Fargo – Season 3, Episode 5: “The House of Special Purpose”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 5: “The House of Special Purpose”
Directed by Dearbhla Walsh
Written by Bob DeLaurentis

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Narrow Escape Problem” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Lord of No Mercy” – click here
Pic 1Mac Davis’ “It’s Hard to Be Humble” plays as we see Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) driving, and at home a package arrives marked FOR YOUR EYES ONLY. She gets a bit curious, eventually opening it to find a DVD intended on going to her. You betcha – a sex tape, and it’s Ray (McGregor) dressed as his brother having sex with Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
Cut to the pair themselves getting ready to record their video. Blackmail, baby. It’s getting slippery. And I can’t help but wonder that once the going gets especially tough, is Nikki in it all the way with her man? I’m not so sure, to be honest. Then Ray busts out a ring, down on one knee. She says yes, too. So I guess I’m wrong. For now my thoughts about Ms. Swango – the soon to be Mrs. Nikki Stussy – are assuaged.
Pic 1AEmmit’s wife has packed up and left. This is it. He is pissed, seeing the video and the damage its causing so quickly. Wonder what he and Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) are gonna get up to, how they’ll try and fight back.
They’ve got other issues, though. Such as the big, bad wolf V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) and his odd techniques. He pops his dick and balls into Sy’s WORLD’S BEST DAD mug while asserting his power over a chick v. egg quip. A dash of antisemitism. Then his thugs make Sy drink from the mug. Blech. A nasty, hostile takeover, essentially.
Out at a swanky restaurant Sy meets with Ruby Goldfarb (Mary McDonnell). They chat about life. Then they discuss business matters. She’d like to acquire Stussy Lots Ltd. rather than have a partner. Or else become the competition. But the meeting is cut short when Emmit texts with an emergency. And of course you know the sly wolf’s boys are keeping tabs on where he goes.
Sy: “Yever have that feelinlike you stepped off the map into the, well, unknown, I guess?”
When Sy gets to Emmit’s place he finds his buddy sobbing in a corner over his wife leaving. They’ve got problems on top of problems on top of other problems. Now, the friends are turning on each other a little. Sy wants to be let loose, to solve their problems with Ray once and for all. Emmit agrees: “Shackles are off
Pic 2Back to Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) and Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval), they’re getting closer to where they need to be, all the Stussy connections, Maurice LeFay (Scoot McNairy). Only a few more dots together before they’re right on top of Ray and Nikki. Yoowzah.
On the phone, Sy talks with Nikki. He wants to meet now that things are already fucked up. Then she piles on saying they’ve got video proof of Emmit banging his secretary. Oh, man. A meeting’s set for one hour.
What sort of bad shit’s about to go down? Note: there are possible trails of evidence for everyone here – first, Sy leaves a voicemail for Emmit at his house with possible incriminating evidence; second, Ray freaks out on a bus in public, looks like a guy behind him is taking video of his very personal fight with Emmit re: blackmail. Whoopsy!
And wouldn’t ya know it, Officers Burgle and Lopez get talking to the balder Stussy. They want to know all about the brothers’ relationship, Maurice, the car accident courtesy of Mr. Feltz, so on. Only problem is Moe Dammick (Shea Whigham), he’s the new boss and he’s trying to shut Gloria down constantly. He says it’s “random life” and there’s no Stussy connection.
Emmit runs into Varga, the ever mysterious, creepy bastard. The guy is so sleazy, particularly his Jew fixation. He’s sowing the seeds of discontent, saying that Sy might’ve been in cahoots with Ray all along. Oh, the chaos is brewing. He explains his entire plan as a souffle. Fitting, for a guy who binges then purges when eating.
Pic 4No sooner do they finish their conversation does a man from the IRS (Hamish Linklater) turn up to see Emmit. Christ, what timing. He’s there about the $10K withdrawal from his account recently, the one made by his brother in disguise. The IRS may need to see his books. Hmm, that’s no good with the wolf prowling around as of late. Nothing good’s going to come of this, nothing at all. In fact, the poor tax man may be in trouble himself with Varga keeping an eye on things. Moreover, ole V.M. is pretty much pulling the strings at this point, so much so he’s already got fake books cooked for the company.
Emmit: “The jig is up
Finally, Sy meets with Nikki. They’re quite a ways out from the main road, at one of the Stussy lots. Great tune called “Track Suit” by Minor Mishap Marching Band plays during this scene, too. Nikki requests $200K and the contested stamp. However, Yuri and Meemo are there to interrupt. The Russian has lots to say about America v. Siberia before they beat Nikki brutally. The random chaos of Fargo reigns, once again. Instead of doing anything sensible, Sy rushes off. The tough girl ain’t dead, though. She manages to get to her vehicle and get home. Ray finds her in the bathtub with internal injuries, definitely not doing well.
Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 2.36.10 AMThe wild world of this series gets wilder. I can’t wait for “The Lord of No Mercy” next because I feel like something bad and big is coming. Maybe Ray and the wolf Varga will come face to face soon enough.

