A Look at Fargo- Season 3, Episode 9: “Aporia”

Varga meets his match, Emmit bears his soul, and Gloria finally gets some acceptance in the penultimate episode of Fargo’s third season.  This is “Aporia.”

The episode begins with a man, Marvin Stussy, played by Joe Dodds, getting his morning newspaper.  As he heads back in to grab some milk from the freezer, he’s quickly murdered by Meemo.

Att the precinct, Emmit tells Gloria that he came to her precinct in particular thanks to her giving him one of her cards.  Emmit wants to be clear: don’t believe anyone coming in and claiming to be his lawyer- he’s here of his own volition.  He then admits that Ray was right about being tricked by Emmit.  He asks Gloria if a lie isn’t a lie if you believe it’s true, but it’s not Gloria’s story.

Now, Emmit doesn’t know what to believe.  He talks about their father who played tennis every Sunday.  One day, Emmit heard his Dad’s Mercedes, so he hid the tennis ball.  Once Dad got out of his car, he soon dropped on his face.  He admits to killing Ray- after he tricked him- on Christmas Eve and compares it to whacking a tennis ball back and forth.  He then talks about their bitter rivalry over the stamp and car.

Ray begged for the stamp in exchange for the car.  Gloria asks Emmit how he killed Ray, but Emmit continues to talk about his feud with Ray and how he kept the stamp like he’d made his first dollar.  Emmit won while Ray settled for being a probation officer.  When Emmit tried to bury the hatchet, Ray wouldn’t accept it.  During the shoving, a piece of the glass ended up in Ray’s neck.

Emmit’s not calling himself a murderer, though.  But, in his mind, he’s been killing Ray all this time, but it wasn’t until now that he actually fell.

Varga’s still doing his research when he and Meemo discuss getting Emmit out of the precinct.  Varga wants things escalated to Stage Four, though.  No mistakes.  With the plans made, everyone loads up and heads out.

But then things go south.  That night, during the drive, Meemo gets a surprise.  Out of nowhere, Nikki lobs a grenade into the trailer truck, forcing Meemo and the passenger to flee.  Meanwhile, Mr. Wrench opens fire on the accompanying vehicle.  The two take off in the semi just as Meemo finds that the grenade Nikki threw was, in fact, a fake.

At a junkyard, Nikki and Mr. Wrench enter the truck and search around until Nikki finds what she needs: a particular briefcase.  The two then take off in another vehicle, leaving the truck at the landfill the truck, enter another car, and drive off, leaving the truck at the junkyard.

Meemo arrives at Emmit’s office, where Varga receives a call from Nikki.  She lets him know that she’s got his briefcase.  After getting Varga to reveal his name, Nikki demands he meet her with $2 million at a location of her choosing.  And come alone.

Back at the precinct, Emmit is hauled into a cell and keeps to himself instead of bugging his three new roommates, one of whom approaches and compliments him on his sweater. If Emmit was a smart man, he’d just give the guy his sweater and save himself the trouble.

Gloria calls Winnie, who is in the middle of investigating the homicide of Marvin Stussy, to tell her that Ruby Goldfarb’s alibi about Emmit being at the restaurant contradicts Emmi’s confession.  Small world that this new victim also happens to be named Stussy, isn’t it?

Nathan is at the station and was nice enough to bring burgers for Gloria.  She wants to go to the lake with Nathan- just the two of them- but he’d rather hang out with his friends at the mall.  In enters Donny to tell Gloria that she’s got a phone call.  She might finally put this thing to bed.

Donny and Chief Dammick arrive at the crime scene of a murdered man by the name of George Stussy, whose nose and mouth have been glued shut, just like Ennis Stussy. Dammick believes the killer is alternating the kills to throw the officers off of their scent. This killer must really hate the Stussy name.  Then Dammick learns that a bystander saw a vehicle leaving the crime scene.

The officers soon catch up to a man heading to a vehicle that matches the one described at the crime scene.

Back at the sheriff’s office, Ruby Goldfarb arrives and tells Gloria that she met Emmit and Sy through Buck Olander.  Ruby, a St. Louis resident, is aware of Sy’s current condition, and confirms her original statement about when Sy and Emmit arrived at the restaurant, as well as that Sy arrived first.

But then officers start streaming into the office.  Donny informs Gloria that this case, a real twister, is now closed.  Even though Emmit confessed, Dammick has a the serial killer, though Gloria doesn’t buy it.  However, officers looked through the man’s trunk and found mail from Ennis home as well as a photo of Ray and Nikki.  Gloria stands by her facts, but Dammick’s man confessed.  Even his mother’s boyfriend is named Stussy.

