Season 3, Episode 8: “Who Rules the Land of Denial?”
Directed by Mike Barker
Written by Monica Beletsky & Noah Hawley
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Law of Inevitability” – click here
* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 3 episode, “Aporia” – click here
There’s quite a setup going on along a dark road. Meemo (Andy Yu) and the boys are preparing for the big moment when the prison transport passes. Yuri steps into the road wearing the bear’s head. The bus flies off the road, smashing up everybody inside. Including poor Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard), among others. Then, in come the boys to try and collect her.
While Wrench fights off the cop assassin (DJ Qualls), Nikki tries getting them free. They escape out the back, into the woods.And the three criminals wearing their respective animal heads must give chase, plus deal with a couple witnesses on the way.
In the forest, Nikki and Wrench attempt ridding their chains. Although they keep quiet for fear of being found amongst the trees. They walk on until morning, though unsure of where to go next. At the same time, a hunter puts an arrow into the bear head Yuri’s wearing, almost putting him down for good; problem is, now he’s got a crossbow to hunt his own prey.
The death of Ray (Ewan McGregor) haunts Nikki, she doesn’t stray far from thoughts of him and their last moments together, that final conversation before he left to go get their money. Yet she pushes on, she and Wrench walk through the day and into night once more. When they find an axe, he tries to break their handcuffs. Soon arrows are flying at them. Wrench takes one in the shoulder, a knife in the back. Nikki gets one through her calf. But they manage to take down the one dressed as a cop, literally CUTTING HIS FUCKING HEAD OFF! Yes! The surprising bits of blood on Fargo never disappoint.
It doesn’t slow ’em down, either. Wrench shoves a stick in Nikki’s mouth to bite on as he removes the arrow from her leg. A bit worse for the wear, however, they’re free of the cuffs now, too. And Wrench even sliced off an ear with the axe before Yuri and Meemo made off.
The unlikely pair of Nikki and Wrench stumble onto a bowling alley where they’re able to rest for a moment. And drink whiskey. We see a familiar face from when Gloria (Carrie Coon) went on her Mobley investigation: Paul Marrane (Ray Wise). He’s sitting at the bar next to Nikki. He even hauls out a precious little kitty, perfectly named Ray. Is the dead Stussy’s soul kicking around in that cat? Never know.
Note: the name Paul Marrane is a different name given to the Wandering Jew, which obviously connects to some of the Jewish and Hebrew-related quips this Paul provides Ms. Swango; a very interesting little addition to the writing. Also, a great explanation of why Paul shows up so randomly. Never anything random in Fargo.
Paul: “Simply deliver a message when the time comes”
Nikki: “A message. To who?”
Paul: “To the wicked! Tell them, though thou exalt thyself like the eagle, though thou make thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord.”
Further note: This exchange – particularly the final bit – is from an essay by P.H. Sweetseh called “The Bible Birds No. VII – The Eagle” which you can find in a periodical called The Ladies’ Repository.
Yuri ain’t doing so hot. Bleeding from the top of his head, from the hole in it where his ear once sat. He’s also visited by Mr. Marrane, who clearly knows him well. He says he’s brought a message from Helga and a rabbi. This takes the Ukranian back to an older time, seeing a vast crowd of people standing in the hills. What could it mean?
Back to Christmas Day with Gloria and Nathan (Graham Verchere), they’re trying to do the holidays right even if things aren’t exactly top shape. She gets a call, of course, and has to run. Out to the bus crash, where she worries about Nikki and whatever happened to her.
Meanwhile, Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) goes to see Emmit (McGregor). But the last Stussy alive is… resting. Meemo and Varga (David Thewlis) are kicking around the house, the wolf is, as always, having a lunch. Feasting on leftovers he’ll surely yak later, like a true capitalist pig. Either way, the bond between Emmit and Sy is weakening, as Varga drives a wedge between them purposefully. After having tea, Sy leaves for the office. Something ain’t quite right with that tea, though. It’s got him in a bad way. So much so he vomits over the floor by the front desk. “Well that‘s not right,” he says before hitting the floor and getting rushed to the ER soon after. God damn, that’s cold.
Sy winds up hooked to machines. For a couple months, in fact. Grows a beard, goes through hospital staff. There sits Emmit at the bed’s edge, acting as if things are fine and knowing they’re not. Outside the room waits Gloria and Winnie (Olivia Sandoval), asking questions he doesn’t want to answer. People around him aren’t faring so well these days. When Emmit arrives back at the office he finds pictures plastered everywhere around the place, they’re a 2-cent stamp. Ole Sisyphus pushing that goddamn boulder; the absurdity of life. And you betcha Stussy is freakin’ out now.
There’s something creepy about Varga and his computers, stowed away in that secret room. He’s not just Googling anymore, he has a properly sinister setup. Then Emmit calls, believing Ray’s still alive due to all those stamps and because his car was at the hospital. No time for any of that nonsense. The wolf has other business for them.
Varga: “You won”
Emmit: “I won? What did I win?”
When Emmit passes out after some drinks, he wakes with a moustache on his face. It won’t come off. He’s literally transforming into his brother. Creepy thing is, Varga and Meemo, they’ve got no part in it. So they claim, so it seems. Above all, their evil influence has fully swept Emmit away, to another place. He’s no more in control of his life than he is in control of the business at this point. Varga’s the darkness behind the curtain, pulling on the strings.
Instead of falling into sleep with the sedatives they’ve given him, Emmit goes to the station. To confess.
One of my favourite Fargo episodes; period! Such a great mix of symbolic writing, solid plot, and further character development. Excited to see the penultimate episode “Aporia” next week. One closer to the finale. I wonder how everything will tie up? Either way, I’m digging this season. Personally it might be favourite, though I’ll be sad if we don’t see anything more come out of Thaddeus Mobley. Would be a real wasted opportunity.