REVIEW – Fargo: Season 3 Finale


Are you familiar with the Russian saying, “The past is predictable?” – V.M. Varga

I’m pretty sure you made that up. – Gloria Burgle

Possibly, but which of us can say with certainty what has occurred – actually occurred – and what is simply rumor, misinformation, opinion? – V.M. Varga

First, a brief history lesson. Erwin Schrodinger was an Austrian physicist who came up with a mind bending thought experiment. Simplified, picture a cat trapped in a steel box with both a source of radioactivity and a poison that releases when that source emits radiation. We can’t see inside the box, and a certain amount of time passes.

At that point, the cat can either be alive or dead, but cannot be both. If the box is opened, the answer is revealed, and one of the two observations is proven untrue. If it’s not opened, both answers are technically true, based on the available information.

(There’s much more to explain here, including quantum mechanics and all sorts of “fun” stuff, but this is enough to get the gist of the concept. You’re welcome for not melting your brains.)

Now consider the final scene of the Fargo season finale, in which Department of Homeland Security Agent Gloria Burgle sits in front of V.M. Varga. Several years have passed since the two last crossed each other’s paths, but Gloria never forgot the one that got away. As much as Varga tried to hide it, neither did he. He may have needed a refresher, but the main reason he played dumb was to take the alpha role and show her he didn’t even think about her after the events in Minnesota.

But back to Schrodinger’s Cat. Gloria and Varga both tell stories about what’s going to happen five minutes into the future. Gloria tells her adversary he will be arrested, handcuffed, and charged with multiple counts of conspiracy to commit murder. Varga does what he always does. He tells stories about men of means and power, and how the laws simply don’t apply to them. He tells her someone with far more authority than Gloria will walk in, free Varga, and she’ll watch him walk out the door.

Between these two stories, we see a clock. After these two stories, we see that same clock, and the requisite five minutes haven’t passed. And then Noah Hawley’s story fades to black, takes a bow, and says goodbye. Whether that goodbye is permanent, we don’t know, but if this turns out to be the ultimate swan song, what a great way to go out.

The key to Schrodinger’s Cat in this instance is uncertainty and inference, but without conclusion. What Fargo did was give us two plausible endings, but not reveal which was correct. The box was never opened. It’s up to the viewer to pick his conclusion, and to be satisfied with that choice.

In a season dominated by alternative truths, this was the last piece of the story that had to be told. Hawley could have given us the answer, but why? Truth is created by the powerful and can be manipulated by those crafty or morally bankrupt enough to employ the proper strategies of deceit.

At some level, food knows it’s food. – V.M. Varga

Varga was a villain. He was a man of no redeeming qualities, and one that valued no life other than his own. He believed in self-preservation and enrichment, and the lives, bodies, and souls left in his wake were simply necessary byproducts of his own success. Unlike the antagonists of the past two seasons, this man was pure evil. It created a line of demarcation we have never seen from Fargo.

Even Lorne Malvo had a code, despite being cold and calculated. Mike Milligan’s purpose wasn’t simply to stroll malevolently through each day and kill people. There was a reasoning behind his mistakes and transgressions, and there was some semblance of remorse, or at least mild understanding of his actions. Varga did what he wanted, consequences be damned.

In the end, Nikki Swango also did what she wanted, or more accurately what she felt she had to do, based on half truths and more alternate facts, and for her, the consequences resulted in her demise. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was superb throughout the season, but as the stakes ramped up for her character, and as her emotions revealed her true character, the performance rose to the occasion. And, we come to find out one final time that Nikki Swango was not using Ray Stussy.

She was in love with Ray Stussy. “Simpatico” wasn’t just a buzz word to suck him into her plan. She truly cared for this man, enough so that she lost her life trying to avenge his. Enough so that she handed Wrench virtually all of the money and simply said, “All I want is the brother.” She didn’t know Emmit wasn’t responsible for his death, and by the time she confronted him on that lonely stretch of highway, the facts she had in her head were the only ones she was willing to accept and act upon.

There’s a simple morality that has always governed the Fargo universe, and included within it is the idea that good will be rewarded and evil will be punished. Even if it’s years down the road, the mistakes of the past can lead a man to have his head blown off while pulling a dessert out of his family refrigerator.

