The House of Special Purpose review

(Every week, we’re going to kick off discussion about Fargo season 3 by answering one simple question: who f*cked up the most this week?)

Emmit Stussy’s (Ewan McGregor) neck is currently in the clutches of the big bad English wolf of Fargo season 3, V.M. Varga (David Thewlis). The Parking Lot King has fallen from his comfy throne, and in “The House of Special Purpose,” it looks like he’s helping to bring a few folks down with him. Then again, we could say the same for the entire ensemble on Fargo, who are all working together to help to seal each other’s fate.

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Brothers at War

Now absent is Emmit’s perfect, pearly white smile, which he only breaks out maybe once in this episode before delivering a sinister “you betcha” to the poor IRS man (Hamish Linklater). Director Dearbhla Walsh starts the businessman’s tumultuous journey in this episode with the character looking more conflicted and miserable than usual.

Emmit’s deal with the devil isn’t turning out as planned, at least not for Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg), but his anguish, desperation, and pain only increases as time goes on in “The House of Special Purpose.” Emmit is often busy trying to keep on a happy face, but it may be gone for good now. The character, who claims there’s good inside of him, is no longer the man people idolized.

Few people ever looked up to Ray, who despite killing a guy, is sometimes more empathetic than his brother. When he’s smiling on the bus and all starry-eyed thinking about his fiance and the bridge player with the master plan, Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), you can’t help but wish he can hold onto that happiness for a little longer. Unfortunately, there’s little room or time for joy on Fargo.

When the brothers argue like children over the phone – “My mom!” – what if one of them stopped to apologize? Could an act of kindness or empathy prevent some forthcoming bloodshed? Anger and greed don’t lead to the best of outcomes on Fargo, but what domino effect would an apology or some good deeds create? Probably one not as compelling as Fargo season 3.

Stuhlbarg

Michael Stuhlbarg Unleashed

When Sy Feltz is ready to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty, things only get worse for himself. The lawyer is, as Emmit says, not Minnesota’s finest fixer. So far, he’s only managed to turn problems into bigger problems.

The former calm and collected lawyer is now sweating bullets in the thick of winter, as he should be. What Varga puts him through at the beginning of the episode is a hilarious, sad, and painful power move, which Walsh milks for all its worth in every shot. For example, Sy’s humiliation probably wouldn’t have such a hilarious effect if we didn’t get the close-ups of his poor trembling lips.

The embarrassment and shame the lawyer experiences is so comically (and uncomfortably) palpable. Never before has Sy been so demeaned and overpowered, but here he is now, watching his “World’s Greatest Dad” mug play a pivotal and unfortunate role in his nightmare, in which bodily fluid, like feminine hygiene, is used as a weapon in Fargo against Sy Feltz.

What he thought was a triumphant F-U when he crashed into Ray’s car has now helped yanked him further from “the known world.” That’s not the only poor decision continuing to haunt him, but his anger issue and yellow Hummer aren’t helping him now.

Sy is now as desperate as his best friend and client. Stuhlbarg previously played him as a character completely in control, but now he’s lost it all. The lawyer is scared, out of his depth, and outmatched at the end, but him not helping Nikki or even seeing if she was alive was disappointing.

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“Why would your wife want to watch your brother have sex?”

Emmit and Nikki’s idea for the sex tape wasn’t a bright idea, and it was the biggest misstep they made in “The House of Special Purpose.” They’re determined and trying, no question about that, but they’re still thinking more about the money than how to get the money. Their latest move led to Emmit’s wife leaving him and a meeting gone terribly wrong between Nikki and Sy.

The final moments of “The House of Special Purpose” are excruciating. Sy is the audience in this scene: only hearing what Varga’s men are doing to Nikki and in absolute horror. Rarely do the stakes and violence on Fargo feel as real and uneasy as they do in this episode. Nikki, a conflicting character you can root for at times, thankfully leaves the parking lot alive.

Knowing Nikki is not a character to back down, it seems she’s maybe destined to cross paths with Varga. Swango is an ex-convict and a murderer with mostly bad ideas – a dangerous criminal. Varga may have a made a deadly new adversary.

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