Fargo recap: 'Who Rules the Land of Denial?'
Turning into the home stretch of the third season of Fargo, the volume got turned way up during this eighth episode. Coen Brothers references abound. There’s plenty of Judaism. And I’m not entirely sure what it all meant. In summary, it was pretty much everything that we could want from an episode of Fargo, which is a great thing from a season that has been missing the energy of previous installments.
That being said, I probably would have been a lot more patient with the season if I had known that it would evolve into a remake of The Defiant Ones starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Mr. Wrench from season 1.
As I suspected at the end of the last episode, that is, in fact, half of season 1’s brotherly assassin duo next to Nikki in the police transport when it hits the road. The opening of this episode gives a bit of background into how that flip occurred. We don’t learn much other than “Yuri built a thing,” but we do get a pretty sweet shot of Varga’s men standing in the trees that apes one of Fargo (the film) cinematographer Roger Deakins’ best set-ups in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
Instead of wearing bags over their heads like the James Gang, the Varga Gang wears animal masks and headpieces, with Yuri donning a hat made from a wolf’s head, just in case the Peter and the Wolf parallel from a few episodes ago wasn’t explicit enough. The bus gets flipped, but Nikki and Wrench make a break for it. Things get even more complicated when a couple drives past, echoing the unfortunate onlookers from the Fargo film.
Meemo takes off to deals with the witnesses, while Yuri (who looks unsettlingly like Tom Hardy had a baby with John Krasinski) and DJ Qualls (does this character ever get a name?) chase after Wrench and Nikki. While on the hunt, Yuri, noticing a “Helga” tattoo on DJ’s wrist, reminisces about a Helga he knew once. This is a reference to Helga Albracht, the woman he supposedly murdered back in East Germany, the crime that gets poor Jakob Ungerleider arrested. This tiny detail will come back to haunt him — literally — later in the episode, but even that quick mention surprised me. We went nearly eight hours without a reference to that opening scene. It was beginning to look like just a “Fargo being Fargo” moment that ultimately didn’t amount to much, but this episode has me thinking differently. More on that in a bit.
I have a question! Why do you call up my main man DJ Qualls if you’re just going to cut his head off halfway through his second episode? I mean, he shows up as the jail-cell assassin for one scene in episode 7, and then just when you think DJ Qualls is going to be around for a while and play a character with a name, Nikki and Wrench decapitate him with their handcuff chain. It was — for sure — a really dope way to go, but I can’t shake the feeling that DJ Qualls deserves better from Fargo. This will keep me up tonight.
The best and most exciting scenes of the night took place in a bowling alley that the Dude would no doubt haunt if he ever left southern California. When Nikki and Wrench seek asylum in the alley, they encounter Paul Marrane, played by Ray Wise, whom Gloria met during her trip to Cali. Beyond the setting, Lebowski fans should recognize the block of the scene as a direct lift from the Coens’ detective movie parody. Like Sam Elliott’s Stranger, Marrane seems to exist outside the world of the story, knowing that what they’re living in is a story. He’s less human here, and his perspective has taken an even more godlike position, arming him with a kitten that might be the reincarnation of Ray. (“Ray is the cat” should have pricked up ears of Inside Llewyn Davis fans who know that “Llewyn is the cat.”)
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Who is this guy? While we’re not likely to ever get an explicit answer to the question, it’s fun to chew. Is he God? He’s familiar with the good book, enough to quote Obadiah 1:4. “Though thou exalt thyself like the eagle, thou make thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, sayeth the Lord.” This is a message for Nikki to deliver to the wicked, though in biblical terms Nikki isn’t exactly un-wicked. This may suggest another origin for Marrane, who may represent a higher power of a different order.
Fargo‘s preoccupation with the nature of story casts the writer as the Lord. The writer is the one who punishes and rewards, sorting the wicked from the good, and giving characters — like Wrench — another chance if they so choose. The storyteller has the power to flash to a black-and-white shot of Helga Albracht flanked by lost spirits in order to torment Yuri. Marrane could be the manifestation of the writer within the story, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that at no point during the next two episodes will Ray Wise say, “Just FYI, I’m the manifestation of the writer within the story.”
The rest of the episode was a bit of a blur, but a significant blur nonetheless. Emmit finds himself the victim of a haunting, further underscoring the biblical powers at play. Meemo continues to be a terrible character. The world has seen enough silent Asian henchman, especially ones who dance for no reason while listening to vaguely “oriental” music. And Sy is in a coma, unlikely to wake up.
As Emmit turns himself in to Gloria, the season seems set on careening toward its inevitable end. Whether it all ends up meaning something has yet to be determined.