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.

Amenábar’s Regression: Bland, Dull Creeps & Cults

Regression. 2015. Directed & Written by Alejandro Amenábar.
Starring Emma Watson, Ethan Hawke, David Thewlis, Devon Bostick, Aaron Ashmore, Dale Dickey, David Dencik, Lothaire Bluteau, Kristian Bruun, Adam Butcher, and Aaron Abrams. Mod Producciones/First Generation Films/FilmNation Entertainment/Himenóptero/Telefonica Studios.
Rated 14A. 106 minutes.
Crime/Drama/Mystery

★★★
POSTERAlejandro Amenábar’s first feature Thesis blew me away. Later, a different sort of film, Abre los ojos, was equally stunning. Then I truly adored The Others, as a modern classic of the haunted house sub-genre; an all around impressive picture. He has great qualities as a filmmaker, both his writing and directing full of talent. Proving himself on various ends of the spectrum, he doesn’t always have to be creepy. But when he goes for horror, or stories with scary/horror elements, Amenábar can really dig the hooks in. Perhaps that’s why this film let me down.
While I admit Regression has a nice mood and atmosphere, along with a couple solid horror visuals that creeped me out over and over, the whole movie is disappointing. If it weren’t for Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson I don’t know but I would’ve turned this movie off halfway through. Perhaps it has to do with how I’m painfully aware of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and early 1990s. Or maybe Amenábar didn’t write a good enough script. One way or another I find this movie tedious. Sure, the few dreamy horror bits in the film are intense, and totally worth it. But otherwise there isn’t enough to justify a 106-minute romp through territory I, and so many others, have already read, watched, et cetera.
Pic1
In Minnesota during 1990, Detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) is assigned to the case of John Gray (David Dencik) whose seventeen-year-old daughter Angela (Emma Watson) is accusing him of sexual abuse. Although, the problem is John admits it must be true if his daughter claims the abuse happened, but doesn’t recall any of it ever taking place. Even worse, the further Angela regains her memory, with the help of regression therapy by Professor Kenneth Raines (David Thewlis), dark and sinister details come out about the abuse. Worse than incest, worse than rape, it comes to stand Angela says there were Satanic rituals performed. The whole family involved. Babies stabbed to death, their blood drank. An entire town of Satanists throbbing right below the surface.
And as Kenner further tracks down the details, he slowly imagines the devious world beneath everything bubbling up, coming for him. His mind crosses from hard reality to the dreamy fog of illusion.
Is Angela telling the truth? Is everyone beginning to remember what truly happens in their small Minnesota town? Does a Satanic cult really operate under the radar? Kenner has to figure it out. One way or another.
Pic2
I still can’t exactly point to the one single thing that makes this movie a bummer for me. There are a few reasons I suspect this is the case. First, the weird energy of the film builds up then the resulting finale comes off as anti-climactic. Possibly no other way to end the film, but found it a bore in the end. Second, the acting talent of Emma Watson is wasted; her role is large, yet it’s as if we spend most of our time seeing her in one way when the end of the film, her character at that point is the side of her we wanted to, needed to, see more of ultimately. My suggestion? The screenplay ought to have been slightly longer, and maybe the big reveal placed earlier, so as to draw out more of the excellent characterization of Watson’s character. Would have made the climactic portion seem better. Finally, anyone who has ever heard of the Satanic Panic craze could draw a roadmap almost immediately where Regression was headed. Right away I knew what would happen with Watson and her character. I kept holding on, further and further, hoping Amenábar was right around the corner from dazzling me with some interesting twist, a surprising turn. That never came. Most of the film felt exciting and horrific at certain moments, even in the stagnant pieces. But there was no pay off. Nothing at the end, no pot of gold or anything.
And that leaves us with the acting. As I said, Watson is underused and not given enough time to do anything more than play a sad, tragic girl who seems to be caught up in a terrifying world. Outside of the crying and the withdrawn nature of that character there’s nothing much else happening; once more, I say, sad and missed opportunity. So really it’s the Ethan Hawke show – even David Thewlis doesn’t get enough screentime to make his character worth it. Hawke is a talented guy, whose work shows well in the character of Kenner. He is a man who wants to believe in something bigger, something more beautiful and full than the broken lives of the people he sees, being a detective and all. Except he can’t believe in anything more. With the case here, he becomes involved in a deep good vs. evil type mindset. The ending throws him for a loop altogether. Watching Hawke take us through this guy’s rollercoaster head trip it is a blast, as he gives us many solid moments, sucking us into the madness Kenner falls into like we’re right in the same boat.
Also, I’ve got to mention Dale Dickey as Rose Gray, the grandmother. She is an amazing character actor who pops up in everything, from Breaking Bad to Winter’s Bone and everything in between. Her intensity, her face full of expression and rocky wisdom, it all proves an important piece to the film. The scenes with her, every one, are interesting and definitely full of excitement. She is a treasure and a wonderful addition to this cast.
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Quality acting cannot fully save a film. Even with creepy images thrown in, horror among all the mystery and thriller storytelling, Alejandro Amenábar does not come anywhere near his previous directorial/written efforts so far with Regression. Not all bad, the film overall just seems like a massive swing and miss. There were places this could’ve went that it did not. There were other ways the story and plot could’ve been structured, yet Amenábar stuck with this and things feel flat for such a large portion of the movie. While I still find it good enough for 3 stars, so many things need improving. It’s too bad because Amenábar is a fabulous filmmaker, an intriguing writer. He simply fell short on this. Luckily, there’s enough of the creep factor here and several nice performances, so the whole thing is not a waste. Don’t expect anything overly impressive. I went in hoping for so much more. Now, I wish I’d curbed those expectations a fair deal more.