FARGO: "That's sweet," the ballad of Nikki Swango
This show, you guys. This. Fucking. Show. The deliberately plotted season continued with its fifth installment last night, and it feels like we’re all tied to some tracks watching a train bear down on us at a leisurely 10 mph. We know some shit is going to go down at some point, but for now the show is just ratcheting up the tension and slowly tightening the noose around the brothers Stussy.
The hint of violence in the air comes from V.M. Varga and his boys, and their oppressive presence is felt all over. Varga himself offers a piss-mug to poor Sy in an epic power play that leaves the man shaken. Later, he’s watching as Emmit fields a friendly visit from the IRS, in a textbook example of why offices with glass walls are overrated. Varga’s flunkies, meanwhile, are tasked with keeping an eye on Sy as he tries to be the fixer Emmit needs him to be. Which is how they come into the orbit of Ms. Nikki Swango.
Let’s rewind for a second. Nikki and Ray decided to film a sex tape in their latest effort to extort money and stamps from Emmit, and Emmit’s poor wife intercepted the package. The problem? Ray was in his Emmit wig again, so now she thinks her husband is cheating on her. Good ol’ Nikki knows how to play the cards she’s dealt, and ups the ante on Sy when he calls to resolve the mess. While the couple had been asking for a cool $100,000 to not show Emmit’s wife the tape, Nikki figures the cost of telling the wife the truth now that she’s seen it should be $200,000.
Oh, and before filming that raunchy sexcapade, Ray proposed to Nikki. I’m still not sure whether she’s using him or not, and this episode doesn’t make it clearer. On the one hand, anytime Ray professes his love or offers to go with her someplace, Nikki shushes him with a kiss and says, “That’s sweet” (and I don’t think we’ve ever heard her use the l-word yet). On the other hand, she does accept his proposal, and seems genuinely happy with him. So it’s too bad she doesn’t tell him about her secret meet-up with Sy to negotiate the terms of this brotherly cease fire.
Because that meeting in the parking lot? That felt like a storm cloud finally bursting on a humid day. I was pretty certain Sy wouldn’t have the balls to hurt Nikki on his own (c’mon, he couldn’t even turn down a mug of piss), but it was still unnerving when he asked her to drive further into the lot, away from the road. Not as unnerving as when Varga’s cronies showed up, of course. That was when I was certain Nikki was a goner, and it made me angry. Because this season, for all its careful plotting and leisurely pacing, has been about the strengths of women — and Nikki, while hardly a saint, has been utterly captivating with her cool composure and many schemes.
As that scene played out, I was ready to be furious at the choice to focus on Sy’s facial reactions during the violent off-screen beating of Nikki, as if her demise would ultimately be about him. I should have had more faith in Fargo, because the pay-off was glorious. NIKKI AIN’T DEAD, Y’ALL! When her hand reached up to grab her car, I practically jumped for joy. She painfully dragged herself into her car, and somehow made it to Ray’s house to collapse in his tub and nurse her wounds. Maybe she does love him after all, because after a beating like that I’d probably head to the hospital and then get out of town.
So for those keeping score: Ray has caused Emmit’s wife to leave him, but Emmit has caused Nikki to be severely beaten. That feud just isn’t going to end well, is it? What I love is that, left to their own devices, the brothers would probably make up. They nearly did when Nikki was breaking into Emmit’s office for the infamous tampon scene. It’s their seconds-in-command, Sy and Nikki, who seemingly cause each escalation. Of course, the decision to hire Maurice for a little light robbery was entirely Ray’s. And without Maurice, Gloria would never have gotten on this case.
That’s right, Gloria and her new partner Winnie are still fighting the patriarchy and trying to work a case so coincidental and complicated that her boss just can’t believe there could be a shred of truth to it. He interrupts their interrogation of Ray and tells them to give it up with another terrible anecdote, but you know these women aren’t through with this case just yet. Of all the coincidences that have driven this plot so far, my favorite is the chance bathroom meeting that brought these two ladies together. I can’t wait to see the look on the new Chief’s face when they finally get their evidence.
Sidenote: Did Shea Whigham get cast as the new Chief entirely based on his role in Agent Carter? I like to think so.
And finally, any discussion of the powerful ladies of Fargo wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the introduction of Mary McDonnell as the widow Goldfarb, storage magnate and possible fiscal savior to Emmit and Sy. We only got one scene with her, but I look forward to seeing how she is going to fit into things as we approach the climax. After all, you do NOT mess with President Roslin.
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