Fargo – Season 3, Episode 10: “Somebody to Love”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 10: “Somebody to Love”
Directed by Keith Gordon
Written by Noah Hawley

* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 3 episode, “Aporia” – click here
Pic 1Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) is resigning her position as Deputy. I wonder if she’ll take things into her own hands. Larue Dollard (Hamish Linklater) is handling things at the IRS, inspecting the books from Stussy Lots. And ole Emmit (Ewan McGregor) is signing his life away to V.M. Varga (David Thewlis), looking on lovingly at the transfer of equity the way some people leer over something sexual. That wolf is a creep.
So when does it all come together? Well, Larue finds a piece of paper left by Gloria, saying “We should talk” with her number included. Just before she leaves the station she gets his call. But she didn’t leave it; hmm. He’s found “blatant tax fraud” among other madness.
Meanwhile, in a motel room, Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard) are gathering an arsenal for whatever they’ve decided comes next. Looks like maybe a minor war.
Pic 1AVarga: “On some level, food knows its food.”
There looks to be a fiery spirit in Emmit’s eyes. Not in a good way, either. He grabs a gun from out of Meemo’s (Andy Yu) holster, rebelling against his capitalist captors. He doesn’t want to be food. Certainly not for someone like Varga, who for his part goes on about everything from the Medici family to technological advances. They manage to knock Emmit out, and all of them clear out like ghosts.
When Varga and the boys head off they meet a boy who speaks of Swango. The kid leads them – a veritable army for such a situation – to King Midas Storage, an abandoned-looking property. They find spray paint leading them up to the 3rd floor. Up they go. Carefully. They find a note saying to leave the money, that the drives aren’t far. Except Varga receives a text saying the IRS has the drives, to leave. He does, leaving his men to their fates. He also manages to escape the elevator, weaselling his way from out of the grasp of Swango and Wrench who’ve got the cash. She doesn’t want much, only a couple stacks; the rest she gives to him. “All I want is the brother,” she signs to her friend.
Emmit wakes to an empty house, all the men gone. Stamp stuck to his forehead. He rushes up to the office, which is being converted, no longer Stussy Lots. There he finds Ruby Goldfarb (Mary McDonnell). She’s in fact an arm of Varga. They’ve put him into bankruptcy, though his money’s hidden. Ah, how the rich stay rich by getting momentarily poorer! Also how dumb people who think they’re good businessmen are used by other, more powerful businessmen and political-types as pawns in an elaborate economic game.
Pic 2Now everybody’s on camera during the ambush, from Mr. Wrench to Nikki to Varga, all of whom are now on the police radar. Gloria realises it was Ms. Swango sent the package to the IRS and who was looking for Varga, and she’s hoping to go find Emmit before it’s too late.
Speaking of him, he breaks down on the road by himself. A truck stops and out steps Nikki, shotgun in hand. “Are you as low as you can go?” she asks him at gunpoint. He admits he could probably go lower, judging how far he’s fallen so far. Then he accepts his death, asking her to kill him. She repeats the words the Wandering Jew (Ray Wise) said to her once before.
Before she can kill him a cop stops to see what they’re doing at the roadside. He asks for license and registration, all that. When Emmit tries telling him about the gun, the cop pulls on him. Nikki goes for the shotgun, the cop pulls his pistol, they both fall to the pavement. A bullet right between her eyes. Once again Emmit left in a wild position. Although alive. Somehow he slips through the cracks with an eerie luck.
Pic 3After all’s said and done, Gloria tells her son Nathan about his sorta-grandpa Ennis, the “root cause” of everything. She doesn’t actually tell him, just that the world is chaotic; perhaps the thesis of Fargo, from the film to the series. It’s all about the randomness of the universe, encapsulated via microcosm in these little pockets of Minnesota.
Emmit goes back to his wife, weeping. Five years later, we see him doing better. He filed for personal bankruptcy, did probation for two years. Claims say he’s got millions stashed away. If he were a man with less money, he’d be fucked. But God bless the capitalist dream, right? Here Emmit sits, the ruins of his life still around him such as the barely mobile Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg). And while he gets dessert from the fridge – get it, just desserts? – Mr. Wrench sneaks in behind him with a silenced pistol to put him out of his misery, finally.
Pic 4Varga: “Human beings, you see, have no inherent value other than the money they earn.”
These five years on, Gloria is in a new career. Working with the Department of Homeland Security. She’s got V.M. Varga in the interrogation room. He dances around things, as usual. Bringing in the Russian connection again. Equating things in cold, capitalist terms. Doesn’t matter much, he’s being charged with a ton of shit, and Gloria will go out to enjoy the “great American experiment” in freedom. Or that’s what she believes. He believes he’ll be let free, too. Is this the power of the villains? Do they always get away with it, no matter from how high up they’re being rained upon?
We’re impatient. We want justice and we want answers. We don’t get them, not straight out. The bad guy merely fades slightly, and our hope remains in the face of Gloria. It MUST remain. Else the battle is lost.
Timely, no? Resist the villainous. Never give up; be a Gloria.
Pic 5What a fascinating season! I loved it, and it’s possibly my favourite of the series so far. I’m disappointed we didn’t see more of the Thaddeus Mobley bit, I feel that was a waste. It didn’t detract, though. Serving a purpose to get us into the character of Gloria Burgle.
Either way, this was great, a jam packed, exciting, funny, weird and wild season. Look forward to a Season 4. C’mon, FX. You know you wannagotta.

