Fargo S3E5 “The House of Special Purpose”
This season of Fargo has forgone the massive casts and deaths that were a staple of season two and has instead gone with a smaller more intimate cast where the stakes are higher thanks in part to the smaller amount of players. As we hit the halfway point of the season, “The House of Special Purpose” more than any episode before it, strays away from telling individual stories and interweaves the different stories into becoming a singular narrative. In the episode, Ray and Nikki play dirty to take what they think is theirs, Emmit finds his situation growing more and more tumultuous, and Sy has himself a day that he won’t soon forget, but for all the wrong reasons. Let’s take a look.
While this cold open is without the menacing Billy Bob Thornton there to narrate us a fairy tale, it works just as well. A mysterious envelope arrives by Emmit’s doorstep and his wife Stella brings it in the house. The envelope explicitly says that only Emmit should open it and Stella holds off, for a while. She does eventually succumb to her curiosity and opens the package. Little did Emmit know that this package his wife was about to open would change his life forever. He comes home and finds a disaster, his wife is leaving and taking the kids and her mother with her. Emmit can’t even get a useful word in because she’s so devastated. He takes a look at this package himself and sees a note, one hundred thousand dollars or we’ll tell your wife”. Tell her what?
Emmit plays the enclosed video and very quickly sees that Ray dressed up as himself again and Nikki dressed up as a hooker, leaving the impression that Emmit is getting some side action. A bad look for Emmitt indeed. We then flash back to the making of this video and we get a touching and at the same time funny scene during this sex tape production. As they get ready, Ray asks for Nikki’s hand in marriage and she happily says yes (after taking her hooker wig off of course). We’ve probably spent the most screen time with Ray and Nikki and have probably rooted for them the most so far this season so the marriage proposal is most likely the most genuine moment between two characters we’ve seen so far. As we all well know though, genuine happy moments in Fargo don’t typically last very long as we’ll see proven true yet again by the back end of the episode.
In this episode, Sy sort of dominates the screen time while ironically being powerless through the majority of it. We start back at the Stussy Lots office where he shares some unpleasant alone time with Varga and his henchmen. Varga has heard and is very unpleased that a cop came swinging by the other day and Sy was talking to her. Sy says that he didn’t say anything (which is true by the way) but even so, Varga is intent on sending Sy a message. The conversation becomes an extremely humiliating ordeal as Varga makes fun of his “fat wife” and makes him drink some contaminated water that I will call “ball juice” for a lack of a better phrase. Sy really has to tread carefully from here on out.
After that whole ordeal, its little wonder that Sy is assessing all of his options, including selling the company and passing along the Varga problem to the new owner. He has a lunch meeting with the super wealthy widow Goldfarb, who is looking to get into the parking lot business. This is a great scene for Sy and really humanizes him as he struggles through the first bit of the conversation admitting that he’s had a very rough day (isn’t that quite the understatement?). A rocky start yes, but Sy finds his balance and the conversation becomes a productive one as they talk about a potential sale of the entire company. Before they can get into formalizing anything though, Sy checks his phone and sees that Emmit has an emergency and wants Sy to come by his house right now. Sy complies with his boss’ wishes and leaves, handing the widow Goldfarb his business card, telling her to call his private line. He says that the phone lines are down right now but initially says that the main lines aren’t safe, which really isn’t a lie. They’ll probably talk business later, but for now, Sy drives over to Emmit’s.
Sy arrives at his boss and best friend’s house and obviously finds Emmit distraught over Ray and Nikki’s most recent move. Emmit is so mad that he even lashes out at Sy, calling him useless. Emmit has called Ray and Nikki losers in the past so the fact that Sy can’t stop these two from ruining Emmit’s life has got to make Emmit feeling real bad. It seems for a bit that these two may even have a fight of their own as Sy reminds Emmit that his personal life is still the side problem here and their attention should be going towards Varga. Emmit again blames the Varga problem on Sy and things aren’t looking great in regards to either problem. They talk it out and Sy asks if he can take care of Nikki and Ray with the “shackles off”. Emmitt gives him the go ahead and we get to see just what shackles off actually means.
