Stonewalling on the job, stonewalling at dinner, stonewalling at the library, and surprise cameo from Season One. All in this week’s Fargo. This is “The Law of Inevitability”
The episode begins on in Emmit’s mansion as Varga starts working his way through many presents. Are they his? I doubt it.
On a less cheerful note, Gloria and Winnie return to Ray’s place, only to find his now decomposing body. Wait, didn’t Ray just die and he’s already rotting?
Whatever. At the hotel, Nikki rests and waits for any call from Ray, but the phone doesn’t ring. When she decides to call, housekeeping knocks on the door. However, it turns out to be Chief Dammick and other officers burst in, and he manages to grab Nikki before she can flee through the window. Nikki, if Jerry Lundegaard couldn’t get out through a hotel window, neither can you. As Nikki is carted off, Meemo watches from a distance.
Emmit, meanwhile, arrives at the aforementioned dinner and sits with Sy and Ruby Goldfarb, who tells Emmit all about her self-storage business. After jokingly suggesting that he buy her out, Emmit explains that he didn’t to where he is by sticking to a plan. The three toast to new friends.
At the station, Chief Dammick joins Nikki in an interrogation room and shows her photos of Ray’s dead body. He knows that Nikki’s got some bruises on her and wonders how someone like Ray could land Miss state Penitentiary 2010 in Nikki. Then he got the record and found that Nikki had 18 months probation and Ray was the one to sign the form. In his mind, this was just a love story gone wrong.
Remember, Dammick is a simple man- crime and punishment, cause and effect. You mash a potato, you get mashed potatoes. Nikki wants a lawyer, but Dammick tells her to think through the evidence: she’s a known felon and it wouldn’t take much to paint a history of domestic violence with a loser like Ray.
Dammick suggests she take the tearjerker route and call Ray a monster who would beat her. Nikki doesn’t give into that, so Moe leaves her with the photo.
Dammick summons Gloria and Winnie into an office where he and another officer tell them that, moving forward, St. Cloud will handle the homicide and the two of them will go back to traffic enforcement. However, Chief Burgle- a title she’ll have through Christmas- would like to talk to Nikki, as she has a paper grid that lays out the related parties and delineates their personal and professional relationship to the murders.
So Ennis Stussy is murdered by Maurice LeFay, whose probation officer was the current victim- Ray Stussy. But then Maurice also died under mysterious circumstances, making him the third victim. At the heart of this case is the rivalry between Ray and his brother, Emmit, the parking lot king of Minnesota. It’s easy to understand how a rich man like Emmit would be targeted by his less successful brother.
But then Ray’s plan went off the rails, which led to Ennis’ death, and that’s why Gloria is here right now. As far as Dammick is concerned, only an intellectual could believe something so stupid as what Gloria suggested. Maybe Gloria doesn’t see things as mashed potatoes. However, Gloria finds the alternative theories make less sense, especially with the new victim.
However, Gloria and Winnie are ordered back to traffic enforcement. This case belongs to St. Cloud now. With that, Winnie and Gloria exit and decide that they need to gauge Emmit’s reaction by informing him of Ray’s death. Before Gloria can lean on Nikki, Dammick tells her to take off for the holiday until the transition of power, be with family, or find another job. Happy holidays, Chief Dammick.
That’s when Gloria slips off and tells a desk officer that she’s supposed to talk to Nikki Swango, but she doesn’t have the interview request form. Gloria appeals to the officer to let her through anyway, but no, she’ll have to go upstairs and ask the shift sergeant for that blue form. You never forget the blue form, Gloria.
At the Eden Valley Public Library, Donny, who is looking through what looks like a dating site or some precursor to Tinder, receives a call that requires him to leave, so he locks up the library and heads off, but heads back in when he realizes that he’s forgotten his gun. He heads back inside, finds a still spinning chair, and calls out for anyone else who may be present.
