Fargo Season 3 was always going to be about the two brothers at its core, Ray and Emmet Stussy, and the question of whether or not they make it to the end of this story. (Spoilers for the May 24 episode of Fargo ahead!) For a show as generous with its kill count as Fargo, it was apparent to me that there was no way that both Stussys would make it to the end of the season. But the death of probation officer-turned-criminal Ray marks the most heartbreaking Fargo death of the season, and possibly of the entire series. Ray's death marks a new chapter for Fargo Season 3. What will the living do now, in his absence?
In the wake of Ray's death, last week's Nikki Swango death fake-out now plays like an especially cruel joke. Having just managed to survive a brutal beating, Nikki seems to successfully formulate a getaway plan, only for her fiancé to be killed due to a collection of random accidents. Ray's death being caused by fan accident involving a piece of glass used to frame the elusive collector's stamp that started the Ray and Emmet feud is quintessential Fargo, even more so because the only reason Ray was holding the stamp was because Emmet had brought it to bury the hatchet between them. If there's any character who will be more affected by losing Ray than Nikki, it's Emmet, who has made a deal with the devil to keep himself safe.
After watching his own brother bleed out on the ground, Emmet calls the only man he trusts to cover up a murder: V. M. Vargas. He's the same man who has taken control of his company and has effectively trapped Emmet. And after this death, he has more to hold over the remaining Stussy than ever before. Theirs pairs more than a passing resemblance to the relationship that Lester Nygaard forms with Lorne Malvo after killing his own wife, but where Lester was a man who eventually found freedom and power in the act of murder, Emmet seems genuinely regretful for what he's done.
While Emmet immediately goes into survival mode upon Emmet's death, the show has yet to reveal how Nikki will react to losing her fiancé. Swango is no slouch when it comes to self-preservation, having previously dropped an air conditioner on a man to cover her own tracks and driving herself home after a severe beating. It's almost scary to imagine what she'll do when she's worried less about survival and more about revenge.
As for Ray Stussy – his death was surely tragic, but in a way his own fault. Like so many before him, his pride got the best of him. Ray's inability to settle for compromise with his brother led to the series of events that got him killed. Now there's another missing body for Gloria Burgle to start looking into, and the foundation upon which V.M. Vargas and Emmet Stussy sit is on shakier ground than ever. The death of Maurice LeFay may have been the start of the story, but the death of Ray Stussy is the beginning of the end.