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Fargo – Season 3, Episode 9: “Aporia”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 9: “Aporia”
Directed by Keith Gordon
Written by Bob DeLaurentis & Noah Hawley

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Who Rules the Land of Denial?” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 3 finale, “Somebody to Love” – click here

a·po·ri·a
əˈpôrēə/
noun
  1. an irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction in a text, argument, or theory.

Pic 1AAn older gentleman is killed in his home by the silent, deadly Meemo (Andy Yu). This man is Marvin Stussy.
At the station, Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) sits to talk with Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor), who’s there to confess, so he said. He warns not to let anybody in if they say they’re his lawyer; ahem, V.M. Varga (David Thewlis), ahem. The remaining Stussy talks about his dead brother, their father – “basically bald from the shins down” from wearing nylon socks – and family memories. He admits to killing Ray at his apartment. He laments what he’d done, all their lives, to his younger brother. He tricked his brother all those years ago into taking the Corvette, just as Ray told us originally. In between Emmit tells Gloria how he cut his brother’s throat when they fought over the framed stamp.
Emmit: “Thirty years Ive been killinhim. That was just when he fell.”
Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 1.04.10 AMVarga’s still scheming. I’m curious as to his endgame. He’s got Meemo driving a transport truck and headed lords knows where. At a red light, Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) tosses a grenade through the truck’s window, as Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard) fires an assault rifle on them. Well, the bullets are real. The grenade ain’t; just a paperweight. The two bandits make off with the truck easily. An awesome little trick. Nikki and Wrench look through the back of the truck when they can, they find a briefcase of particular interest. That’s all they take with them when they leave the vehicle behind and head out in a car.
Needless to say Varga isn’t thrilled. He gets a call from Ms. Swango. She has lots of information now, using it to extort $2 million. Although I doubt he’ll give it over. I can see a great deal of violence heading their way. Heading every which way.
At the station, Emmit’s locked up. Bit of a culture shock when he has to explain that he’s not wearing a sweater: “Its a cardigan.” Gloria talks with Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval), she’s at the scene of the latest Stussy killing. Suspicious, no?
I’m also STILL HOPING they give us even an ounce more of Thaddeus Mobley before the end. Only one episode after this left, so it better happen fast.
Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 12.56.43 AMOver at a different house, another Stussy, there’s a dead body. More Stussys piling up. Moe Dammick (Shea Whigham) is starting to wonder if there’s something strange happening around their jurisdiction.
Moe: “This guy must really hate Stussys
Ruby Goldfarb (Mary McDonnell) comes in to speak with Gloria, telling her about the dinner she had with Emmit and Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg). She explains they were speaking about business, et cetera. They get around talking about when the men each left, all the little details. But a big commotion starts when Moe believes he’s got the killer of all the Stussys, including Ennis. Now we see the V.M. endgame in full, clear vision. What we also cannot dispel is the fact Gloria isn’t going to let this stand. Her intuition knows better.
You’ve never seen anything as oddly disturbing as Varga sitting on the toilet eating chocolate ice cream from a tub. Not long after he goes to meet Nikki. They have their tenuous meeting, she’s as slick as he is, and she is incredibly smart. Up above, Meemo waits with a sniper rifle to take her out on command. No good when Wrench is on the ball, pointing a gun at the back of HIS head. He signals Swango downstairs, allowing her more confidence. She threatens turning a hard drive over to police, and this visibly frustrates him. Not used to dealing with a tough lady like her. She gives him one more day to produce the $2 million. Or else…?
Gloria and Emmit sit down for another chat. She talks about her husband, how he came out as gay and in love with another man, then left. “You think the worlds somethinthen it turns out to be somethinelse,” she says. After that she lets him free. Because a Stussy killer is on the loose. All part of the Varga plan. Now the remaining Stussy brother is out of the pan and into the fire.
Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 1.14.31 AMVarga: “Its not that there is evil in the world, the problem is that there is good. Because otherwise, who would care?”
Finally, Gloria mentions to Winnie something about the Mobley books – The Planet Wyh. She talks about the robot, always trying to help. She says she relates to the robot, how she feels trying to do her work, to do justice. AND she also mentions the oddities – such as the automatic doors not working for her, the soap dispensers, so on. “I dont actually exist,” Gloria says. Except in this bar, the dispensers work for her, the automatic faucet. Like a new start, a fresh outlook on life.
Larue Dollard (Hamish Linklater) at the IRS finds a package waiting in his office. Inside, a stack of papers with a flash drive, pertaining to Stussy Lots Ltd. Oh, mercy. What’s the fallout from this going to be? Varga won’t like his business dealings pried into any more, on top of every other Emmit Stussy issue plaguing him.
Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 1.48.52 AMGreat penultimate episode to this fascinating season. Truly, I’ve loved Season 3. I don’t know if I love it more than the first season, which is my personal favourite. Regardless of that, they all match up in quality. They’re each awesome in their own rights. “Somebody to Love” is the finale next week. Sad to see these characters go already. Hoping to find some explosive moments in the last episode.

