Fargo S3E8 “Who Rules the Land of Denial?”
In a lot of ways, the third season of Fargo has looked to spice things up as following the traditional Fargo formula might get stale the third time around. We’ve seen these attempts to stray from the formula with Gloria’s solo episode out in Los Angeles, Ewan McGregor getting a dual role as main characters, and a move to get away from gun violence. “Who Rules the Land of Denial?” kicks the spice factor up to a whole new level by cutting the episode into three different parts and styles, each part being enthralling to watch. We start with a thrilling chase scene that feels like it’s straight out of a horror movie before moving on to a surreal heavy dialogue scene with other worldly vibes and we finish with a return to normal world which feels like anything but normal for Emmit, driving him to throw a wrench in Varga’s plans. Let’s take a closer look.
We pick things back up just before they were left in “The Law of Inevitability”. We see how Yuri, Meemo and Golem (the fake cop) make preparations to cause the bus accident and then we see these plans go into action when the bus flips over. Nikki is briefly knocked out so we see things from Wrench’s perspective while not hearing them, on account of him being deaf. When the bus driver regains consciousness, Golem is forced to shoot him and this wakes up Nikki and is our indication we’ve left Wrench’s world because the viewer can hear it as well. Wrench is able to take the chain off tying the two of them to the bus but he’s still chained to Nikki which presents a problem with Golem working his way over. Wrench manages to hold off Golem long enough for the chained duo to escape through the bus’ back door and they head for the woods and the start of a thrilling chase scene.
Nikki and Wrench spend the entire night cutting through the woods trying to evade their followers and end up coming upon a clearing in the woods after daybreak, unbeknownst to them is the fact that Golem and Yuri are watching them from the top of a nearby hill. Yuri nearly pays the price for looking cool here. He’s got his wolf mask still on and a nearby father and son on a hunting trip mistake him for an actual wolf and the son fires his crossbow at him. Yuri is extremely fortunate that the arrow only hit his mask and the father and son are extremely unfortunate of the same fact. When they come to investigate their would be kill, they see it’s just a mask as Yuri comes from behind and kills them for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yuri and Golem are now armed with a crossbow each. Not looking good for our runaway convicts.
Nikki and Wrench come upon a section of woods with a tree stump and an ax (which seems mighty convenient). The opportunity to cut off their chains is too much to pass up for Nikki and Wrench even though there was a very foreboding arrow filled scarecrow in the same area. Wrench gets to work on cutting the chain and gets roughly halfway through when he gets shot with an arrow and falls to the ground. Realizing that they’ve been found, Nikki tells them they have to run for it but they don’t get very far at all before Nikki gets shot through the leg. Golem emerges out of the woods and Wrench rolls to the side so they can trip him with the chain, and it works. Wrench puts some ax swings through him for good measure and then throws the ax into the woods when he sees that arrows are still flying. Nikki and Wrench take the badly injured Golem and force him against the tree stump and start pressing their chain against his neck. A strangle attempt turns into a full on decapitation as the chain pierces Golem’s neck and his head hits the ground with a thud. Luckily for Wrench and Nikki, the decapitation also cut through nearly all the chain and Wrench is able to use sheer strength to cut through the rest of it and frees them. They run away from the scene and the scene ends by showing us why Yuri didn’t jump in to help Golem. That ax throw was a hell of a throw and it took off Yuri’s ear, leaving him out for a short bit. All of that was the first scene, one hell of a first scene if you ask me.
Nikki and Wrench seem finally able to take a break when they stumble upon an odd bowling alley. Odd is quite the understatement because the placement of it on the outside has nothing on the oddity on the inside. Nikki goes to the bar to order drinks and the bartender seems to take no notice to the fact that she is very much bloodied up. The camera pans to the right and sitting next to her is Paul Marrane, the odd fellow that Gloria ran into on her flight to Los Angeles as well as in a bar in the city. He seems a whole lot more significant in his second outing than his first and everything he says makes it seem like he’s not human. He talks as if he’s an angel or something along those lines and hints at the fact that Ray’s soul may now be in this cat that he so happens to have brought to a bowling alley. Any questions as to whether or not Nikki’s love for Ray was genuine are all dispelled as the brief time she spends with the cat who just so happens to also be called Ray, is heartbreaking. Paul assures her Ray’s soul is at rest but tells Nikki that while this is a place of judgement, she hasn’t completed her part yet and must continue on. He tells her to go along with Wrench and take his green Volkswagen beetle in the parking lot, whose sins have apparently been wiped clean. All he asks of Nikki is that when the time comes, she delivers a 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.”. Nikki struggles to say it back but Paul assures her she will remember it when the time comes. Paul says it’s time to leave but reminds Nikki she has to leave Ray the cat. Nikki shares her heartfelt goodbye with Ray and heads for the exit. She and Wrench take the car and drive off, reaching the end of their role in this surreal episode.
