows that doesn’t like him. And he’s done his part in helping Ray- cosigning the mortgage and such- but Ray doesn’t see himself as less than Emmit. But Emmit is fed up with this 20-year feud.
To prove this, he hands over the stamp and declares this fight finished. After all the wrong things they’ve done, Emmit sees a madness in brotherhood. He doesn’t want that madness anymore.
But Ray figures that Emmit can’t give what was his from the start. He won’t accept the stamp and jabs Emmit with the frame over and over again, so Emmit unintentionally smashes the frame in Ray’s face. A shocked Ray pulls out a glass shard from his neck and blood begins to spurt everywhere. He collapses to the ground and slowly dies. A shocked Emmit makes a call to Varga.
Varga, resting on the ground, asks if Emmit knows what Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov said about Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Number 23. To Lenin, nothing was greater than Appassionata, but he couldn’t listen to it too often since it affects the nerves. It affects the nerves, makes you want to say stupid things, and beat the person who, despite living in a foul hell, could create such beauty.
Varga then asks for Emmit’s location, so Emmit admits that there’s been an accident. Varga tells Emmit that things of consequence rarely happen by accident. If Varga gets an address, he’ll be there. Emmit complies.
Nice Big Lebowski nod, by the way.
As Nikki returns to her hotel room and finds the door ajar, she enters, wary that she’s probably not alone. She fashions a coat hanger into a weapon and enters the bathroom, but finds it empty. Meemo, who was in waiting, but had received a phone call, has fled.
He’s joined Varga at Ray’s home. Varga asks about the spots where Emmit might have left his fingerprints and then instructs Meemo on what to remove. As Emmit is supposed to having dinner with Sy at a restaurant, Varga tells Emmit to head in the restaurant’s backdoor, wash his face and hands with cold water, and then go to the table. That way, witnesses won’t be able to time his arrival.
And to end this, Varga’s story is that Ray was killed by Nikki because he’d been abusing her in places that didn’t until show, until Nikki snapped. When the police contact Emmit, he should be upset, but not too upset. There will be a record that Emmit called Ray on his cell phone, but just for a few minutes, so he should be vague on the details. Emmit tells Varga that he didn’t mean for this to happen, but no one ever does.
On the drive back, Gloria decides to screw protocol and radios a message to be delivered to Winnie. She’s heading back to Ray’s house and wants Winnie to meet her there.
So much of this season has been about perception versus reality and what we make of everything around us. In the world of Fargo, something simple and accepted can be twisted and turned on its head through some grave incident. And so, when our perception is shattered, it’s hard to accept some new reality or truth.
It helps that Varga is a master manipulator. Like Billy Bob Thornton and Bokeem Woodbine before him, David Thewlis is very cunning and menacing not just in his mannerisms, but how he takes advantage of a situation and seems to have a plan for almost everything.
He’s already planted seeds of doubt in Emmit’s mind about Sy, now he just needs another push or two to remove him from the equation, or at least so Varga can position himself next to Emmit. As much as Sy may try to solve the Ray and Nikki situation, he’s met his match in Varga. For someone who is used to being in control, for him to lose it and Emmit’s trust all but eliminates his usefulness in the company.
And it’s this level of control that allows him to slow down Sy, get rid of Dollard, and have a plan ready to remove suspicion from Emmit after he accidentally killed Ray. Almost every possible angle, avenue, and contingency plan for an obstacle has seems to have been pre-thought out by Varga, as if he has an answer or way to talk out of everything. To overcome a force like that, you can’t just rush in to counterattack, as Nikki knows.
But I did say almost every angle. Varga’s tactics and attempt to throw off the police already don’t work against Gloria, but it helps that, in a way, she’s just like him. There are no traces or results of Varga online because he’s taken steps to prevent that, as far as I can tell. But Gloria? She just doesn’t use or get technology. And Eden Valley is such an island that of course the police department wouldn’t have a computer.
Varga tells Emmit that he’s so rarely seen that maybe he doesn’t exist at all, but when it comes to the online world, Gloria literally doesn’t exist. For all her woes with technology, we’re at an instance where this works in her favor since Varga can’t look into her history. As we learned from the California trip, Gloria finds more value in face-to-face encounters, so if Varga wants to learn more about Gloria, he’d have to talk to her.
We don’t spend a lot of time with Gloria and Winnie, but there’s enough here to get that they don’t buy Varga’s bullshit. It can’t just be a cosmic coincidence for all of these things to align for Varga to just write it off as nonsense. Try as he does to get rid of them like flies, they’re still on the case and Gloria has all the inclination she needs to keep investigating, even though she’s headed right for a crime scene.
Oh, and kind of like how Carrie Coon’s characters on both Fargo and The Leftovers have trouble with technology, the music in Gloria’s last scene felt very similar to The Leftovers, as if Max Richter stepped in and let the Fargo crew borrow some of his music. Or I could be wrong and it’s just a massive, cosmic coincidence. Who knows with these shows? But it’s fun to imagine that there’s a connection.
It also would’ve been fun to imagine just what Ray and Emmit’s relationship would’ve been like had they never fought. We’ve seen before that they have the capacity to be civil, but their bitter rivalry, coupled with Sy and Nikki escalating things, brought them to this point. It was a touching moment to see the two be civil, if for a moment, before Ray’s bitterness and resentment got the better of him and he refused to accept the very thing he’s craved.
Or maybe it wasn’t just him being bitter. With Emmit wanting to bury the hatchet and present the stamp as a sign of goodwill, perhaps Ray perceived this as Emmit being condescending. He’s still just looking down on his brother and tossing away the stamp because he doesn’t need it anymore, so why would Ray take it? It’s Ray’s unwillingness to let things go and stubbornness that leads to one last fight.
And as before in the Fargo world, it’s one slip-up or misunderstanding that leads to a violent death. It was upsetting to see Ray die, not just because he never got closure with Emmit, but also because he never got to tie the knot with Nikki, who he did love. Denied his claim to prosperity, Ray’s anger and resentment towards his brother ended up being his downfall. When handed an olive branch, he smacked it away and paid with his life.
That’s not on purpose. It was an accident, but indicative of how much he refused to accept a peace offering from Emmit, who really did look worn down from the years of fighting. He’s already lost his wife and family. What’s the point in continuing this feud when his loved ones have already left due to Ray’s actions? Better to wipe the slate clean and move forward.
For all that Emmit is going through, it looked like he was ready to put this feud behind him. So for him to unintentionally kill Ray is a huge blow to him and very shocking moment, I’ll admit, because it was so sudden. And like Sy watching Nikki get beaten, it looks like it’s going to stay with him for some time.
Speaking of, Nikki is quite the clever one. She deduces that Emmit and Sy are wrapped up in some real estate dealings, so she’s well-informed, and she’s crafty enough to fashion a weapon in case she’s cornered and almost attacked again. Granted, Meemo wasn’t in the hotel room when she returned, but it was still tense nonetheless when she approached the bathroom.
Nikki is crafty in ways that Simone wasn’t in the second season. While Simone played both sides, she couldn’t account for Bear cornering her when he found out about her going against the family. We all remember how that ended. Nikki, while not playing Ray, is at least careful enough to cover her tracks and avoid detection. Now that she’s on her own, she’ll have to do a lot more of that to stay out of Varga’s radar.
“The Lord of No Mercy” brought the Stussy feud to a violent end with Ray’s death and provided some great moments with Varga, but now that Eden Valley’s finest are headed back to investigate further, we’ll see if Varga may have met his match in Gloria Burgle.