Fargo: Season 3 Episode 3 review – The Law of Non-Contradiction
This review contains spoilers.
One of the strengths of Hawley’s Fargo has – since Season 2 – been the adeptness at which the writers layer UFO content over the normalised Minnesotan setting. It’s all the more impressive that it works when you think of that fact that Fargo – the original Coen film – didn’t have aliens in any form. The Coen’s birthed a realistic crime piece, without fanciful SF content, nor seemingly the capacity to hold any.
Then consider Indiana Jones and how many fans feel that the injection of aliens in the fourth entry ruined the franchise entirely. Throwing something like otherworldly beings into the mix of a franchise renowned for its realism is always a big risk, but somehow Noah Hawley makes it feel suited to his version of Fargo.
My colleague last week pointed out that there will likely be some thread between the Science Fiction author in this season (Thaddeus Mobley; a fictional author created for the show) and the UFO that appeared last season. I’m inclined to agree and I think this week – with its decision to take Mobely’s story and life seriously – just made that guess all the more likely.
In an episode that felt leagues apart in style to the two episodes that have already gone by this season, this week focused solely on Gloria (Carrie Coon is no stranger to holding her own in a POV episode; she’s done it many times in The Leftovers), as she sought to learn more about the past of Mobley.
As she travels, Gloria reads one of Thaddeus’ books – The Planet Wyh – a novel about a sweet droid named Unit MNSKY who lives 2.38 million years (and is given the title of the oldest sentient being in the history of the universe), wandering the cosmos. Magnificently, the writers were bold enough to create an actual animation for this narrative, which is spliced among the episode. Each time Gloria reads a little more of the novel, we see more of the animation unfold.
The animation itself seems intentionally basic, but it works, overall creating something truly quirky and unique. Although other shows use animation (Community, for example), it made it feel like something so vastly separate to anything going on in television at the moment, which is exactly how Legion made me feel too. Hawley is ridiculously good at building a vibrant strangeness that feels like it’s ahead of its time – as if no one could hold a candle to his style, even if they tried.
I could be wrong, but the motel that Gloria stayed in looked precisely like the shoot-out location that the UFO appeared in in Season 2, Episode 9. Unlike that superb episode, this time we got to see the interior of a UFO (in a sense), which here held the Federation of United Planets – a welcoming and kindly group of extraterrestrials.
The box that prevents you from flicking its switch by popping a hand out and undoing what you just did is creepy. The switch certainly mirrors the switch on the head of MNSKY in the animated narrative, which acts as an off-switch that essentially ends MNSKY’s life. This nicely paralleled the death of Mobley himself.
The only thing preventing this episode from getting full marks is the writing in the non-animation narrative. I feel like the writers could have been a little more inventive and bold with what Gloria found during her investigation. Fargo is a show of quint nothingness and simplicity, true, but there was room for the realistic narrative to reach greater heights, in my eyes. Ray Wise and Rob McElhenney’s characters were welcome, but the comedy of the latter felt a little too on-the-nose in its simplistic brashness.
This was a far more effective and beautiful piece than the last two episodes. While I fully expect the show to fall back into normality after this, I really hope there are more strange and beautiful masterpieces like this ahead. This is precisely the kind of magnificence that I was expecting from a post-Legion Hawley.
Image credits: FX