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Fargo – Season 3, Episode 4: “The Narrow Escape Problem”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 4: “The Narrow Escape Problem”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Monica Beletsky

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Law of Non-Contradiction” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The House of Special Purpose” – click here
Pic 1Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) and his brother Ray (McGregor) are portrayed in a juxtaposed couple shots showing how different they are truly, at the same time the latter’s trying to impersonate his brother. Also, the instruments of the score play us through, every character – named by animal – has a sound.
Great opening sequence, from the Stussy brothers to Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) helping her man prepare for their latest con, to Sy Feltz (Michael Stulhbarg) keeping an eye on the situation at the office, and V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) who likes to binge eat and throw up apparently. Can’t forget Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon), either; fresh off her trip to LA in search of clues about Ennis Stussy a.k.a Thaddeus Mobley.
Loving this season. The characters are incredibly interesting, almost more than ever because there’s a true air of mystery, particularly with Varga.
Pic 1ASo Ray’s pretending to be his brother, looking for the safety deposit box. Nikki does her best to pump him up for the work at hand. She definitely believes in him, which I wasn’t so sure of at the start. Inside he goes for the box, briefly meeting a woman from Bemidji, Minnesota which of course was the setting of Season 1. Ray ends up in the office of Buck Olander (Dan Wilmott), he knows Emmit well. Most interesting is how we, and Ray alike, see the difference between the brothers. At first he finds it uncomfortable. Then uses it to his advantage to get the box opened.
When he gets inside there’s a small bag filled with dog ashes. At least he gets out with $10,000. After Emmit finds out he and Sy aren’t happy, but they have bigger fish to fry with Varga. Their money worries are quite real, and they’d rather not find out what worse a wolf like V.M. might do if triggered.
Plus, there’s Meemo (Andy Yu) and Yuri Gurka (Goran Bogdan) up to no good for their eerie, mysterious boss.
Ray: “Buck, if I wanted an opinion from an asshole Id ask my own.”
Meanwhile, Gloria investigates the death of Maurice LeFay, going through his belongings at the morgue. Where she soon comes to find a Parole Board business card amongst them. Only a few steps to Ray Stussy, then a few more to connect him, his problems with his brother and the death of ole Ennis. Moe Dammick (Shea Whigham) thinks she’s digging too deep into something that requires no digging.
Pic 2One thing prevalent in this series is the chaotic randomness inherent in our world.
First, Gloria passes Nikki on the way into the Parole Board offices. Then, as it happened to her previously at another building, Gloria’s ignored by the automatic doors. Will this little nugget come to play a bigger part? It’s the same thing in the washroom when she tries getting soap, water, the sink and dispenser refuse to acknowledge her. There’s got to be more to this, I know it. Random events often come to mean bigger things in the Fargo universe.
So now Ray meets Gloria. She discovers his last name’s Stussy. No relation, of course. But curious to note for our woman of the law. They get talking about Maurice and his death, his involvement in the death of Ennis, that he may have been looking for something at the old guy’s house. When she leaves the balder of the Stussy brothers he’s visibly shook. No wonder.
He has worse problems. Pictures of him and Nikki turn up from their night out gambling. The higher-ups aren’t happy with him. They offer to sweep it under the rug, if it’s just a “one time thing.” So, he has to choose love or his job. They also threaten to revoke her parole if he chooses the former. Eventually he talks them down and leaves his job behind. But if he officially gets closer to Nikki, then it’s increasingly likely that Gloria will be more suspicious about what happened to Maurice, at Nikki’s apartment building, et cetera. Yikes, what a mess. A beautiful mess.
Ray: “They always find a way to screw ya, dont they?”
Gloria: “They try
Officer Lopez, who ran into Gloria while in the Parole Board office bathroom, is over chatting with Sy about the car accident reported. He’s real cagey, too. Not a good poker face. With the big Russian and Meemo lurking around the office it’s never good having a cop around.
Pic 3At Emmit’s door arrives Varga, sniffing out pork chops. He sits with the family and eats. A very nervous dinner, indeed. The sly Brit intimidates while being sweet as a slice of apple pie. And when he’s finished his meal, he goes to the bathroom to keep himself thin with a vomit. Later, the two men talk business, though Emmit does so reluctantly. “Youre living in the age of the refugee, my friend,” Varga tells him cryptically, as he speaks of class war, capitalism, and how when things go to shit nobody will differentiate between a guy who pumps oil or a guy who makes tons of cash leasing parking lots.
Interesting how much Varga knows, of the Brothers Stussy, their struggle. Also note that V.M. has a picture of Stalin on his wall near the computer. What a creep. I doubt he idolises the man. More so he’s the type who thrives under a dictator, one who reaps the spoils of such a situation. A dirty opportunist of the lowest, darkest sort. And Emmit’s right in his cross-hairs.
Note: I suspect Varga’s bulimic tendencies are symbolism, of how the upper class gorge themselves, purging, then gorging; all for the sake of it rather than out of need.
At home Gloria contemplates the case of Ennis’ death. She gets a late visit from Officer Lopez about her visit to the Stussy office. Bringing about the conversation about Ennis, two brothers with the same last name and one living in Eden Prairie. Ahh, the pieces are really falling together now.
Pic 4Love the twisting and turning plot of this season. This episode deepened that to further lengths. Great, labyrinthine writing!
Next episode is “The House of Special Purpose” and I’m never sure what’ll happen in any episode, so I look forward to a new surprise.