In Dammick’s minds, Gloria wants to believe that Emmit did something wrong, but right now, he orders her to cut Emmit loose.  As such, Gloria tells Ruby that she can leave, but not until after Ruby says that Sy and Emmit arrived five minutes apart, even though she previously said it was 30 minutes.  Facts, you know?

As Varga dines on ice cream in a bathroom stall, he overhears that it’s done.  He then heads to a lobby to meet with Nikki, and she chose this place, the Wildcat Regional, because it’s where she and Ray won runner-up in that bridge tournament.  Bridge isn’t a game to Nikki- there’s symbiosis with your partner and strategy is her strength. Varga offers Nikki a job, but she doesn’t buy it or the company where Varga apparently works.

She knows a boss when she sees one.  That and she’s already got a job: blackmailing Varga.  He wonders how that will happen, and it starts with Nikki believing that Varga only has dirty underwear in his briefcase.  That and she figures someone is watching her outside the building.  She’s expecting a signal that someone watching will take the shot.

Problem is this is a public place with a lot of witnesses, and Varga looks very particular.  But then Nikki looks around and, for the most part, sees that most of the people wearing beige jackets similar to Varga.  This doesn’t stop Nikki from having her own ace.

How?  Because Mr. Wrench has snuck up on Meemo.  Nikki tells Varga that he got cocky.  She’s not showing all of her cards and now it’s just her and Varga.  She still wants her money.  Varga, now starting to dislike Nikki, still wants to give her a job and tells her that she can’t win this, even though she threatens to take one of his hard drives to the police.

But Nikki just wants to hurt Varga by ripping out something that he loves.  However, Varga points out that he didn’t kill Ray.  That was all Emmit.  Still, Emmit didn’t try to attack her at the precinct.  He gives Varga until tomorrow to get the money.  With that, she and Mr. Wrench take their leave.

We return to the precinct, where Emmit is brought to a frustrated Gloria.  She tells him about how she got married right out of high school and was happy until learning last year that her husband was gay and had met someone else.  Still, he loved Gloria. You think the world’s something until it turns out to be something else.

Gloria tells Emmit that he’s free to go, even though he confessed.  Since Emmit confessed, two other people named Stussy have been killed and evidence was planted to make it look like the work of a serial killer.  But now there’s a suspect who confessed to all four murders.  Whatever the price was, the confession and evidence mean the suspect goes to jail while Emmit walks free.

At last, Gloria asks who the master planner is, and the mention of this man makes Emmit nervous to the point where he can’t provide any information.

Emmit walks away from the precinct and is greeted by Meemo, who is ready to take him home.  He takes his seat in the back, where Varga is waiting for him.  He tells him that the problem isn’t that there’s evil in the world, but good.  Otherwise, who would care?  The three depart.

Later, Winnie joins Gloria at a bar and toast to showing up and fighting back, but in Gloria’s mind, the good guys lost.  But to Winnie, Jesus wins in the end.  Ever the optimist, this Winnie, I swear.  Gloria brings up The Planet Wyh and how, like Minsky, she wants to help, but keeps failing.  She feels unreal, which might explain why automatic doors don’t work for her, so her theory is maybe she doesn’t exist.

Doesn’t make sense to Winnie, who confirms that Gloria is real by tapping her on the shoulder.  She then gives Gloria a hug.  It’s simple, but effective.

How effective?  Well, when Gloria heads to the restroom to clean herself up, she tests the sensor at the automatic tap and, voila, it works!  Same for the soap dispenser.  You’re a wizard, Winnie.

Then we cut to Agent Larue Dollard, who arrives at his office and finds a manila envelope waiting for him.  He opens it and finds a thumb drive and stacks of expense papers regarding Stussy Lots Ltd.  The plot, she does thicken.

Let’s do some defining.  “Aporia” is defined as an irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction in a text or theory.  In the literary world, it’s a situation involving the speaker being in a doubt regarding a situation and asks us, the audience, how to proceed. When the speaker doubts the particular subject, this makes us feel sympathetic to the character’s plight.

In a very strong penultimate episode, we’ve got Gloria and Emmit, on opposite sides of the fence, pondering their predicament and unsure how to proceed.  For all of Emmit’s wealth and affluence, the truth pours out of him here in what’s a strong showing from Ewan McGregor.  Even though he didn’t kill Ray on purpose, he acknowledges and accepts that he’s at least responsible for how Ray turned out later in life.

As I’ve said before, Ray and Emmit could have gotten along better had their personal issues not gotten in the way, but now, despite Emmit and Ray having different versions of what led to their feud over the stamp, we learn that Emmit was indeed the arbiter of it all. He asks Gloria if a lie isn’t a lie if you believe it, and that’s what he’s done all this time as he convinced himself that he wasn’t in the wrong.