Trailing just far behind enough to miss their exit, was Yuri, who also decides to take a rest at the bowling alley. If you had thoughts that this was still just a normal bowling alley, those thoughts are dispelled as nobody makes any notice of just how bloodied Yuri is, now down an ear. After receiving his napkins and vodka, the camera pans to the right in the same exact way it did with Nikki and Paul is revealed to still be there, seemingly waiting for Yuri. Paul correctly identifies Yuri as Yuri Gurka, confirming that the very first scene of the season wasn’t just a throwaway. Yuri was the man who killed Helga and left town while the innocent Jacob Ungerleider was framed for it. Paul tells Yuri that he has a message from Helga and Yuri is confronted with not only his own sins, but the sins of his ancestors. It seems as though Yuri was just judged so it’s very much possible that this is it for Yuri.
Back to what is undoubtedly the real world, we check back in to find it’s Christmas day and it’s far from the best one for our cast. Gloria is interrupted during her super awkward Christmas at home to the news of the bus crash. Gloria heads on over and to the surprise of no one, she is again shut down and told to go home as this investigating this isn’t her job.
Gloria did manage to have a better Chirstmas than Sy at least. Sy and Emmit are called in to give a statement at the police precinct so he heads on over to Emmit’s house and finds Meemo answering the door. Asking for Emmit, Varga is the one who returns to the door and brings him inside. Varga tells him that Emmit is sleeping and it’s best not to disturb him. Varga gives Sy a huge plate of food which Sy wisely declines but when Varga insists he at least have a cup of tea, Sy relents, not really having a choice in the manner. Later on it’s revealed that the tea was in fact poisoned and Sy is rushed to the emergency room. In a clever time skip, it’s revealed that Sy has been in a comma and we skip two and a half months to find Emmit visiting his friend in March, looking just as bad as he did on Christmas.
Emmit may not be in a comma, but things certainly do take a turn for the worse for him through the remainder of the episode. Getting ready to leave the hospital, Emmit enters the parking garage, not only to find his car missing, but his brother’s corvette there in his car’s place. To freaked out to investigate, Emmit takes a cab back to Stussy Lots HQ but finds no relief there when it turns out that every single picture in the office has been replaced by a picture of the stamp that caused so much tension between he and Ray. He voices his concern to Varga that Ray may be alive or Nikki may be messing with him but Varga doesn’t buy it. He sends Meemo over to drive him home to rest this craziness off but things actually get worse when Emmit wakes up with a mustache, that one even surprises Varga who heads over to the house himself to try and calm him down. Varga gives him a “mild sedative” to calm him down but Emmit wisely fakes taking it and fakes the effects of it by pretending to be knocked out. Sometime afterward, Emmit arrives at the county police precinct (the transition of power has happened and Gloria is now just a county deputy) and a surprised Gloria is present when Emmit reveals his desire to confess. There’s so much to confess to here so depending on what he says, the season could end in a large variety of ways. We’ll get more clarity next week and it should prove to be the start of an explosive finish.
The use of grayscale as a color filter in the chase scene was an excellent choice. The whole season has used a sort of muted color filter but that scene was the season at its grimmest so it was only fitting we muted it as much as possible.
Quite a few off screen deaths in the episode, including the father and son that were hunting and the older couple who drove down the road of the bus crash at the wrong time. With an episode that was so violent, a couple of off screen deaths are surprisingly effective.
Odd but perhaps intentional wording when Paul told Nikki she had to leave the cat. The quote was “Ray… You’ll have to leave the cat I’m afraid”. Recall that Nikki is the cat in the Peter and the Wolf analogy. It ended up sounding like Ray had to leave Nikki, who is the cat. I’m going to put my money on intentional.
Any Coen brothers fans will immediatley realize and appreciate the bowling scene as a call back to The Big Lebowski.
When Varga unsurprisingly lied to Sy about Emmit being asleep and they shared that wave from the window before Sy left, man that was sad.
So Varga does seem to have a huge information network of sorts. Those were some pretty fancy computers he had in his truck.
I like how unsurprised Madeline, the Stussy Lots secretary was at the new furniture arrangements. “It must’ve been Mr Varga. He’s always doing weird stuff”. You could say that.
“Who Rules the Land of Denial?” sends the season into a bizarre but thrilling new direction as we head towards the end game.