Fargo – Season 3, Episode 2: “The Principle of Restricted Choice”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 2: “The Principle of Restricted Choice”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Noah Hawley

* For a recap & review of the Season 3 premiere, “The Law of Vacant Places” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Law of Non-Contradiction” – click here
Pic 1Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) goes over the crime in her head. She digs into the box she found at the Ennis’ place in the floorboards. Inside are several Thaddeus Mobley (Thomas Mann) novels, she flips through them to see if there are any little notes or anything significant stuck between the pages. Nothing. There’s a newspaper clipping of Mobley winning a Golden Planet award. A photo of a woman, signed. She says Ennis Stussy and Mobley are “one in the same.” Hmm.
Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregory) and Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) go see Irv Blumkin (Hardee T. Lineham) about their problem with Mr. V. M. Varga (David Thewlis) and their stupid, illicit deal. The two men are clueless, it’s almost amazing how they got as far as they have at this point in life. A curt commentary on many ‘successful’ businessmen, to my mind. Either way, Emmit still has problems with Ray (McGregor), the stamp. Although Sy says he doesn’t want the stamp, he wants his brother’s life; the “green monster.”
Watching Irv operate a computer, let alone Google, is absurdly hilarious. When he manages to search Varga, a webcam turns on and takes a picture of them. Then everything shuts down. Now that can’t be a coincidence, can it? That Varga is sketchy. His teeth alone are the stuff of nightmares. Even with that grill of rotten chompers he’s somehow charming, in the way he speaks to others like some villain from a fairy tale whispering in the ear of others along the peripheries.
At a lot Sy and Emmit control, Varga’s parked a big rig truck. What could be inside? Something sinister? “Slave girls,” Sy wonders? Who the hell knows. They’re trying to cover their asses while bigger things are happening, and have been a long while, without their knowing.
Pic 1AGloria meets with Moe Dammick (Shea Whigham). He’s a bit more of a rough character than some of the cops we’ve seen on Fargo, which is a welcomed touch. There’s already a tension between the two characters, as well. He’s her new boss, and wants to lay down the law at the office. He also wants her to take time off, after the death of her stepfather Ennis.
She goes out and starts investigating. A store owner says a Russian man came in – though, he doesn’t remember it was only a shirt with Russia on it (that’ll cause something to fuck up at some point) – and tore a page from his phone book; we know that man was Maurice LeFay (Scoot McNairy), but the information’s been mangled by this bumbling man.
Ray is checking on the death of Maurice, at the very same time. It’s been logged as ACCIDENTAL. Making him a very happy man, putting more pieces of the puzzle together for him. All the while the guy’s brains are being scrubbed off the sidewalk over in front of the apartment where Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) lives. Things look as if they’re going well. She’s busy trying to put together a new job, to make more money. Ray would rather get “out of the woods” before anything else. She says there’s something wrong with his “chi.” Blocked up. Not good. Sometimes it’s like she strings him along, though it also looks at times like she loves him. She is damn dedicated, that’s for sure.
Ray: “I never killed anybody before
Nikki: “Well me either. Lifes a journey, yknow.”