He soon happens upon Yuri, who is in the middle of reading a book. When Donny tells him to leave, Yuri said that he did. He’s not there anymore, but Donny still sees him. Hey, maybe his eyes are lying. As Donny goes for his weapon, Yuri tells him to consider his options, as he’s alone in a room full of books and talking to himself. He figures that Donny came back for his gun, which is sitting on the counter.
Yuri tells Donny to pick it up, and he does. He soon leaves, and Yuri departs soon after…with the Ennis Stussy file on hand. Also, wolf head. At least Yuri won’t have to use his whip.
Back at the restaurant, Ruby doesn’t think Emmit is one to retire soon, but Emmit and Sy figure it’s time to quite while they’re ahead. After all, if you love something, let it go. If it comes back, it’s yours…and if it doesn’t, hunt it down and kill it. Well, that‘s the version that Emmit heard, anyway.
As Ruby notes a red spot on Emmit’s shirt, Sy is ready to call it a night. The attorney will get started on the paperwork soon. Emmit brings up Ruby’s late husband, and Ruby confirms that in May, it will have been a full year since he passed. Emmit knows about loss, as Stella, his wife of 25 years, left him due to a sex tape. He figures this is the price of being rich, dealing with fake smiles, deadbeats, and jackals.
To Emmit, money is a blessing and curse. Sore losers make up stories about how people like him, Sy, and Ruby are villains. He asks Ruby if she’s heard of the vile maxim: “All for ourselves and nothing for other people.” But a rich man didn’t write that, Emmit says. No, it came from the grubby hands of those trying to get their hands on someone else’s wealth.
Then Emmit and Sy spot Officer Lopez entering the restaurant. Sy goes over to her first, and while Emmit is too transfixed on that to hear anything that Goldfarb is saying to him, he’s soon called over to speak to the officer. Before he’s even asked a question, he tells Winnie that he’s been at the restaurant since six o’clock, but Winnie is here to tell Emmit that Ray is dead.
At once, Emmit believes that Nikki is the culprit, although he can’t pin down a motive. Winnie, though, just figures it was foul play. Sy tries to calm Emmit from saying too much. When Winnie asks when Emmit last saw Ray, Emmit maintains that he’s been at the restaurant all night. Sy leads Emmit off. And that’s when Winnie heads over to Ruby to ask her a few questions…
Sy and Emmit arrive at the mansion. Sy doesn’t need to know where Emmit really was. He’ll talk to the widow in case the cops have questions. He wonders if this was Varga, given what happened to Irv, but Emmit asks what Sy’s angle is. After all, Ray came to the party for money, got into the safety deposit box, and Sy’s accusations and urging caution instead of rushing in…maybe Sy and Ray conspired together.
Sy can’t believe what Emmit is saying, in the face of all logic. A partner like Sy would just join Ray and Nikki to turn millions into thousands? Emmit soon apologizes for the accusation. Truth be told, the two don’t know who to trust, but Sy reminds Emmit that he can at least trust him. They have to hit the eject button on this- take the money, and run. They can’t put Goldfarb in harm’s way, but they’re fighting for their lives.
Sy then offers to call Stella, as maybe this could lead to reconciliation, but no. Emmit would prefer to be alone. Before Sy can leave, though, he spots Varga staring down at him from one of the windows.
Inside, Varga sits on the opposite set of stairs and asks Emmit how he feels: and the answer is free. Varga speaks about his childhood nightmare and how his mother would say a rhyme about a crooked man who walked a crooked mile. He found a crooked six pence besides a crooked stile. From there, the man bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse and they all lived in a crooked house.
Sy, meanwhile, arrives at home and learns from his wife that he just missed running into his daughters, who had popped by for a surprise visit. At least there’s butterscotch pudding. Sy begins to cry because of how wrong the world is. It looks his world, but everything’s different.
Back at the precinct, Gloria heads upstairs to get the blue form, but the officer recognizes that she’s not from St. Cloud, and here, just those officers get the blue forms. For Eden Valley, Gloria will need her superior’s approval, and while she’s still Chief, approving herself is against regulation.
