Last night’s “The House of Special Purpose” brings FX’s third Fargo chapter to its midpoint and drops the continuity’s bleakest moments since Carl Showalter parked to collect a ransom that wasn't his in Joel and Ethan Coen’s classic original film.
Nikki Swango gets caught by indiscriminate assault that raises the stakes for next week’s edition after opening the first proper fissure in the Stussy parking empire’s domestic seat -- through a classic “falsified” ransom note gone wrong an all new way.
So when Emmit opens the hour with his last pleasant drive before returning indoors, he’s found caught between sunrays and the glacial force that all in Minnesota must come to respect: Ice.
Returning observers of Noah Hawley and FX’s Legion (or any viewers with astronomical interests) knowthe sun and moon’s suborbital link -- both cast changing reflections to each other and to their viewer determined by off-sync rates of celestial rotation that alter our shared gravity.
While the cosmos houses more suns and moons than an ex-sci-fi storywriter like Ennis Stussy could shake his fist at, a terrestrial story has to reckon with Earth’s frightfully dwindling asset before any galactic intrigue.
Slick ice makes anything tough to dig into, but the frozen blanket layer forms a union between all who travel along it -- or park on top. And through Nikki and Ray’s shining tape, Emmit’s protective ice begins to thaw.
The hour’s only semi-proper business dealing, the heavily teased introduction of Storage Queen Ruby Goldfarb, is put on hold so Sy can assess the damage. Sy decided to raise a white flag for the Goldfarb crusade before even sitting down thanks to V.M. Varga, but Emmit beckons him away too early.
Expecting to see a disaster newly wrought by the invaders with a grab on their cash-flowing business, Sy instead finds the Parking Lot King despondent without a family to turn to. Watching Nikki and Ray’s tape forced Emmit to glimpse an unrealized version of himself -- a trauma his lonely new state isn’t equipped to withstand.
Emmit can’t even think about the partnership agreement V.M. Varga is brandishing, let alone the new developments that came with the Goldfarb meeting, so his m0st trusted “fixer” is still made to work with an incomplete picture.
Emmit’s first visit from the IRS’s Larue Dollard tops off his anxious misery. Dollard makes it plain that his employer doesn’t use a “courtesy” call like others Emmit has “working” on his schedule.
IRS work flows through alerts and notifications (prompted by his brother’s bank disguise gambit, in this case) triggering face-to-book-to-face investigations that, according to Dollard, remain the only proper way to size an asset up.
Dollard naturally mistakes V.M. for Sy after a displacement hastened by V.M. (in the parlance of a much different time) waxing poetically on a chicken’s role between two eggs.
V.M. Varga is in the egg business, not the chicken business, and an individual chicken’s life ultimately only “concerns” the chicken itself. An egg farmer is always prepared for a coop inspection, so he remains unconcerned knowing his “untruth” is just as powerful in paper form.
Things turn beyond the forgivable with V.M.’s most trusted pair handling the dirty work, which is exactly why he wants them following Sy to his ill-intentioned meeting with Nikki Swango.
Having begun her tragic escalation on an increasingly rare genuine moment -- a proposal thankfully witnessed by none outside Ray’s fish tank, and just before their tape began rolling -- Nikki is a collateral victim of a new reality with her would-be brother-in-law’s fraudulent dealings.
Nikki first answered Sy’s call while Ray tried to fit in a suit, and she meant well by not opening a new loop after taking the call privately. The strategy ensures her partner has only partial information, which rule-abiding card-playing partnerships are accustomed to playing off.
Both wings of the Stussy conflict are therefore shocked at the new level of violence that sadly follows a propaganda campaign. Nikki dug in hoping for $200,000 that a business with Varga’s interests can likely afford, but she is cruelly used in service of teaching Sy some kind of bizarre lesson.
The rendition of World Party’s “Ship of Fools” that haunts the hour’s memory is the second time Fargo has rolled credits under the singing voice of its creator, Noah Hawley. When Hawley first sang for Fargo (at the end of its second year opener, “Waiting for Dutch”) it signaled a new, broader focus that fans never could have anticipated. Tonight’s conclusion is even more of a shock, but with the end of the saga in sight, it raises the stakes even higher.
- Emmit picks a bad time to need to talk to Ray, leaving everyone on his bus knowing the trauma that can quickly launch from a cell phone interruption. A call from family normally signals something to discuss; when there isn’t much to say, as in Emmit’s case, it leaves the rest of the day broken.
- Gloria’s first time questioning Ray with Winnie at her side takes a much different path than the earlier visit to his office, partially because the pair now knows to catch him off guard. As Donny understood in advance, Moe Dammik doesn’t like the idea -- his red balloon story of two Laura Buxtons, though occasionally warped on social media, is indeed mostly true.
- “The House of Special Purpose” is the first credit of the year for writer Bob DeLaurentis, returning to Fargo after penning two of its heaviest and fan-worshipped scripts (“The Myth of Sisyphus” and the Blumquist cabin affair “Loplop”) from the 1979-set second installment.
- The already-loaded cast is invigorated: Legion fan favorite Hamish Linklater debuts as a new kind of interrogator (Larue Dollard of the IRS) and Mary McDonnell (twice nominated for Emmy and Academy Awards and Saturn Award winner for Battlestar Galactica) makes a memorable entrance as the Storage Queen, Ruby Goldfarb.
- Ruby came to the meeting prepared to impress, but instead learned more than Sy intended to give away. Her window into the crumbling empire makes her one to watch extremely closely in the remaining hours.
- After his forced abdication, Russia’s last emperor (Nicholas II) and his family served the end of their imprisonment in the so-labeled “House of Special Purpose” in Yekaterinburg before being executed there. Red history enthusiast Maurice LeFay would have some things to say about that, but Ray already took care of him.
Photo Credit: FX