Fargo – Season 3, Episode 8: “Who Rules the Land of Denial?”

FX’s Fargo
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
Pic 1There’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.
Pic 1AThe 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.
Pic 2Yuri 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 thats 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.
Pic 3There’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?”
Varga: “Life
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.
Pic 4One 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.

Fargo – Season 3, Episode 7: “The Law of Inevitability”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 7: “The Law of Inevitability”
Directed by Mike Barker
Written by Noah Hawley & Ben Nedivi & Matt Wolpert

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Lord of No Mercy” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Who Rules the Land of Denial?” – click here
Pic 1Happy holidays in North Dakota!
Under the Stussy Christmas tree, using a knife with care, V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) was opening all the gifts that were there. He unwrapped one, then he unwrapped another, and meanwhile Chief Burgle (Carrie Coon) and Officer Lopez (Olivia Sandoval) find Emmit’s (Ewan McGregor) dead brother.
And as Ray (McGregor) lies dead with the blood round him, shocking, Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) stays at a motel, paranoid, and the cops have come knocking.
Pic 1AOut to dinner, Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Emmit meet with Ruby Goldfarb (Mary McDonnell). What disturbs me is that there’s a seemingly total absence of remorse on the remaining Stussy brother’s part. Obviously he’d hide that, yes. But he seems almost… more confident in himself, now that the hump on his back is gone forever.
Emmit: “You dont get where I am by stickinto the plan
At the station, Moe Dammick (Shea Whigham) interrogates Nikki, who’s now put square in the spotlight for the murder of Ray Stussy. Those bruises, her record. Oh, my. It ain’t looking good, for damn sure. I’ll never bet against Swango, though. Not until she’s in the ground, that woman has got nerves of steel. And her mind’s as sharp as a fucking tack.
Officers Burgle and Lopez lay out their case to the higher-ups, everything from the Stussy connection to Maurice and all the other pieces. Nobody’s giving them the time of day, sadly. These women are pretty much the only hope for Nikki to walk out clean, far as I can see. Maybe cops and criminals will come together in order to see justice fully served? A guy can hope.
Later that night a call comes in to the station, sending Donny Mashman (Mark Forward) out to check out a break and enter, possibly burglary. When he has to run back inside before heading out he finds Yuri Gurka (Goran Bogdan) reading a book in the dark, threatening even when he’s not actually threatening. The cowardly officer goes on, as the big Ukranian claims he’s not even there, walking away with a file on the Ennis Stussy investigation.
Pic 3Sy: “Whats the saying? If you love somethin‘, let it go…”
Ruby: “If it comes back its yours…”
Emmit: “If it doesnt, hunt it down and kill itis the version I heard.”
There’s a real danger going on with Emmit. He drinks and rambles about his life. He talks about how people are menacing, out to get others. We know that he’s actually raging at his dead brother Ray, trying to justify himself to himself. At the same time, Sy’s trying to keep things from going off the rails, which isn’t helped by the fact Officer Lopez turns up again. Y’know, with the bad news Emmit already knows. Right away he slips up, before she can even tell him his brother’s dead he gets going with his alibi. Immediately, Winnie sees the strange way Emmit acts. Holy Christ, he can’t keep it together at all.
There are worse things happening, as well. Emmit starts accusing Sy of being in cahoots with Ray before his death. So, of course, the good friend and partner blows up. Even calls the dead Stussy a “libtard“; sort of quietly affirms my thoughts about certain aspects of this season relating to the current sociopolitical climate of the US, how Varga and these business types represent some elements of the current administration running the show. The extortion of Varga specifically is well represented visually in a shot juxtaposing him against Emmit; he on the side of a large, upright, stuffed bear, the last Stussy on the other with his bright Christmas tree and the gifts all wrapped up again.
Nikki, she’s still sitting in a cell, and Gloria’s imprisoned in her own way within the constraints of not just the legal system, a bit of a patriarchal bureaucracy holding her back. That night, Swango is visited by a man (DJ Qualls) who cuffs her and goes to slip a syringe in her wrist. Interrupted by Gloria. When the man escapes, Moe and other officers find her there looking a bit crazy. Only the security footage will tell the tale; when they check it, the computers go down. Very suspicious.
Pic 4The only advice Nikki has for the cops: “Follow the money.” She’s carted off to jail in a bus full of creepy, greasy dudes. Next to whom? Mr. fucking Wrench (Russell Harvard), that’s who. That familiar drum-heavy theme plays again. So nice to see him after all this time. I wonder if it’s a one-off, or if he’ll wind up playing some kind of part in Season 3’s last few episodes. Well, for now, someone wanders into the road – Yuri with the bear head on – and sends the prison transport bus crashing to its side. The Ukranian is there for our lady. Perhaps Mr. Wrench might help defend her? Here’s to hoping.
Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 2.38.28 AMJust, whoa! Another fascinating chapter in this series. Love the way they bring back characters, connecting pieces. I’m still curious if the former life of Ennis as Thaddeus Mobley will come back into play, too. I don’t doubt it for a second. But how? So many questions. All hail Fargo. We’re not worthy.
Next episode is “Who Rules the Land of Denial?” and there’s a ton of shit about to crack open wide for our grim pleasure.

