How Nikki Is A New Take On 'Fargo's Traditional Hero
If there's one safe assumption to make about any given character in Fargo, it's that they have no idea what is going on. Confusion and indecision plague the citizens of Minnesota as portrayed in the FX anthology series, so much so that most characters meet their demise or downfall due to a simple misunderstanding or something not going according to plan. Despite these constant obstacles, Fargo Season 3 introduces a character that may actually be built to survive the absurdity of it: parolee and air condition murderer Nikki Swango, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. She is the series' first competent criminal, who's also not a sociopath. In fact, Nikki could be the hero of Fargo Season 3.
Nikki Swango is something that most other Fargo seasons and the film simply don't have: a criminal who knows what she's doing but also appears to have some kind of conscience. Season 1's Lorne Malvo and Season 2's Hanzee Dent are more akin to forces of nature than actual people, and Season 3's V. M. Varga is shaping up to be a similar character. Although Nikki Swango is little more than a small-time crook at this point, her quick thinking and rational actions show that she might be one of the first characters who can actually go toe-to-toe with some of Fargo's most dangerous people without being an all-out super-villain. Nikki may end up stealing the show by the season's end.
Fargo delights in its formula. While many other shows suffer from being too formulaic, Fargo takes pride in finding new ways to remix the same old tropes. There's always a crime that goes wrong and leads to multiple casualties; there's always an intelligent but understated cop on the case; there's always a duo of criminal goons; there's (almost) always a force of pure evil, etc. But while it has all those familiar elements that fans have grown to love, Fargo Season 3 is shaking its formula up by adding Nikki to the equation. It may seem like a subtle shake-up, but as the season goes on Nikki's competence could factor into the main plot in a major way.
Unlike other criminals in Fargo, Nikki isn't limited by the parts of her personality that make her human (for the most part). She loves competitive bridge, enjoys nice rings and calm baths, and has a deep love for her probation officer, Ray Stussy. In fact, her love for Ray is the only thing that may keep her from reaching her full potential, as a breaking-and-entering operation into Ennis' house results in her leaving a bloody tampon to insult Ennis in retaliation for slighting Ray. It was sloppy, but Nikki may be the first person on Fargo to balance caring with crime in a way where she still manages to come out on top.
The philosophy of Fargo certainly isn't that having empathy and a good nature make one weak, as the good guys always win by the end of the season. However, the show may be arguing that the biggest obstacle to a criminal life is the inability to set aside things like love and family in the name of staying alive. Nikki Swango challenging that idea isn't just a shock to the system of the characters on Fargo, it also challenges the very philosophy that the show has spent two seasons and a movie establishing.
Nikki Swango is unlike any character that has ever inhabited Fargo, and her approach to crime and survival will likely leave a lasting mark on how characters operate in future seasons of the show.