WOW. This was a hell of a week for “Fargo.” Somehow Noah Hawley & Co. cram more symbolism, homages, action, and emotion into this hour than most seasons of television.
“Who Rules The Land of Denial?” is a question the IRS asked me at my last audit.
To the victors go the SPOILERS:
1) She’s Got Her Own Room At The Back Of The Bus
Last episode Yuri flipped the prison transport with what looked like the power of a magic wolf pelt but was actually just heavy-duty hardware. Not gonna lie, a little disappointed in learning the facts here.
Mr. Wrench and Nikki wake up and, smelling trouble, try to escape. Good call. Even if Mr. Wrench doesn’t know what’s happening, it’s always a good rule of thumb to go the opposite direction of people in weird animal masks. Especially if you didn’t order them from an escort service.
Wes goes to town on DJ Qualls, aka Officer Pervert. Everyone on Varga’s payroll looks like a video game character who didn’t render properly.
Nikki and Wes make it out the back door of the bus which was a BIG no-no when I was in grade school. In western Pennsylvania If you touched that door the bus drivers were legally allowed to crucify you.
2) The Wrong Place For A Right Turn
In case you forgot it was Christmas Eve, a rando couple dives by the carnage listening to carols. In case you forgot it was the Worst Christmas Eve Ever, Meemo tracks them down to murder them. NO ONE IS SAFE ON “FARGO!"
3) O Nikki Where Art Thou
Wes and Nikki do the shackle shuffle through the woods. They’re exhausted and tired… but not so tired that they can’t text each other.
Yuri and Officer Pervert clock their movements until Yuri is randomly shot in the wolf with an crossbow bolt.
The hunters arrive to claim their prize only to find a wolf pelt bolted to the tree. Thus began the legend of the Minnesota Snake Wolf, the elusive woodland mammal that sheds its skin like a snek.
Yuri then murders them, thus ending the legend of the Minnesota Snake Wolf.
4) The Chopping Block
Mary Elizabeth Winstead does so much heavy lifting in the first 15 minutes of this episode. Nikki is tired, hurt, hunted, her fiance is dead, and her new best friend is a bad listener. The tension and danger are still so high she doesn’t have any time to process what’s happened so far. Winstead’s facial expressions tell the story and it wasn’t until now that I realized there’s been barely any dialogue in this episode so far.
They wander until Christmas night and stumble upon a campsite. Wes tries to Axe Cop out of their chains but gets tagged with a crossbow bolt.
The pair are assaulted by Officer Pervert but turn the tables on him. Mr. Wrench blindly chucks a freaking hand axe at Yuri who is in tree coverage still raining down red arrows. Wes and Nikki decide one bad guy is enough and decapitate Officer Perv.
Nikki and Mr. Wrench take off into the night, past the hand axe in the tree that reveals Wes Van Gogh’d Yuri, but the wolf still escaped. If you are deaf and you cut off someone else’s ear does that mean you get their sense of hearing? Asking for a friend.
5) She’s The Dude, Man
The pair reach a bowling alley, aka heaven in the Cohenverse. Nikki sits down for a drink in an homage to “The Big Lebowski.” Instead of Sam Elliot showing up, though, it’s the return of Paul Merrane! He introduces Nikki to Ray the Cat and several different biblical parables including how an old soul attaches itself to a new body. So, literally, it’s Ray the Cat. Please don’t make a sex tape with him again, Nikki.
Paul tells the story of the Cossacks again - the tale Yuri spins in episode six - but from the perspective of the butchered. It works like a mirror spell, pulling Nikki back out of the spiral her life became after she first heard it.
Paul offers her and Mr. Wrench an escape and asks Nikki to deliver a message to the wicked: “Though thou exhalt theyself like the eagle, though thou make thy nest among the stars, thence will i bring thee down, sayeth the Lord.”
Before she leaves Nikki has a moment to say goodbye to Ray. Shit how did all this water get on my keyboard and why is my vision blurry? Shut up no YOU were crying!
6) Paul Is Dead
Shout out to Alexandra Ekstein-Kon who dropped some knowledge this week:
Paul Marrane is not original to Fargo but is in fact the name given to the legendary figure of the Wandering Jew in the book The Turkish Spy. Throughout history, the Wandering Jew (or the Eternal Jew) has gone by many titles and is often used as a scapegoat. Legend has it, he taunted Christ on the cross and because of his actions was cursed to wander the earth eternally.