Given that this season of Fargo, more than its predecessors is the story of a bunch of bumbling idiots messing things up, it’s only fitting that “shackles off” Sy is actually pretty lame. His big “shackles off” move is to call Nikki and just pay her off to drop everything. Sy calls Nikki and tells her he’ll give her forty grand to stop the madness. Nikki says she has more compromising sex tapes of “Emmit” and now ups the asking price to two hundred grand. The two argue for a bit and then decide to meet over at one of the more remote parking lots that Emmit owns.
While this conversation was happening, Nikki and Ray were at a bridal store shopping for tuxes for Ray (how cute). After the conversation, Nikki tells her fiancé that she has some things to take care of and that she’ll see him at home later and departs. Ray takes the bus home and just as he gets home, Gloria and Winnie are waiting for him and want to ask him some questions. They head on over to the police station and things aren’t looking too great for Ray, as we recall that Gloria and Winnie basically pieced it all together to end last week’s episode. Ray struggles to not crack under the pressure, just saying the least incriminating things he can think of, even if they interfere with his previous statements. Before Ray can bury himself, everyone’s least favorite police chief comes in to save the day for Ray and berate Gloria for seemingly the millionth time. Moe tells Gloria a story about two girls with the same name who lived far away and how a balloon owned by one found its way to the other, the gist of it being, coincidences happen but that’s just all there is too them. Yeah he may come across as a jerk to the viewer, but we have to take a moment to see how he sees it. Gloria’s story only sounds good to us because we the viewer saw it happen. Without that, Gloria’s story seems to heavily rely on circumstantial evidence at best, and odd coincidences at worst. Now he could just give in and let Gloria finish her investigation, or even enter the investigation himself, but he might be taking this personally. Seeing as this case is the last thing between the old setup and the transition of power, and Gloria has already delayed the transition for a good while, he may just view this as Gloria trying to spite him and he won’t let her win. All that said, I hope he lightens up or changes his tune because as of right now, he can come across as a buffer to just make the story last the entire ten episodes, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Our end scene for the episode is the meeting between Sy and Nikki that they agreed to. They both drive on over and it seems to be a nice lonely spot, you wonder if “shackles off” Sy picked this spot because he was planning on doing something violent. That question will never be directly answered but we can assume it was a strong no from what happens next. Sy didn’t know that Yuri and Meemo were following him around throughout the entire course of the episode. As Nikki and Sy talk about making a deal, the two henchmen make their arrival, showing Sy what “shackles off” really means. Yuri proceeds to brutally beat Nikki in a scene that is extremely uncomfortable for the viewers, and even more so for Sy, who can’t even look. The beating is off screen and the focus of the shot is Sy’s horrified face which looks absolutely genuine. The two henchmen take their leave after the beating and a horrified Sy, likely assuming that Nikki is dead, flees as fast as he can so not to be blamed for this. The camera then focuses on Nikki’s car and in an agonizing but rewarding wait, we see that while Nikki is brutally injured (broken legs by the looks of it), they were only body blows and she is able to crawl to her car and drive home. Ray comes home looking for Nikki and finds her in the bathtub and sees her injuries which are pretty rough to look at. Ray can’t believe what happened and you just know that this will be motivation to get Nikki and Ray involved with the Varga story, one story that the couple has yet to enter into but one that seems imminent now and should be fascinating.
We’re carrying over the fairy tale narrative just a bit in this episode as our last image of the scene is a fade to a wolf, which is represented by Varga.
There’s some great humor in this episode, best illustrated by the phone conversation between the twins. Ray is on the bus when they’re talking and drops the f bomb multiple times (didn’t know FX allowed that) and threatens Emmit to give him the money. This draws the attention of everyone on the bus and when it’s all over, Ray apologizes saying he was talking to his mom, hilarious.
There is quite the debate going on about what exactly Varga did to Sy’s mug. I’m alright with just describing it as “gross”.
Varga seems to want to split Sy and Emmit apart. Varga suggests to Emmit that Sy might be in with Ray and Nikki, explaining why every effort he’s made to scare them away has failed. Not sure Emmit bought it but it will add some extra tension to their relationship after Sy’s most recent mess up at the end of this episode.
Chief Moe’s story about the two girls and the balloon is actually a real story. Just found that interesting.
Quote of the day comes from Sy, trying to convince Emmit that Varga is their top concern. “The enemy is inside our gates! Fornicating with our cookware!” I’m loving Sy more and more as this season rolls along.
“The House of Special Purpose” takes the shackles off of everyone as the stakes get raised to their highest point yet.