It took Varga’s meddling to get Emmit to want to bury the hatchet and just give Ray the stamp once and for all, but as we know, that didn’t happen.  And Emmit’s lost his brother, family, and Varga is slowly taking over his company.  What’s he got left at this point but a confession?  He has nothing left to lose by being honest and it felt like a cathartic moment for him to come clean both on his crime and how he treated his brother.

This is an example of that aporia.  While it was easy to sympathize with Ray due to him getting the short stick in life compared to Emmit’s wealth, we’ve seen leading up to this that Emmit does have the capacity to care for Ray.  And not out of spite, but there have been glimpses of genuine care for his brother.  And this lie has been eating away at him for so long that it’s a relief to get it out in the open.

But because Varga thinks several steps ahead, he already had a contingency plan in place.  It doesn’t seem like Emmit is even needed for Varga’s plan anymore, but watching Emmit head off into the hands of Meemo and Varga felt like he was walking to his death. He conceded that he’d done wrong, but his reward was being sent into the hands of his enemy.

By the way, even though Varga met his match in Nikki, I did like that he still had a backup plan in case Emmit confessed.  And aside from Winnie and Gloria, the officers would be all too willing to accept a version of these murders that has nothing to do with Gloria’s theories.  So Emmit walks free, the officers get to put this case to rest, and Gloria’s facts are written off as nonsense.

In a way, it’s no different than in Season One when Lester framed Chaz for Pearl and Vern’s murders.  And everyone but Molly was all but willing to accept that.  Nice callback and it makes sense, as aside from Winnie, no one’s about to indulge Gloria’s evidence, even if she sees the bigger picture.

As is often the case in the Fargo universe, the world you thought you knew turns into something uglier due to some random, violent incident.  And while that applies to Gloria’s handling of the case, it’s just as applicable to her personal life.  We haven’t spent a ton of time with Gloria and her family, and that’s fine because what snippets we get do a good job informing us of her relationship with her son and former husband.

Unlike Emmit, I don’t get the sense that Gloria was lying to herself about Ron.  Despite their marriage ending, the two remained the sort of amicable relationship that Ray and Emmit could have had.  But even then, with Ron revealing his interest in men, does that mean he never saw Gloria for who she was?  I doubt it, but it would be one of many instances where she felt invisible.

Another connection I couldn’t help but notice, but Winnie hugging Gloria and the equipment finally working for Gloria reminded me of Holy Wayne hugging Nora on The Leftovers and taking away her pain.  I know, it’s a stretch not even Reed Richards would make and I won’t stop drawing parallels between The Leftovers and Fargo because of Carrie Coon being on both, but damn it, I wasn’t gonna ignore that possible connection.

While Gloria is once again stalled in her progress, that certainly doesn’t apply to Nikki. Funny that I find myself rooting for a criminal who is going up against another criminal, but Nikki continues to impress me.  What started as a ex-con with a passion for bridge turned into a crafty strategist who is just as capable, if not more, of staying moves ahead of her opponent.

Much like the forest sequence last time, I would be up for an entire episode of Nikki and Varga trying to one-up each other.  It was engaging to watch these two try to outsmart and stay ahead of each other as they moved around their own chess board, and just when it seemed like one got the upper hand, the other would come with a surprise move.  Nikki couldn’t have anticipated people in the lobby dressed like Varga.

But Varga couldn’t have anticipated Nikki gaining access to his files or that she wasn’t working alone.  While we don’t have an indication why Mr. Wrench would still ally himself with Nikki, it’s nice to see them still working together in such a methodical fashion that they can get the jump on someone as calm and collected as Meemo.  Twice, even. It was a well executed operation that gave them the upper hand.

Plus, it’s a change of pace to see Varga thrown off course or look downright irked when someone managed to get the best of him.  Now I like that, even though he tries to bribe Nikki, he doesn’t continue to underestimate him.  In fact, I’d like to think part of him is impressed by how well-thought out she’s planned this, even though her intention is to break Varga.  Nikki won this round, but hey, she’s a formidable opponent.

And now that she’s delivered the evidence to Dollard, it seems like she might have Varga pinned, but would the IRS even pin these financial dealings to Varga instead of Emmit? Remember, Irv couldn’t find anything about Varga on the internet because the man is a ghost.  As he said, he’s so rarely seen that maybe he doesn’t exist, so while Nikki just made a huge play, I assume Varga already has a contingency plan for this, too.

Between the strong character moments with Gloria and Emmit, coupled with the ongoing chess game between Nikki and Varga, “Aporia” was a great episode and lead into the upcoming season finale.  Will Emmit continue to walk free?  Will Gloria get a second wind now that electronics acknowledge her?  And between Nikki and Varga, who will win the game and who will be end up getting checkmated?  We’ll find out in the finale.

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