Fargo – Season 3, Episode 6: “The Lord of No Mercy”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 6: “The Lord of No Mercy”
Directed by Dearbhla Walsh
Written by Noah Hawley

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The House of Special Purpose” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Law of Inevitability” – click here
Pic 1Open on a concerned Ray Stussy (Ewan McGregor), sitting through night until morning worrying about Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) after the brutal beating she took at the hands of Meemo (Andy Yu) and Yuri. She only remembers so much. They did an absolutely savage number on her.
But Nikki isn’t one to stay down, neither literally nor figurative, either. Then there’s Ray, he certainly isn’t going to let any of this stand. A pretty solid, unbeatable team. Capable of anything.
Note: love that opening, silent shot going from night until morning, it’s a fantastic moment of filmmaking.
V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) tells of history, his interests of course lying in food. World War I started “over a sandwich.” Then he tells of the moon landing being filmed on a “sound stage in New Mexico,” which Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) just refuses to believe. Roundabout is the sly, bulimic wolf convincing Emmit (McGregor) and Sy to do more things they don’t really want to do. I can’t help feeling the character of Varga, and his actions/intent, are similar to the shady businessmen we see shambling through the corridors of power today.
The poor IRS auditor (Hamish Linklater) is caught in the middle of all the nonsense. Meemo poses as an upstanding lawyer in order to take care of their problems. Meanwhile, he and Yuri are followed by Stussy and Swango as they plot their revenge and bide their time.
Pic 1AUp at the Stussy offices, Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) and Winne Lopez (Olivia Sandoval) arrive to talk with Emmit and hoping to speak with Sy about his vehicular accident. While picking his nasty teeth bloody Varga hears them speaking, so he greases his way into the conversation. The two officers bring up Ray’s name, the homicide of Ennis Stussy, Maurice LeFay, so on. The tangled web of Fargo‘s chaotic world. The officers have connected the dots and believe – what we, the audience know to be true – Maurice, dumb as he was, killed the wrong Stussy. Too many coincidences. And as we know, in Fargo there are rarely any coincidences that amount to nothing.
I worry now. Because Varga’s a dangerous, creepy man. His picture of Stalin on the wall, his Google habits. He’s interested in Ms. Burgle, so he dispatches Yuri to the little Eden Valley Police Department where there’s no computers, only files. Reconnaissance mission. Furthermore, he gives the order on Stussy and Swango: “execute.”
Soon, someone comes knocking at their door as they hide out together. Only it isn’t the V.M. death squad, it’s the police. So, what’s their plan? Fucking bolt. They pack up what they can carry in two arms then pile into the car, heading for a motel. With a tail. Then Ray realises he forgot their getaway cash. He leaves Nikki alone – with Meemo lurking in the shadows – while rushing home.
Pic 2When Ray gets home to get his money, he finds Emmit waiting in the dark. He wants to end their feud. He’s tired. He offers up the stamp to his brother. “You cant give me what was mine from the start,” Ray balks, wanting him to take it back. In a struggle a piece of the glass in its frame smashes, poking into Ray’s neck. He pulls the shard and starts bleeding out all over the place. And his brother stands there, doing nothing. Watching him die.
Emmit makes a call. To whom? Oh, you know: Mr. Varga. He’s an unsettling man, even while listening to a beautiful piece of classical music. The remaining Stussy needs help, and he sure called the right lad. One thing I know is that Emmit thought he was in deep before. He was, sure; financially. At this point it’s beyond any money troubles, he’s in the dirty moral soup.
Varga: “Things of consequence rarely happen by accident
Back at the motel, Meemo waits to kill Nikki. Right before she walks into the room he gets a call, though. Then he’s gone without a trace, and she’s left alive. He’s helping Varga over with Emmit at Ray’s place. Those perpetual criminals have it covered. They’re using Nikki’s wounds, her criminal past, all to make it look as if she killed Ray for being an abusive partner. Yikes, that is coooooold blooded.
And trusty ole Gloria, she’s headed to Ray’s place. She has suspicions. Oh, my. OH, MY!
Pic 3What a wild, unexpected episode. This series only gets better with every season and each episode. So much to love. The characters are well rounded and even downright symbolic at times. Loving Varga and Gloria most this season, as well as – of course – Nikki Swango!
Up next week is “The Law of Inevitability” and I can only imagine the fallout of what happened this episode.

