Fargo: Season 3 Episode 5 review – The House of Special Purpose
This review contains spoilers.
After the sublime and inventive Episode 3, we’ve seen a dip in quality thereafter. As we’ve slid back into normality for Episodes 4 and 5, the show has leaned heavily on Varga and the Stussy brothers’ feud. That has meant relying too heavily on the grotesque (which sometimes leaps beyond what is necessary) and being a little too mundane in its narrative choices.
For me, the main strengths of this season lay in its female characters; in Gloria and in Nikki mainly, but also in the Stussy murder investigation (and the Science Fiction content that comes with that). And yes – a little in the Stussy brother feud too. The Varga content is interesting, but I think they lay his grotesqueries on too thickly. With that grotesqueness arguably reaching a new height this week (or a new low), I think it’s time to take a look at the grotesque in Season 3 in a little more detail.
The show has leaned heavily on female sanitary products this season – first there was Nikki leaving a used tampon behind and writing with the blood, then Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval) spoke at length about how she had used toiler paper as a temporarily solution to her monthly dilemma (“stuffing it up in there”). I don’t find female body issues sickening (on the contrary, it is perfectly natural), but I think some viewers would find it highly sickening and I think the writers have placed it in for shock value.
We also have Varga throwing up regularly, the cause of which remains a mystery (it might be self-induced). Then this week he went that extra step too far, by dipping his genitals into a mug and forcing Sy to drink from it. Not just a sip either – the whole mug. Watching Stuhlbarg’s convincing reaction to the punishment and hearing Yuri talking about babies being cooked and eaten by their own mothers, I couldn’t help but wonder if this season is straying one step too far into the grotesque.
True, the original Fargo film is all about blood and horror being draped against snowy, white normalcy, but this was more disposing bodies in wood chippers than making people drink from soiled mugs. Season 1 and Season 2 worked fine without crossing this line, so why the writers are pushing the boundaries now is curious. I think its all to show how crass and barbaric Varga is, but I would argue that this could be achieved just as easily by his demeanour alone. He’s already terrifying in how bold and confident he is; there’s no real need for the added sickening touches.
This week almost pulled off a very ballsy death, but failed to follow through with the murder (at least for now). This was Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Nikki getting assaulted by Meemo and Yuri, which we heard but didn’t see. The audible horror sounded for certain like they had ended her life, but the close of the episode saw Nikki crawl away and drive home, to be found pale and presumably dying in the bathtub by Ray, with injuries to her sides.
If the writers had gone through with this death, it would have been a commendably bold move but also a crying shame. As I said above, Winstead is one of the draws of the season and there’s still plenty more from Nikki that’s yet to be seen. I’m betting that Hawley and co won’t make the mistake of killing her off just yet, but with Hawley, it’s hard to tell, and Winstead is a cinematic actress, which means her schedules might be rather restrictive.
This week the show brought in another actor who makes this season worth sticking around for. This is Hamish Linklater as Agent Larue Dollars. Linklater was brilliant as the villain named Clark in Hawley’s Legion and it’s adorable to see him playing quite the opposite here – a mild-mannered auditor. Although I don’t expect a great deal from this character, I do hope that they keep Linklater around for as long as possible.
Image credits: FX