7) The Bottom of the Wheel
This show has become the story of Nikki Swango. Dan Harmon, storytelling genius, concocted a storytelling wheel based on Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, which sounds like an RPG but is sadly not.
At the furthest point from the start, a hero is furthest from what set them on their quest, as deep in the woods as one can get. This is where they find what they have been looking for and must use it to climb back out of the darkness and return to where they had once been, changed for the better.
This conversation is the moment for Nikki where everything changes. It also challenges her worldview; throughout the season Ray and Nikki operated as if the world was against them and yet here, in her darkest hour, the world shows her she’s not alone. It’s powerful and moving and big props to Ray Wise for giving the scene such calming warmth with his performance.
Hey guess what - Paul Marrane showing up in episode three? Turns out THAT WAS A THING.
8) Yuri-lly Screwed Up, Pal
After proudly touting Wolves’ Hundred’s reign of terror Yuri is finally confronted by his past as Paul has a message from Helga Albrecht. Remember her? The dead woman from the very first scene of this season? Yuri’s actions sent an innocent man to death and now, the chickens have come home to roost. Yuri is, we assume, judged and never heard from again.
9) Calling Gloriaaaaaaaaa
It’s awkward Christmas morning in the Burgle house as Gloria, her weiner kid, her soon-to-be ex, and her ex’s new boyfriend, rejoice over gifts of socks. Damn even this kid’s gifts suck.
Burgle gets a call about the bus crash and goes to investigate. It’s fun to watch her meet police who operate on her level but the US Marshalls swat her back down because she doesn’t have the right patch on her jacket. Men. We love status symbols and hate help.
10) *Heavy Sy*
Sy comes to The Goddamn Parking Lot Castle of Minnesota to see how Emmit is getting along, only to be cock-blocked by Varga and Meemo.
Varga fixes Sy a plate of hot crap, tells him he’s a millionaire, makes him drink a cup of poison, then sends him on his way.
I made fun of Sy a lot earlier in this season but he has become a tragic figure these last few episodes. The guy’s world has turned completely upside down. The heartbreak on his face as he sees Emmit in the window, only for Emmit to turn away, is palpable.
BONUS) What the Heck
11) Next Season
The balls on this show, man. One minute we’re watching Sy puke up his butterscotch puddin’…
…the next it’s three months later! “Fargo” is a dizzying ride sometimes.
12) Heavy Is The Head…
Until our tipping point earlier the season was about Varga’s invisible machinations in the lives of the Stussy family. Now, however, with righteous anger on her side, Nikki has become the invisible hand of justice. She steals Emmit’s car, leaving him with our old friend Corvette (!!!), and then replaces all the Stussy Corp artwork with copies of The Stamp. Emmit’s life is no longer his own as he has become a pawn in a proxy war between Nikki and Varga.
13) The Other Shoe
We reach the breaking point for Emmit in a dark scene at his home.Tthe house feels abandoned, almost completely removed of furniture and emotion.
Varga is drugging him, forcing him to sign over properties he doesn’t even know he owns, he’s waking up with mustaches pasted on his face. Last week he said he felt free. Careful what you wish for, pal, you might just wind up with a mustache you didn’t grow.
Meemo (without Yuri, confirming his disappearance?) drops a drugged-out Emmit into bed like a sack of laundry but The Goddamn Parking Lot King of Minnesota finally outsmarts Varga, palming the drugs instead of taking them.
14) Deputy Burgle
Since we’ve jumped ahead we know Gloria is no longer Chief. It’s a double-downer here as she’s also signing her divorce papers. Burgle is a character that is so good at her job because she gives it complete focus. That’s how she misses that her kid isn’t happy, or that her husband is gay, or that her stepdad’s face was glued shut. The scene is shot tight and cramped, enhancing the monotony. This feels like it’s her life now but wait–
15) “My name is Emmit Stussy. I wanna confess.”
…is it next week yet???
16) The Right Direction
Give this guy an Emmy. I keep saying that every week but damned if it’s not deserved. In a season full of incredible shots and wild shifts in tone Mike Barker delivered an episode full of everything that makes this show great.
The pacing of the first 15 minutes, the shots and camera angles, the lighting, the acting…Barker oversees one of my favorite hours of television right here. You can keep your big sweeping shots of CGI horsefights in “Game of Thrones.” I’ll be here in “Fargo” where every episode is a short film.
With only two episodes left in the season (series?) everything that happens in this show is full of couch-gripping tension. We’ll be back next week which will look a little something like this: