In arguably its best ever opening sequence, rivaling True Detective’s Season 1 long shot, and in its darkest, most wickedly funny moments, recalling The Sopranos‘ “Pine Barrens”, Fargo‘s twenty-eighth outing was an end to end exhilarating, mind-bending ride. As written by Noah Hawley, Matt Wolpert, Ben Nedivi, and directed by Mike Barker, the highs and lows of these supremely broken Minnesotan folks (and a few bizarre interlopers) played out in the most Fargo-ish manner imaginable; I can think of no higher praise than to say that everyone has done the Coens proud.
Despite their myriad flaws, we’ve come to adore just about (not you, Varga and Yuri) every Season 3 character and this hour, our emotions are played to their fullest by expert hands. Flashing back to a dastardly plan, Yuri and his pack are foiled by a deft deaf and determined convict and his remarkably resilient partner in chains. Against impossible odds, Nikki and Mr. Wrench escape to the woods, a trail of bodies strewn behind their unintended path. Dusk to dawn, the animals pursue their prey, procuring a couple of crossbows along the way, which makes for a terrifically tense first twenty minutes. In the hour’s most gloriously gruesome and gory garroting (of sorts), last week’s inept cop (DJ Qualls) is this week’s strangled — and beheaded — pig, while Mr. Wrench’s expert ax toss ironically fetches an (albeit useless) ear.
Out of the woods and into the … bowling alley where Ray Wise God/his Angel (This scene felt like the ultimate mashup of Fargo, Twin Peaks, The Big Lebowski and American Gods) waits at the bar with wise words and kittens (“Ray, is that you?”), Nikki gets some much needed whiskey and a green VW to drive off the lot, all for the low, low price of a message delivery to the wicked (“Though thou exalt thyself like the eagle … ). God has a different message for a bloodied and broken wolf-man — “Yuri Gurka, Cossack of the plains …” — and it comes in the form of a crowd of women, led by Helga (Albrecht, we presume), the last thing he sees before passing out (dying?) from blood loss.
As poor, dim Sy pops by what used to be Emmit’s mansion, now wholly locked-down by a delightfully dancing (who knew he had those Meemoves?) goat man and that vicious, vile Varga, a calamitous cuppa causes the consigliere considerable catastrophic consequences — a coma, of course (Not even 5 million can help). Stymied yet again by fellow police — men — Gloria’s persistence may finally pay off when the new deputy stops to sign her divorce papers before walking out the (new) office door. Drugged up and driven to the brink of madness by Varga’s manipulative machinations (stamps on the walls, glued on mustache), the last Stussey steps in the (new) station ready to confess. With Sy incapacitated and Emmit incarcerated, it appears an empire will be left to Varga’s unfettered unilateral umpiring, but there’s still that wondrous wildcard-holding round left to be played by a few whip-smart women, consistently underestimated by monomaniacal men.
Not So Deep Thoughts:
Nikki is SO BADASS. Despite having been through a bus-flip that knocked her unconscious, and waking chained to a fellow prisoner — still grieving her fiancé — this incredible woman kept her head. When she and Mr. Wrench head out to the woods, she’s together enough to tell him they need a plan, calculates their distance traveled, helps take out their would be killer without blinking an eye, takes an arrow to the leg, bites down and endures the pain while Wrench pulls it out, and still manages to limp all the way to the bowling alley, and drive their getaway car. I repeat, BADASS.
Varga thinks if Nikki is alive, she ran to Canada, and though he and Meemo were obviously trying to push Emmit over the edge, V.M. didn’t seem to know anything about Ray’s car being parked at the hospital. Is Nikki going to turn Varga’s game around on him? She is an expert bridge player.
Helga Albrecht is the name of the girlfriend Jakob Ungerleider is accused of killing (as Yuri Gurka) by the German officer in this season’s opening episode, and so it seems, the man we know as Varga’s man, Yuri Gurka, really did kill Helga.
The story Varga tells Emmit about the one Japanese soldier, Lieutenant Hirō Onoda (Hiroo), who refused to believe the war was over, is (as many of his tales) true.
Ewan McGregor was at his best as a remorseful, guilt-ridden brother; the look on his face both at the hospital with Sy, and when he sees Ray’s car in the parking lot, were heartbreaking.
Speaking of the hospital (“Sy’s not dead.” “Not yet.”) Sy cannot die! Michael Stuhlbarg has given an amazingly nuanced, Emmy-worthy performance; I just can’t deal with it being over.
This shot mirrors the one last week when Sy spied Varga up in that window.
In Episode 3, “The Law of Non-Contradiction“, Ray Wise played a character called Paul Marrane, the man Gloria met on a plane.
As God/Angel, he asks Nikki if she’s familiar with the Hebrew (Kabbalah) word for reincarnation — Gilgul — the idea that when people pass on, souls can attach to a new body.
The full of Ray Wise Angel/God’s message to the wicked: “Though thou exalt thyself like the eagle, though thou make thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, sayeth the lord.” This quote is from Obadiah 1:4; in Obadiah is a prophet. Where at first I thought for certain, Wise was God, this leads me to believe he’s an angel.
What is it about animal heads on people that’s so terrifying? Yuri and Co. were about as creepy as creepy can get — reminded me of Mad Dogs (which if you haven’t watched, you simply must) — silently standing and watching as Mr. Wrench and other prisoners fought them off.
Mr. Wrench and Nikki: I would gladly watch their season in its entirety. And though I want Nikki to have a chance to grieve, and know she truly loved Ray, I wouldn’t mind seeing these two together in the end. She’ll teach him bridge, and they’ll do tournaments together.
I’ve studied Meemo’s reading, and tried asking,
but I can’t discern enough from the screenshots to figure out what it is.
UPDATE: Nadine discovered the book is Joel Stewart’s Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie on the Road.
UPDATED: Here’s a screenshot I found of the same page from Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie on the Road:
I think the first words in the bubble are “… just what I needed”
The green VW bug license plate number is 480-TE5. “Cleaned of its sins” makes me think we’ve seen this vehicle in Fargo parts before, but I can’t at this moment recall when/where.
Songs This Hour:
Nikki to Mr. Wrench: “You speak in sign language? How are we supposed to … I’m chained to a deaf guy, Jesus.”
Yuri to Golem (aka fake cop aka pig head): “I knew a Helga once. All she do is talk, talk, talk.”
Nikki to the bowling alley attendant/bartender who asks if she wants shoes: “What? Shoes? No. Just whiskey.”
Ray Wise God to Nikki: Manachman. He called it a garden. His soul he said, would bind and comfort theirs. Have you been to this place before?
Nikki: “The bowling alley?”
Nikki to Ray Wise God about Ray the kitten: “Do me a favor, will ya, when the Gophers play, put a little beer in a bowl and put the game on?”
Ray Wise God to Yuri: “I have a message for you from Helga and the rabbi.”
Gloria to Nathan when he thanks her for his Christmas socks: “Don’t thank us, thank Santa.”
Varga responding to Sy’s comment that the tea is a little bitter: “Try some more. I think you’ll find it smoothes out nicely.”
Varga to Sy, telling him Emmit’s sleeping: “As soon as he’s wakies, I’ll have him give you a ring-a-ding.”
Winnie to Emmit when he says she and Gloria are harassing him: “We’re on our lunch break.”
Gloria to Donnie: “If serving eviction notices won’t give you a sense of purpose, what will?”
Varga to Emmit: “Even heroes can lose sight of what’s real from time to time.”
The emperor has surrendered, but one man down below refused to believe.”