‘Fargo’ episode 5 recap: Blackmail, intimidation and violence abound in ‘The House of Special Purpose’

As we reach the halfway point of the third season, Noah Hawley‘s “Fargo” presented viewers with some of the darkest and most disturbing images of the series thus far. In “The House of Special Purpose,” written by Bob DeLaurentis and directed by Dearbhla Walsh, the feud between Ray and Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) reaches its zenith, while several characters suffer the consequences for crossing Varga (David Thewlis). Below, read our “Fargo” recap that details the Top 5 moments from Season 3, Episode 5.

Sex, lies, and a videotape — Emmit’s wife Stella (Linda Kash) arrives home and finds an envelope addressed to Emmit. The envelope contains a note demanding $100,000 and a DVD that shows Ray, disguised as Emmit, having sex with Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Believing that Emmit has cheated on her, Stella leaves Emmit. Simultaneously, we see Ray and Nikki preparing to film the tape, Ray — clearly a man of impeccable timing — chooses this moment to propose to Nikki. Horrified that she is being proposed to wearing “a hooker wig,” Nikki accepts Ray’s proposal while noting that her current state of dress must be a sign of bad luck. She will soon learn just how bad her luck is.

Not exactly a loving cup — Sy (Michael Stuhlbarg) shows up to work only to find Varga in Sy’s office, along with Varga’s henchmen Yuri (Goran Bogdan) and Meemo (Andy Yu). After leveling some nasty, anti-Semitic comments toward Sy’s wife, Varga picks up Sy’s “World’s Greatest Dad” coffee mug and proceeds to rub his genitals in the mug, then forcing Sy to drink from it. Varga reveals that he is none too pleased that Sy was seen talking to Officer Lopez (Olivia Sandoval), and proceeds to show Sy just how little control he has in this situation, and Sy is led out of the office, shaken and defeated. Thewlis is once again outstanding in this scene, revealing a level of insidiousness and vulgarity we haven’t yet seen in Varga.

The shackles are off — After Sy meets with a potential investor (Oscar nominee Mary McDonnell), he rushes to Emmit’s house and finds his boss and partner weeping in a bathroom. The two then engage blame each other for their respective predicaments. Emmit unloads on Sy, blaming him for his inability to control the situation with Ray and Nikki, and asks, “What is the point of you?” But Sy argues that if Emmit would let Sy do things his way, then perhaps things might be different. Both men are at a crossroads, with Sy concerned about Emmit’s business and Emmit concerned about his family. Emmit pleads with Sy to fix things, whatever it takes. Sy asks if the shackles are off. Emmit simply responds, “I threw away the key.”

Just the facts, Ray — Meanwhile, Gloria (Carrie Coon) and Winnie take Ray down to the police station to ask him about his relationship with Emmit and his connections to Maurice LeFay. Ray attempts to play up his relationship with his brother while playing down his interactions with Maurice. Ray is floundering, contradicting himself as Gloria and Winnie paint him into a corner. But just as they are about to get somewhere, they are interrupted by Gloria’s superior, Chief Dammik (Shea Whigham), who believes that the investigation is pointless and orders Gloria and Winnie to release Ray and drop their investigation.

A point is made — Sy meets with Nikki in an vacant parking lot, where they briefly exchange insults before they are interrupted by the arrival of Yuri and Meemo. They seem to be advancing on Sy, but then Nikki insults them. In one of the series most disturbing scenes to date, Nikki is dragged behind her car and is savagely beaten by Yuri (mercifully delivered off-screen) as Sy — and we — are forced to listen to Nikki’s suffering. After the men leave, we see Sy intuitively want to help her, but he ultimately decides to leave Nikki to her fate. Later, Ray returns home and discovers Nikki, bruised and battered in the bath tub, leaving viewers wondering just how much uglier this family feud can possibly get.

‘Fargo’ Season 3 reviews: ‘Noah Hawley’s series elicits empathy for almost everyone within it’

Enough cannot be said about the performance of Stuhlbarg, not just in this entire episode, but especially this scene. Sy experiences a range of emotions, beginning as an authoritative and commanding presence in the face of blackmail, only to be once again reduced to an emotional valley at the end. As Nikki endures her beating, Stuhlbarg conveys Sy’s anguish while also showing his willingness to let Nikki suffer for his own gains. It only remains to be seen how many more people will be caught up in the violent wake of Varga and the Stussy brothers.

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