Ray goes to Emmit’s place. At 10:30 in the night, imagine that? Goes to show the disconnected brothers, one a buttoned down family man and the other a semi-regular guy. It’s fun to watch McGregor play off himself, a hard thing to do. Yet each of the Stussy brothers is different. Their mannerisms, how they talk even under those Minnesota accents. While Ray apologises to his brother, inside the house Nikki tracks down the stamp’s location. It was moved. In its place is the picture of a donkey; an ass. She discovers the receipt for a safety deposit box in the office desk. Then leaves her bloody tampon in the drawer. What she doesn’t know is that the stamp wasn’t moved, the frame’s only being fixed.
Ah, the ole Fargo comitragedy of errors!
Moreover, we get a look at Meemo (Andy Yu) and his friend Yuri from the Old Country. They toss an old man over the side of a parking garage, then walk away like they just finished playing a game of basketball. Dark and hilarious. Now there’s more of a Russian-ish connection coming into play, I’m very interested to see that unfold.
Later, Emmit gets a call saying Irv jumped off his garage.


Gloria’s making arrangements to have Ennis buried, she and her boy Nathan (Graham Verchere). They can’t track him back past 1980, before he married her mother. He’s a bit of a mystery, especially considering her mom passed already. He didn’t really have friends. Gloria is stuck on the Mobley theory, which ought to prove for more interesting story in upcoming episodes.
In a diner Sy visits Ray, unhappy about the break-in. They certainly don’t have any kind of good relationship, not even a working one. Sy says Ray won’t ever speak to his brother again; “nonnegotiable,” he claims. Appears the guy’s got a temper, which Ray doesn’t take to nicely.
At the office Emmit finds Varga kicking around suddenly, like a wisp of fog out of thin air. He’s got Yuri and Meemo with him, too. They’re taking up some office space. They’ve got plenty of boxes of… files? Already being wheeled into an empty wing. We’re coming to see V.M’s shadiness. In a way, he represents others outside America today while Sy and Emmit are the stupid men at the helm of the nation currently in 2017; as he says, they think the deal “can be changed” but once you’ve started down certain roads there’s no stopping. “Youre trapped,” Varga explains. He further assures the audience of what happened with Irv. Nasty dude.
Pic 4Loved this second episode! Hawley did a great job writing, and the characters have started opening up. I particularly have interest in Varga, whose purpose becomes clearer with this episode and specifically the final few minutes. Awesome stuff.
“The Law of Non-Contradiction” is next week.

10 Cloverfield Lane is an Interesting Spin-Off Spun Right

10 Cloverfield Lane. 2016. Directed by Dan Trachtenberg. Screenplay by Josh Campbell, Damien Chazelle, & Matthew Stuecken.
Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr, Douglas M. Griffin, Suzanne Cryer, Bradley Cooper, Sumalee Montano, & Frank Mottek. Paramount Pictures/Bad Robot/Spectrum Effects.
Rated 14A. 103 minutes.
Drama/Horror/Mystery