You have to appreciate Wes Wrench. He avenged Ray Stussy’s death for Nikki, and also avenged hers. Or he thinks he did at least. He doesn’t know the truth, nor did she, but he did what he promised her he would do. He left Emmit for her to deal with, and when she died, it became his responsibility to right both wrongs.

Swango and Wrench decimated Varga’s crew at the storage facility, but it wasn’t like blood was absent from their hands. We were rooting for them, and I think we were also rooting for Emmit Stussy as well. But, all of them had made mistakes in judgment, or were petty in their dealings. Emmit had slipped through the eye of the needle so many times it was relatively fitting that once he felt comfortable again, back in the arms of his family, that’s when payback shot him through the back of his skull.

Gloria Burgle didn’t just get the Chief’s job, she ended up working for DHS. She never made a mistake on this show. She worked hard, she cared for her son, she dealt with feeling invisible, and the last face we see is a smiling Gloria after the realization that V.M. Varga does see her, and he’s finally hers.

…Or is he. That cat can’t be both alive and dead, except in a situation where we don’t actually see Morris after the time elapses.

Agent Burgle…Gloria…trust me, the future is certain, and when it comes you will know without question your place in the world. Until then we’ve said all there is to say. Any further debate will be simply wasting our breath, and if there’s one thing I can’t abide, it’s waste. – V.M. Varga

It was Nikki that sent the documents to Larue Dollard and the IRS, as we suspected, and placing Gloria’s name and number on the note was particularly savvy. That move made sure Burgle would finally understand what a piece of garbage Varga was, with evidence to back it up rather than mere observation.

There was gun play, there was death, there was blood, there was love, there was hatred, and there was a brilliant non-resolution in the final seconds. This was how Noah Hawley ended Season 3. He did it artistically with the representation of Erwin Schrodinger’s most famous contribution to science, and from the very beginning of the episode the added touches were in full effect.

The classic opening sequence, featuring sentences we can all recite by this point, still found its way into the proceedings, but in a much different way. It was paper that exposed Varga, it was paper that Varga used to cover up his misdeeds, and it was a paper stamp that caused a shit load of problems for everyone in the area. So, Gloria types up her resignation letter and we see part of that now familiar paragraph Hawley uses every week. Then, we visit Larue Dollard’s office and the paperwork inside it continues the words. Finally, Emmit Stussy signing documents for Varga concludes the chorus.

Little things like this made the episode feel special, and gave the impression of something important and also of a finale.

Oh, and I’m definitely going to take that Ruby Goldfarb bow. I called that last week, and speculated on it even before making the prediction. There was no reason for Mary McDonnell to be on Fargo without a big role, and she didn’t have one…right up until she did. She was the end of Stussy Lots Ltd., and she was probably only a widow because she and Varga had her husband killed. It’s also possible that’s a lie, because that’s what these two people do better than anything else.

This episode had something for everyone, and although I’d probably still rank this season the weakest of the three, that’s because of the insane strength of the first two years more than it is anything negative about this one. This story started a little slower and took a little while to build momentum, but once it hit the accelerator, it was as good as the series has ever been.

I’m hoping Noah Hawley finds at least one more worthy story, because I’m not ready for Fargo to disappear from my television schedule. If this is it, we’ll watch Legion, we’ll continue to see what he creates, and we’ll always celebrate the three fantastic years of this show. It lived up to the name and to the standards set by Joel and Ethan Coen, albeit in a totally different universe, and exceeded all expectations.

Finally, Carrie Coon just wrapped up starring roles on Fargo and The Leftovers. She should be nominated TWICE for an Emmy in the same category. The Leftovers was the stronger performance, but Gloria Burgle was no slouch. Coon is the queen of television today, and when you see her name attached to any project going forward, you need to pay attention, because that effort is going to be worth your time, and if necessary, your money.

So, what happened once the five minutes ticked away? Did three men handcuff Varga, or did one man walk in and set him free? Which story do you want to tell when you discuss the season? Which do you want to believe? Which is the better ending?

Because that cat isn’t both dead and alive.

Or is it?

I’m @JMartOutkick. I’m a kitten now, me. Incase you were wonderin’.


Written by Jason Martin