As the opening titles have indicated, this season of Fargo is all about the nature of truth — what is true, whether it is immutable, who defines truth, etc. On Fargo Season 3 Episode 6, that theme is particularly pertinent.
Varga first appears on "The Lord of No Mercy" telling three "true" stories. He closes out the hour inventing a new "truth" for Ray's accidental death at Emmit's hand.
Varga's three stories were about the impact of the Great Recession of the late 2000s on American banks, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and the moon landing (which Varga claims was staged, much to Sy's horror).
Each has a lesson implied, about reality being shaped by perception and about the nature of so-called "coincidences."
The gist of Varga's tales are best summed up in these two quotes:
Perception of reality becomes reality.Varga
"Let each man say what he deems truth, and let truth itself be commended unto God."Varga
In Varga's mind, it is clear that he sets "the truth" and reality bends to accompany it. In that sense, dude's sort of a megalomaniac.
What's interesting is this is a clear parallel to what Nikki told Sy on the phone on Fargo Season 3 Episode 5, prior to their meeting/her beating, about the truth of the "sex tape" that Emmit's wife saw and left him over:
Nikki: We got video evidence of Emmit screwing a secretary. It's a fact.
Sy: It never happened!
Nikki: That doesn't make it any less of a fact.
Facts and truth. It's a particularly relevant theme nowadays, in the real world. I'm impressed that Noah Hawley and his team of writers are handling it with such incisive creativity.
I'm not going to sit here and say that Varga is as enigmatic and fantastic a villain as Lorne Malvo — to be honest, few villains could possibly match his quotable, chilly malevolence. I would, however, say that Varga is about on par with Fargo Season 2's Mike Milligan.
Both are great in their own, very different ways, but slightly less memorable than Malvo.
But as is now typical with Fargo's villains, they tend to have the most quotable lines per hour. Like this gem from Varga, when he was breaking the news to Sy about their plan to expand the company and line their own pockets:
The shallow end of the pool is where the turds float.Varga
Poor Sy is still in a state of bewildered nervousness but is just completely steamrolled by Varga each and every time. Now that he's seen what Varga's men are capable of firsthand (Nikki's vicious beating), he seems less inclined to attempt to stand up to Varga or convince Emmit to get out of the company.
Emmit, for what it's worth, is officially firmly in bed with Varga. The mysterious Brit swayed him with promises of fortune beyond his wildest dreams but helping him cover up an accidental murder put Emmit squarely in Varga's pocket for good.
As soon as Ray and Nikki fled his apartment when Gloria and Winnie tried to find them there, I knew at least one of them wouldn't survive the hour. Of course, I assumed that Meemo would be the one to do the deed, given that Varga specifically gave him the go-ahead to track them down and "execute."
Ironically, it was Emmit who inadvertently handled tying up that loose end for Varga. The confrontation between the two Stussy brothers, when Ray returned to his apartment from the motel to grab the needed getaway money, was absolutely incredible.
Serious props to Ewan McGregor for, well, acting against himself in such a tense and compelling manner.
It's finished, okay? Words said in anger. Crimes committed. We've both done things. It's a certain madness, I think, brotherhood. Buttons you push with me, that I push in you. Grudges. I don't want that anymore. So, I'm giving you the stamp.Emmit
Ray's pride got the best of him, leading to the confrontation that ended with his death. He couldn't accept Emmit's gesture, bristling at the idea that Emmit would not admit the stamp was his to begin with and therefore couldn't be "given" to him.
Though there was obviously much more murderous intent in the earlier scene, I did see some parallels to the big Fargo Season 1 game-changer, when Lester killed his insufferable wife Pearl in a fit of anger. Lester actively killed her, but Emmit passively stood by and did nothing at all while Ray bled out.
Emmit: I didn't mean to.
Varga: No one ever does.
Sorry, Emmit — still murder.
It was so perfectly done, and Ray died with that baffled/bewildered expression he's worn all season long still on his face.
Again ironically, it was Emmit killing Ray that happened to save Nikki's life (for the time being, anyway). Had Varga not summoned Meemo when he did (to take care of Ray's murder scene), Meemo would have killed Nikki in the motel room.
Obviously, this will cause an issue for Varga down the line. Nikki has pieced together exactly what went down between Emmit and Varga, right down to borrowing the money from a shady "private equity" broker.
A shark in a suit is still a shark.Nikki
Nikki is a loose end, so her days will probably be numbered, especially since Varga's carefully crafted "truth" about Emmit's murder sets her up as the killer.
Your brother was killed by his ex-convict girlfriend. He'd been abusing her, you see. Beating her in places you don't show. Tonight, she'd had enough so she cut his throat and watched him bleed. Now, the police will contact you tonight to inform you of his death. Be upset, but not too upset. Volunteer nothing. You haven't seem him for days, haven't spoken to him.Varga
The story was brilliant and carefully pieced together from what Varga has clearly deduced about Ray and Nikki from his desktop Google searches.
Speaking of Varga's Google-sleuthing: He seems to have met his match in Gloria Burgle. Finally, we have a concrete plot reason for why Gloria's avoidance of all things Internet/technology is so important — it's so that Varga is entirely unable to get the upper hand on her.
There's no cell phone to hack. No Facebook to peruse. Nothing.
I also loved the confrontation between Gloria and Varga when Gloria and Winnie visited Stussy Lots to see if they could pry anything out of Emmit about a feud with his brother. The two women have obviously figured out what happened, but now that Ray is dead, Gloria seems set for a confrontation with Varga.
Gloria: I didn't get your name.
That is, if she ever finds out his name.
- The visual of Faux Lawyer Meemo's office supplies perfectly mirroring the IRS dude's was excellent.
- Varga picking at his disgusting teeth truly makes me want to curl up into a ball and die. It's such an effective character quirk.
- Nikki's decision to go get ice AND LEAVE THE HOTEL ROOM DOOR OPEN was idiotic. And she's definitely not an idiot, so...
- My favorite shot of the episode was Varga sitting up on the floor of his weird truck-home as he was on the phone with Emmit. The lighting, the angle, everything about it was lovely and very particular.
- Regarding the episode title: The demon Mephistopheles is apparently also known as "The Lord of No Mercy." You might recognize good ol' Mephistopheles' name from the Faust legend, in which he makes a wager with Faust for his soul. Seems a pretty close match to Varga.
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.