FARGO: YEAR 3, EPISODE 8: WHO RULES THE LAND OF DENIAL?
Though thou exalt thyself like the eagle, though thou make thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, sayeth the lord. – Paul Marrane
Tonight, Fargo upended expectation and took the audience on an intense, nasty trip through the snowy Minnesota woods, and then took its viewers over 90 days into the future. This was not anticipated; especially coming off last week’s prison transport bus accident. The first 16 minutes of “Who Rules the Land of Denial?” was eerily similar to a mix of two pieces of visual fiction.
It had certain aspects of “No Country for Old Men,” as the slow motion chase ensued and the villains kept right on coming, at least until Yuri took that hatchet to the ear and lost the ability to hear out of the left side of his head. It also brought back memories of Paulie and Christopher from “Pine Barrens,” the famous episode of The Sopranos that took those two deep into the woods, where both nearly died. Most of all, however, Nikki Swango and Wes Wrench found a way to survive, and of all places to end up, they followed a flashing purple neon light and discovered a bowling alley in the middle of nowhere.
Sadly, The Dude was nowhere to be found, nor was Walter Sobchak. It’s Minnesota, not Santa Monica, but if you didn’t think Coen Brothers and The Big Lebowski the second the building popped onto the screen, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Inside this edifice was Paul freaking Marrane. Yes, Ray Wise somehow made it from California to Minnesota, which isn’t a difficult accomplishment to pull off considering his frequent flyer status, and the fact that travel in 2010 isn’t that much different from travel in 2017. However, the Marrane character is almost too rich a confection to take. He knows Yuri, named his kitten Ray (a name he only mentions to Nikki, who looks into the animal’s eyes and thinks it might be the found soul of Ray Stussy), and speaks in verse, both Biblical and otherwise.
There’s something immense behind Paul Marrane, and we’re still not given the full picture as to what that might be. He may well be the reckoning. He certainly talked as if represented it. He has an interest in delivering a message to Yuri, which he does in the form of a crafty, “never forget” style threat. There’s no question he also knows V.M. Varga, because we’ve arrived at a place where the local players aren’t strong enough to unravel the larger criminal enterprise.
When Sy Feltz drank the tea and claimed it was bitter, before Varga suggested he drink more of it to smooth the taste out, I couldn’t have been the only one to think he might have urinated in another glass, right? Sy subsequently got very ill and slipped into a coma that took us from Christmas Day in 2010 to March 15, 2011. We know it’s the tea, and based on Emmit’s decision to feign the sedative, leave the house, and drive to the police station, it’s clear Stussy knows Varga is to blame for his friend’s predicament.
This was an odd episode, because it was really two different stories. The first was one of Nikki and Wes attempting to escape the three heavies, although it’s a stretch to call DJ Qualls heavy. Also, that was one grisly death. There was more blood in this episode of Fargo than in any other installment in three seasons of the series. Noah Hawley put crossbows in this thing, hatchets in this thing, had someone projectile vomiting all over the place, and of course we watched a chain go completely through a man’s neck.
Oh, and a man lost his ear and bled all over the place, at least until he found the bowling alley and asked for napkins.
Fargo is quirky right up until it’s horrific, and it’s the balance between those two styles that often provides the greatest rewards for the viewing audience. Tonight, both were available in spades. Varga was much less interesting this week, although he kept up his pedantic, condescending, storytelling vibe. Paul Marrane, on the other hand, said important words that still aren’t fully contextualized as of yet. What he said felt very similar to what you might think a guardian angel would say, and most of his comments were at least tertiary to Nikki Swango’s current situation. It was almost creepy, but Ray Wise still had the charisma from the airplane.
Varga speaks in historical analogies, misconstrued facts, and fables as lessons to explain why he’s above everyone and everything. The nonsense he spouted to Emmit about heroism was cringeworthy, and yet entirely appropriate for this asshole. Contrary to Varga is Marrane, who speaks in theology, utilizing Hebrew and The Bible to make his points clear. Neither speaks as a basic human being, but there appears to be a light and darkness to this season of the series. These two are less men than they are forces of good and evil. There may be vengeance in Paul’s heart, but no actual people talk like either one of these two individuals. It’s by design.
Also unsettling is Varga taking up residence inside Emmit’s home, seemingly for months. He does much of his work in the truck, but he’s the one that greets Sy on Christmas Day. The fact that we see him with Emmit in March indicates three very intriguing truths. First, Varga has been around for far too long. Second, Emmit’s wife and children still haven’t come home from the faux-sex tape incident. There has been no reconciliation between husband and wife.
Third, Gloria Burgle and Winnie Lopez had the case cracked in 2010, but months later, still no arrests and no charges. Moe Dammick is in his position, or we assume so, since we didn’t actually see him during the episode. Gloria is back to being a deputy. My prediction that Moe wouldn’t ever take the job turns out incorrect, as our flash forward changed the game completely. Gloria signed her divorce papers and was working on eviction cases when the future caught up with OUR present.
Credit writers Noah Hawley and Monica Beletsky, as well as director Mike Barker, for the effectiveness of the final seconds tonight. We could make out a blurry Emmit Stussy walking up to the police receptionist’s desk, because we had already seen what he was wearing when he didn’t take the pills. As soon as that figure ambled into frame, what he actually said wasn’t surprising at all. Somehow, though, it was still amazing.
“My name is Emmit Stussy. I wanna confess.”
Gloria swings around to see her case come back to life, and as we prepare for the final two episodes of the season, this sets up the perfect penultimate conundrum. If Emmit comes clean, he’s also going to expose V.M. Varga, who remains the one piece of the puzzle Burgle and Lopez never put together. They know he’s bad news, but they have no idea the key role he’s played in so much of the mess of the past six months.
The showdown isn’t going to be the takedown of Emmit Stussy. The fight is going to be between Gloria Burgle and Varga, with Nikki Swango and Wes Wrench somewhere in the middle of everything, but most likely on the police’s side. For once, we may see multiple confessions on Fargo. Nikki may admit the truth, just as Emmit could next week. The hour should open with Emmit in an interrogation room, coming clean about every bit of the story, and helping to corroborate Gloria’s theory of the crime. The Varga revelations will send the police on their mission, and Varga will figure out what’s happening.
That will lead us to the finale, when we’ll get to the main event. Paul Marrane may factor in, because his appearance in the bowling alley, while great television, requires more exposition and further action. He made about as much sense as the father waiting for the train in The Matrix Revolutions. Well, that’s not fair. He made sense, but the reason behind it is yet to be revealed. If that’s the last time we see Ray Wise, it will be a letdown.
We’re rooting for Gloria and Winnie, but I kind of want to see Varga slip through their fingers and back directly into whatever the hell it is Paul Marrane uses to kill people. At this point, it might be a lightning bolt.
This was a crazy episode, because it wasn’t formulaic, it featured long, intense sequences, and we got an Emmit Stussy confession. We’ll have to wait until next week to see how much he says and what he gives to the police, but it again proves Emmit isn’t a bad man, and never was. Thus, he probably ends up okay in the end, or we’ll at least see his wife and children return to visit him in jail. He may not serve time, if he’s forthright and remorseful for his forced obstruction.
Will Sy Feltz wake up from his coma? Will Nikki and Wes shag? Will Varga ever wear a nice suit? Will Gloria have pie for Swango? Will Paul save the day? So much to be answered. This episode was so off-center in many ways, but as a result, I’m left thinking more about it than any other outside of our trip to Los Angeles five weeks ago.
I’m @JMartOutkick. I’m going to put my back in it.