Gloria heads to the ladies room and unwinds while Nikki stews in her cell. She rises from her seat, eyes the camera, and finds an officer entering to search for contraband. He threatens to tase her if she doesn’t comply, so she does. Before he can inject her, Gloria rushes in and holds the man at gunpoint. However, the officer kicks the gun away and escapes.
Two officers and Dammick arrive and hold Gloria while Nikki tells them all that the syringe was going to be used on her. Dammick doesn’t believe it, but Nikki implores them to check the police tape.
Indeed, the officers check it, but the footage glitches out before they can make much progress. Dammick is fine with it just being a glitch, but Gloria recognizes that someone in uniform came for Nikki. Gloria isn’t talking certainty, but doubt. After three murders and now the main suspect almost killed while in custody- it’s a killing spree. The least they can do is talk to Nikki.
So Dammick and Gloria speak with Nikki, who doesn’t want Ray cut open. However, since it’s a homicide, the officers are obliged to perform an autopsy. Gloria asks about the man that came to kill Nikki, but Dammick is sticking to his mashed potato theory. Nikki tells them to follow the money.
Dammick revokes Nikki’s probation and decides to have her transferred to the state penitentiary for protection. Also, forensics is testing the syringe, and Dammick figures it won’t take much for a jury to convict her, nutbag with a syringe or not. Gloria, though, asks Nikki if she likes pie, as she plans to visit her after the holiday so they can talk about Ray. Nikki tells Gloria that she likes coconut cream pie with chocolate flakes on top.
Later that evening, Nikki is hauled towards a prison transport unit. As she takes her seat on the transport, in a moment that made me smile, it turns out that she’s sitting right next to Mr. Wrench, with Russell Harvard reprising his role from Season One. As the unit is transported, Yuri steps into the road, throwing the bus off course and causing it to skid and crash.
With his wolf outfit on, Yuri begins cutting through the cage separating him from a now unconscious Nikki.
A constant of Fargo is the cop who is smarter than your average bear. While other officers may want to close an investigation and move on as they go through the motions, some like Molly, Lou, Marge, and now Gloria and Winnie have that itch that can’t be scratched until a case is put to bed for the right reasons, not just for convenience’s sake. Not everything is that simple.
Unless you’re Chief Dammick. I’ve said it before, but Shea Whigham is great at playing a hard-ass police officer, but I’m wondering if that is his complete characterization or if he’s just being a dick right now. Even seeing things as cause and effect or mashed potatoes, he’d have to be a fool to not connect the dots. Maybe not as clear as Gloria, but realize the connection between these murders.
And yet, as Varga predicted, the officers went along with the tale that Ray and Nikki’s relationship was one of domestic violence. Varga doesn’t even have to do any work because he knows a no-nonsense man like Dammick will accept what’s black and white instead of looking beneath the surface for more, as is the case with Gloria.
Much of Gloria’s progress is stymied because of this. She can’t speak to Nikki, even when she tries to get that damn blue form, Dammick writes her theory off as stupid, and when the mysterious assassin tries to inject Nikki, the officers subdue Gloria instead of chasing after the fake cop. It’s not that these officers are incompetent, but naive to the bigger picture because they choose not to see it as a bigger picture.
How does someone like Dammick get to be Chief with such an outlook? Is it because things are, for the most part, so simple in Minnesota that most cases are as open-and-shut as he believes this one is? I’m not saying Dammick is a bad character, but he’s a strange one to watch. Everything for him happens for a very simple reason and nothing more.
At the very least, he does show semblance of caring about Nikki’s well-being when he opts to put her in protective custody. Granted, that could also be to get her off of his hands and maybe Gloria will stop questioning her. Plus, he could just write off the crash as a coincidence. Hey, the folks on the bus are criminals. Cosmic justice to people who committed crimes.
But that’s not good enough for Gloria. Ennis’ death, as well as the others connected, shouldn’t just be written off as cause and effect. Coon continues to do a great job at playing Gloria’s frustration. She’s persistent with both her investigation and standing up to Dammick, but never crosses into being pushy or confrontational for the sake of conflict. After all, if she won’t be Chief much longer, may as well finish by untangling this web.
