Who Will Make It To The End Of The Road On Fargo?
Totally spoiler-free speculation on which characters will live to see Christmas 2010.
For all its experimentalism, any given season of Fargo is a morality play at heart. There are good guys, and bad guys, and good guys who turn bad, and they all generally get some form of what's coming to them in the end. This week's opening sequence underscores the show's fairy-tale aspects by re-introducing the cast of characters to the score of Prokoviev's Peter And The Wolf, complete with narrator (speaking of whom, I didn't see his name in the credits, but if that wasn't Billy Bob Thornton's voice, I'll happily burn all my Vikings gear in the back yard*).
Another area where the work of the Brothers Coen overlaps with that of the Brothers Grimm is their shared penchant for high body counts. It's true that we haven't seen anybody get killed off in the last couple of weeks of Fargo, but all that means is that we're saving up more deaths for later on in the season.
It also means we have enough data to start making some educated predictions as to who will and won't get killed before the credits roll at the end of the season finale. Whether this season ends in a massive bloodbath or a medium-sized bloodbath, the blood's got to come from somewhere. Here's our completely unspoiled breakdown of its least likely and most likely donors.
Fargo's cop protagonists always return safe to their homes and families, both as a reward for their moral and physical courage, and as a reminder to viewers that, in the end, order is restored. Having already lost more of her family than most, Gloria seems even safer. One might make a case that her persistent invisibility to motion sensors indicates that she's already dead, but her interaction with other characters would seem to rule that out. And even if it doesn't, that only makes her less likely to get killed.
Chance of survival: 97%
Ray is going down, no question. He's been abusing his office since before we met him, first by dating one of his parolees, and then by blackmailing another one into committing a burglary. And then, when the thing went south, as anybody without a window A/C unit buried in their skull could have predicted, Ray...buried an A/C unit in the guy's skull. He's been past the point of no return, almost from the jump. But will he die for it? It seems much more likely that after spending all these years in misery on one side of the criminal justice system, he'll spend the rest of them in even more misery on the other. Karma is a wheel, especially on Fargo.
Chances for survival: 78%
Theoretically, Emmit Stussy is the one of the nicest rich guys you're likely to find on television. He pays his debts, he's grateful for what he has (including his first wife), and he's even got lingering guilt over the feud with Ray. But all that means is that his road to Hell will be a little longer. There's an old saying that you can't cheat an honest man, and it could be illustrated with a photo of Emmit Stussy. He may deny being tempted, and he may claim that he's being forced into partnership with Varga, but you see the way his eyes keep lighting up whenever Varga uses any variation on the word "billion." Fargo loves to explore characters whose supposed goodness collapses at the first challenge, and things don't ever end well for those people; at least with villains, you know where they stand. One way or another, dead or alive, the day is coming when Emmit Stussy will beg for mercy. And all he will hear in response is clicks and buzzers.
Chance of survival: 63% (Mrs. Stussy: 21%)
If any character from Fargo's past is a parallel to Nikki, it's -- hear me out, now -- Peggy Blumquist. Both women are desperate to improve their situation in life, and have a plan for doing so; and both are morally empty knockouts who contribute to the downfall of the shlubby losers who are hopelessly in their thrall. One might speculate that Nikki will end up like Peggy: fortunate to be alive yet bitching about the raw deal she got all the way to the pokey. But then, Peggy survived the tsunami of misery and carnage she helped cause largely through dumb luck. And Nikki is far from dumb. So we shall see.
Chance for survival: 50.1%
Yuri and Meemo
It's not Fargo without a half-silent (or entirely silent) pair of henchmen. The movie had a whole riff on verbosity differentials with Carl Showalter and Gaear Grimsrud; Mr. Wrench's reliance on sign language didn't keep Mr. Numbers from nattering away in Season 1; and neither one of last season's Kitchen brothers were ever heard to speak. This year, we've seen Yuri hold forth on Cossacks and Vladimir Putin, while Meemo more or less keeps it zipped. Given the respective fates of Showalter and Numbers (and, to a lesser extent, Wayne Kitchen), this does not bode well for Yuri.
Chances of survival: 50% (averaged between the two)
TV Fargo's leading cops traditionally have to contend with liars, crooks, murderers, psychopaths, and at least one moron who outranks them. In this latter case we've currently got Moe, whose long-term prospects will continue to decline in direct proportion to how autocratically he behaves toward Gloria. The trend line is not looking good for him right now.
Chance of survival: 29%
Varga would appear to be this season's Lorne Malvo, a nearly omnipotent philosopher-demon whose evil is so well established that the only question is how far down he'll be able to drag the Minnesotans he encounters. (I'm still trying to determine whether this week's revelation of his eating disorder is intended to humanize him or do the opposite; I'll hear arguments either way.) But I'd bet my cabin on Lake Wobegon* that he's not anywhere near as wealthy as he implies, and I suspect that will somehow lead to his eventual undoing.
Chance of survival: 13%
People of color tended to have better odds for survival in Fargo Season 2 (Mike Milligan, Hanzee) than in Season 1 (Agents Pepper and Budge, Susan Park Nygaard). It's tempting to hope that trend might continue to protect Officer Lopez, as overly friendly as she is. But she's put herself in harm's way far more than she realizes. First, by being in a position to be sacrificed to the story's rising stakes; and second, by becoming a thorn in the side of someone who can't stop looking at the murderers who have begun hanging around his office. Sy probably won't explicitly order Winnie killed, but then he probably won't have to.
Chance of survival: 3%
If there's any trait that's more deadly to a Fargo-verse character than ethical collapse, it's incompetence. And Sy has both of these areas more than covered (see also: Don Chumph, Dodd Gerhardt). He not only crashed into someone else's car during his visit to threaten Ray, he neglected to actually issue the threat. Thus his actions led to escalating the feud between the brothers rather than quashing it. Plus he's a puffed-up, panicky douchebag who seems just as likely to make a deal with the devil as Emmit is, but at a much lower price. He's done.
Chance of survival: 1%
* I do not own any Vikings gear
** I also do not own a cabin on Lake Wobegon, which does not exist