★★★★1/2
POSTER
I was never a fan of Cloverfield. The movie never reeled me in enough to be effective. By the end I was just glad the thing had finished. At the same time, there were some elements I did enjoy. It was all very mysterious. To my surprise, J.J. Abrams came out awhile back and revealed they’d secretly worked on this little same-universe flick parallel to the original 2008 film. That alone intrigued me, the secretive nature of its production. Then there’s the fact Damien Chazelle had a part in writing it, first time feature for director Dan Trachtenberg. Plus they went and got three great actors – John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr – to help make the entire thing even more exciting. And it’s the mystery again, even more so, that makes the film compelling.
This is a great slow burn. Even without Cloverfield so obviously looming over everything, this could stand on its own. At the same time, the fact we know about what’s been happening because of that first movie adds a special ingredient to make the tension and the suspense, all that mystery so distressing.
For all intents and purposes, 10 Cloverfield Lane could be performed as a stage play, confining all its wonderful character development and mysterious plot elements into the suffocating location of a survivalist’s bunker. Further than that, the writing takes you from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, never failing to evoke paranoia.
One thing’s for certain, you’ll find even as the plot burns slow the excitement never ceases.
Pic1
The writing is great here. Especially the film’s dialogue, which is both endearing and at times bitingly comic (“And I know I seem like a sensible guy, but at the time I wasnt myself“). As a fellow writer, I’ve always found it tough to write genuine dialogue because you almost want to hear the conversation aloud yourself. But the screenplay here is natural, for such an unnatural situation and series of events. That’s part of its strength. In making the characters feel so incredibly real, so vivid, the screenwriters – Chazelle alongside Joseph Campbell and Matthew Stuecken – allow this mysterious story come across authentic. No matter if your film’s story is science fiction or even fantasy, the plausibility of its premise and the resulting situations in which you put the characters works if those characters feel like real people.
One of my favourite moments is when they’re playing the game together – the whole Santa Claus bit was super clever and all around well-written/acted. A perfect little scene that reveals so much in a bold, creepy way.
In addition, the plot’s mysterious structure in the first half shifts heading into the second, which brings out an even more interesting dynamic between the characters. All of a sudden the entire thing has changed. As a fan of Psycho and the classic shifting screenplay, as I call it, this is something I enjoy; when a movie can start out headed in one direction seemingly then navigate a whole new course, or a couple new courses, before the end of the line. The whole movie is one tense and consistently surprising ride.
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The well-written script is aided by the fantastic performances. Goodman is someone I’ve loved a long time, his talent is tremendous. His character is complex, and we make it almost to the halfway point before figuring out whether or not the man is genuine, or if he’s a terrifying psychopath. And it’s not just the writing, Goodman brings across that friendly quality while also still capable of being menacing. Then there’s Winstead, whose chemistry with Goodman makes for a tense relationship between characters. She is a talented actor I first noticed significantly in 2014’s knockout indie Faults opposite Leland Orser. She has that sort of girl next door appeal, she also plays a strong female character, so having her between the other two (male) leads is perfect. And Gallagher is a nice third party to Goodman and Winstead. Likewise, he has a boy next door charm. He’s enthusiastic in every role, even when playing a murderer. Here he’s no murderer, just another confused soul left behind in the aftermath of some major event, a man trying to go along to get along. Once the plot shifts a little and we figure more things out, his character is fun. His acting talents get the chance to shine, here and there.10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
Bear McCreary is one talented son of a bitch. Everyone now knows him for his excellent work on The Walking Dead. I first heard his music in Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, funny enough. But his talents extend into a ton of different places, such as the new A&E show Damien I’ve been digging, among a ton of other stuff. He does some very classic, eerie sounding horror-mystery stuff. It’s never derivative, and that’s most likely why McCreary has experienced a massive influx of work over the past few years. He gives us stuff that sounds and feels familiar yet has his own indelible sound, as well. On top of the score, there’s a nice soundtrack including Tommy James and The Shondells’ “I Think We’re Alone Now”, in such an ironic little montage that it’ll make you smile wide.
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Trachtenberg does a swell job directing this film. He keeps everything tight and claustrophobic, even more so than just the location. A lot of his shots inside that bunker are fun, unique, and help push the whole story along. This is a 4&1/2-star film for me. It is entirely a wonderful experience. With the background of 2008’s Cloverfield, this story soars in an entirely unexpected way. Parallel to the events of that film this smaller, more personal drama unfolds with plenty of mystery and a steady dose of horror nearing the finale. Not only that, the plot shifts several times to keep the audience guessing, and you can never be totally sure what’s coming next.
I’d love to see another spin-off in the same timeframe as Cloverfield, which has the potential to go anywhere after this awesome little movie shows us there isn’t only one way to envision the possible end of the Earth as we know it.