It helps that, unlike Dammick, she doesn’t see Nikki as just a criminal. I mean, she is, but Nikki isn’t dripping with malice. She’s an opportunist, but still cared for Ray. Not to the extent that Ray did for her, but hey, she dropped an air conditioner on Maurice for Ray. If that’s not true love, I don’t know what is. Plus, as a sign of respect, she doesn’t want his body cut open. Point is that, despite her flaws, Nikki is made very sympathetic.
And while she has every reason to not trust the officers, she may have found an ally in Gloria. Even before the pie offer, Gloria, not Dammick, was the one there to rescue her from being attacked. As crafty as Nikki may be and even though she’s on her own, no doubt that Gloria will be there for her if she’s in another jam. Except for this current jam.
Transitioning onto that, I did not expect a character from a previous season to appear. It was a big surprise for me to see Mr. Wrench as Nikki’s bus-mate and I like how the camera didn’t reveal who sat next to Nikki, as if playing it up like a huge reveal. And it was. Now I wonder what role, if at all, he’ll play in these last three episodes.
More so because of the gap between seasons. The first season was in 2006, and this one is in 2010. Last we saw Mr. Wrench, Lorne Malvo had given him the key to free himself. Whether Wrench indeed got bored and called Malvo, I don’t know. But in the intervening years, looks like he’s in trouble again. But wait, Mr. Wrench was in Molly and Gus’ jurisdiction, right? So do they know his whereabouts?
Either way, whatever becomes of Mr. Wrench, I enjoyed seeing him. Could he end up saving Nikki from Yuri or was his appearance just a nice Easter Egg for fans? Whatever the reason, him showing up, like having Billy Bob Thornton narrate in “The Narrow Escape Problem,” is another nice connection we have to the first season.
Another callback I found was Yuri warning Donny to consider his options when he found him in the library.
It felt reminiscent of Malvo advising Gus in “The Crocodile Dilemma” to go back to his car instead of trying to do his duty when he pulled over Malvo. Whether intentional or by accident, I liked the similarities between the two scenes.
And because I suck at transitions, this is less a callback and more another constant of Fargo: people incriminating themselves because of their own idiocy. Despite Varga giving him clear instructions on how to carry himself, Emmit could not have looked more guilty or suspicious. Winnie hadn’t even told him about Ray’s death and he’s already spouting out his alibi.
He’s shook up because of accidentally killing Ray, not to mention his suspicion of Sy and dealing with Varga, but he painted a target on his own back. And between his ranting about the rich and poor, as well as Ruby Goldfarb noting the spot on his shirt, chances are Officer Lopez is going to pay him another visit soon.
Despite Varga planting the seeds of doubt in Emmit’s mind, I’m glad he got it out in the open not just so he and Sy could end up on good terms again, but because it further proved Sy’s loyalty to Emmit. Everything he’s done, whether blunting Ray and Nikki or warning Emmit not to trust Varga, Sy has Emmit’s best interests in mind.
But his worldview is still shattered, as seen when he weeps to his wife about how wrong and different the world looks to him. Varga’s taken some of his dignity, and while Emmit knows he can trust Sy, there still exists that bit of suspicion that threatens to tear apart their friendship as long as Varga is present.
Hell, Varga has already brought the two to a low point. Just look at the shot of Varga and Emmit on the stairs. When the season started, Emmit was happy and surrounded by family and friends. Now he’s left with a man who is infiltrating his company and has no problem going through the Christmas presents. The once happy home has become a crooked house occupied by a man who sees money as a curse and blessing.
“The Law of Inevitability” upped the stakes even more in another strong episode as Gloria continued to face obstacles from superiors while trying to make sense of and solve this killing spree. Mr. Wrench’s return was a welcome surprise and now to see if he’ll be of any help to Nikki now that Yuri is just minutes away from reaching her.