This Fargo review contains spoilers.
Fargo Season 3 Episode 8
At the end of last week, Nikki laid unconscious, helpless as Varga’s men stormed the bus intent on killing her. After making such a fuss of Mr. Wrench’s reappearance, speculating about how he connected to our other established characters, and worrying so much about Nikki’s vulnerable state, it didn’t even occur to me that the two were chained together. I overlooked that Wrench didn’t have such an elaborate part to play in this season’s narrative, other than to ensure Nikki’s survival.
Watching Wrench and Nikki work together to evade Yuri and his nameless henchman in the woods was the most suspenseful sequence that this season has offered. Many people have complained about Fargo’s slight dip in quality, but I think it’s been blown out of proportion. This season still has memorable characters, quirky asides, and a tangled web of plot; it just hasn’t offered the same sort of menacing presence as Lorne Malvo or Hanzee – until now. The hunters from Peter and the Wolf kill actual hunters, using their crossbows to stalk Nikki and Wrench, waiting to strike. Finally, the blood starts pouring, arrows are shot, axes are thrown, and Nikki and Wrench emerge scathed, but breathing, as Yuri escapes barely alive and the henchman lay dead. It’s a thrilling bit of violence, but it’s not nearly as interesting as what comes after it.
Surfacing from the woods, Nikki and Ray discover a nearly abandoned bowling alley, except for the workers and a man at the bar, Ray Wise playing the same man Gloria encountered in Los Angeles. However, this time Wise’s appearance is far more conspicuous. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Wise’s character is either Death incarnate or God himself. Discussing reincarnation, speaking Latin, and holding a kitten he decided to name Ray, Wise’s character appears to tell Nikki that he has decided to spare her and Mr. Wrench from death so that they can strike back against the wicked. When Gloria mentions that she’s in a bowling alley, Wise incredulously asks “Is that what you see?” Were Nikki and Wrench in some sort of purgatory? It seems likely, because when Yuri enters, Wise forces him to confront a woman and Rabbi from his past, and later in the episode, it’s revealed that Yuri didn’t return. It’s like he was sent to hell, forced to answer for his sins. This also begs the question of why Gloria encountered this man, and does it have anything to do with Gloria going unnoticed by motion sensors and the like?
The rest of the episode takes place after Sy is poisoned by Varga on Christmas Day. A time-jump to March occurs where it’s revealed that Sy still remains in a comma, though not much else has changed. Let me just let my reviewer bias out and say that I loathe time-jumps. Typically, it allows writers to cheat ahead and avoid working through the story that they’ve cornered themselves in, but in this instance, so little about our characters and their circumstances have changed in the three months’ time that it doesn’t feel like a shortcut, it just feels pointless.
Gloria and Winnie are still hot on Emmit’s heels and Varga is still pulling the strings at Stussy Lots, the only new development is that someone, most likely Nikki, is seriously trolling Emmit. First, they replace his car with Ray’s old beat up Camaro. Then, all the photos in Emmit’s office are replaced with images of the stamp. Finally, when Emmit falls asleep in his home, he wakes up with a fake mustache glued on his face to resemble his brother. Not calmed by another one of Varga’s random anecdotes and too smart to take the drugs that he’s peddled, Emmit lets his guilt get the best of him, and the episode ends with Emmit entering the police station to confess.
After last week’s light offering, this week felt substantial and sets the season up well for its final two episodes. I especially liked this week’s Coen homages. The innocent bystanders to the prison bus flip meet the same fate as victims from the original Fargo film. Also, the bowling alley scene is shot exactly like The Dude and The Stranger’s meeting in The Big Lebowski. It will be interesting to see if Fargo will veer into courtroom drama territory or if Varga will dispatch of Emmit before he gets them both in trouble. Also, Nikki is still out there plotting her revenge; will she be able to get to Emmit if he’s in a holding cell? I just hope my poor guy Sy wakes up.