Fargo: season 3 episode 8 review – Who Rules the Land of Denial?
The review may contain spoilers.
In which Fargo turns into a survival drama. The first half of this week’s installment is heavy with dark, moody atmospheres, blood-soaked snow, the howling of wolves and the sense of death breathing down Nikki’s neck. We follow her and her unlikely companion, the deaf hitman Mr. Wrench through moonlit forests of Minnesota, as Varga’s lackey, the Russian bandit Yuri in a wolf’s mask follows their blood trail for a night and a day.
It almost feels like a different show for a big part of this episode, but it far from suffers for it. The atmosphere is intense, uneasy, and we are almost made to believe that the survival of Nikki is uncertain, even if she does come out of it alive in the end. And as good as the directing of Fargo is week to week, this week’s installment seems to turn it up a whole notch; each shot in the chase sequence is calculated and polished to perfection to create a sense of dread and unexpectedness, and the camera follows Nikki and Wrench through the woods like a bloodthirsty beast.
It is entirely ironic and Fargo-esque then, that the sequence ends with the escapees finding themselves at a neon-glowing bowling alley, where Hawley does not forget to take the opportunity to give us yet another nod to the Coen brothers’ films, as is so common on this show by now. It is The Big Lebowski this time, specifically the scene where The Dude meets The Stranger in the bowling club; it is even filmed in an almost identical way. The man Nikki meets here is Paul Marrane (Ray Wise), whom Gloria had met back in episode 3 of this season as the man on the plane to Los Angeles, as well as at a bar later on. He offers Nikki existential wisdom and shows her reincarnated lover Ray, who is now apparently a kitten.
Another opportunity that Noah Hawley never passes up is making it weird. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and this whole sequence balances somewhere between the two extremes. The whole bowling alley feels ethereal, as if detached from the rest of the world, like some spiritual threshold made for the characters to pass before moving on to the final act of this play. While it certainly does the job of setting the atmosphere, one has to wonder if the plot device used here isn’t a little deus ex machina, as the green Volkswagen Beetle just waits for Nikki and Wrench outside.
The rest of the episode catches us up with all the other characters. Sy is poisoned by Varga on the Christmas day, and spends a whole few months in a coma. Emmet is haunted by what almost appears to be his dead brother’s ghost, as someone replaces all paintings in his office with the 2 cent stamp and glues on a moustache on him as he sleeps. Gloria and Winnie are getting where it’s warmer as far as Emmet is concerned. And Varga himself remains a disgusting son of a bitch.
Overall, the pieces are starting to come together for the final two episodes of the season, and if the previous seasons has shown us anything, it’s that Fargo borrows Game of Thrones‘ formula and delivers a spectacular and climactic episode 9 before cooling down and showing the aftermath of the whole thing in the final episode of the season. If this formula has carried on into season 3, we should buckle up for whatever is to come next week.
Image credit: FX