Season three of Fargo has been an enjoyable romp, but never does it reach the dizzy heights of season two, which was incredibly tense and near-perfect storytelling.
As such, I haven’t been stirred to write about this season’s episodes until now. Not because “Who Rules The Land of Denial?” was an exceptional episode but it did pique my interest as the most surprising and surreal Coen Brothers meets Twin Peaks, tense episode to date.
S03E08 fell into three distinct acts instead of US drama’s usual five or slashsix. After escaping the prison bus crash massacre, Nikki Swango and season one’s deaf hitman Mr Wrench turned into defiant ones and went all “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” for a nail-biting fifteen minute horror movie footchase.
While Meemo massacred an old couple who slowed down to witness the prison bus massacre (in a nod to the original 1996 film) Yuri and Golem (Lost’s DJ Qualls) pursued Nikki and Wrench through the Minnesota forests over a 24 hour period… with crossbows… dressed as animals like something from The Purge.
In a thrilling scene, Nikki nad Wrench find an axe in a tree stump in a woodland clearing and the wolves finally surround their quarry. Arrow in leg and stabbed in the back respectively, Nikki and Wrench were goners… until they fought back, first teaming up to use the very chain that bound them to decapitate poor Golem, then de-earing Yuri with a well-aimed throw of an axe.
Thrilling as it was, it was what came next that was most interesting…
Leaving the fairy tale forest behind them, Nikki and Wrench happen upon a bowling alley in the middle of Noah-ware. Inside, in true Coen brothers’ stylee we meet a familiar face. In The Big Lebowski, Sam Elliot’s enigmatic narrator was known only as The Stranger, here he is Paul Marrane (Ray Wise) – the kindly gent Gloria Burgle met on the plane and again in an L.A. bar.
The massive coincidence that this same man crossed paths with Gloria in L.A. and now appears in Shotsville nowhere notwithstanding, Paul Marrane speaks with an air that suggests a God-like omniscience. Are Nikki and Wrench dead? Did those slings and arrows take put them down? Is this bowling bar heaven?
Through telling the story of Gigul, the Kabbalistic concept of reincarnation, Paul highly insinuates his kitty, “Ray” is the Kattalistic re-in-cat-nation of Ray Stussy. Mary Elizabeth Winstead carries the scene with few words, and we realise that she did love Ray after all.
This scene confirmed Nikki has gone full circle from manipulative jail-bird femme-fatale to become the crux (whore-crux?) of the show’s focus and with it, our heroine.
Paul/God/The Grim Reaper suggests Nikki fights the wickedness in the world by going on a vengeful quest to realign the universe after her recent glut of bad luck and in a handy deus ex machina, also gifts Nikki a green VW Beetle to take her and Wrench from this Lynchian Black Lodge Bowling Alley back to the real world…
But not before Yuri turns up to be judged by Paul Marrane for his crimes (which the season opened with reference to) in which Yuri sees the ghosts pf those he murdered, particularly Helga. We won’t be seeing Yuri back at Varga’s side in the real world.
Speaking of which, back in civilisation, Sy is poisoned by Varga’s cuppa and Sy falls into a coma. Now, I hate when TV show’s skip forward in time. Unless, “three months later” cards occur between finalé and denouement, it smacks of cheating to me and always, always defaltes any tension.
Yet when handled as gloriously and creatively as this zoom to and from Sy’s comatosed eyes to reveal a full beard (for us to discover that it’s now March 15th) the blow is lessened and the time-hopping transition seems less like a cheat.
Three months on, Emmit Stussy is racked with guilt over causing his brother, Ray’s death and Sy’s sitch, so the third act of S03E08 ends with Emmit walking into Gloria Burgle’s police station (where she now delivers warrants from a broom closet) saying he wants to confess.
The Leftovers proved Carrie Coon is an incredible actress and one who’s knocking at the door for an Emmy. Her Chief Gloria Burgle is totally under-used, both in terms of screen-time and character development – why is it now, in the final secene (and as a throwaway afterthought) do we see her finally signing her divorce papers?
Season one was guilty of the same unforgivable error with Bob Odenkirk…
Maybe if the writers had invested more in the characters and utilised Carrie Coon’s unparalled acting skills to their full potential – à la Kirsten Dunst’s amazing performance as season’s two’s Peggy Blumquist – the audience would have been rewarded with more tension throughout Noah Hawley’s third, tricky album.
Fargo’s penultimate episode S03E09 “Aporia” settles next Wednesday 14th July on FX.