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.

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.

Fargo – Season 3, Episode 1: “The Law of Vacant Places”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 1: “The Law of Vacant Places”
Directed by Noah Hawley
Written by Noah Hawley

* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “Palindrome” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Principle of Restricted Choice” – click here
Pic 1Year 3.
1988 in East Berlin. A man is interviewed by an officer, though claims he’s not who officer believes he is, a man named Yuri Gurka. Seems they’ve got a problem. “That state would have to be wrong” for all this to be an issue. Surely, that can’t be correct, can it? I see where this is headed. There’s a murder, which puts this poor man, not Yuri, at a disadvantage when up against the crumbling Soviet.
Now, we head into Minnesota during 2010 for our current timeline story.
Pic 1AEmmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) and Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) are conducting a bit of business, as a 25th anniversary party for Emmit and his wife Stella. Afterwards the celebration goes on happily. In attendance is their daughter Grace (Caitlynne Medrek), as well as brother Ray (also Ewan McGregor). And the much more greasy-looking brother is there to get a meeting with Sy and Emmit. It’s been some time, evidently.
They do a little catching up, awkward as that goes. The tension is clear. Ray obviously feels lower class compared to his brother; Sy’s like the best friend who’s more like a brother than the brother himself. We’re also introduced to Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and the fact Ray wants to get her an engagement ring. This brings up issues of money, plus some betrayal over a stamp collection, “vintage” stuff worth tons of cash.
The relationship between Nikki and Ray is a weird one. Likely she’s using him, but too early to judge. He’s a cagey one, too. So, I wouldn’t count anything out. Nikki says they’re “simpatico to the point of spooky” and he’s inclined to agree. Be interesting to watch more of them together, love McGregor and Winstead’s odd chemistry.


Ray is a parole officer – where he met his latest girlfriend – spending his days drowning in paperwork and piss. No short of characters he encounters. And no doubt we’ll see some kind of ethical murkiness rear its head; well, more than already with Nikki. You can’t help imagine what kind of plans Noah Hawley has for a main character with that profession in his quirky, twisted little world of Fargo.
At a bar Ray meets with Maurice LeFay (Scoot McNairy) who’s recently failed a piss test. This P.O is a little more lenient on those under his care. He wants Maurice to help him out with a robbery; quid pro quo, poof, vamoose, and the problems go away. If he can get his hands on the stamp in Emmit’s office.
Sy and Emmit have business to take care of late in the evening. Simultaneously, Maurice lurks around waiting for the right time to strike on his mission; he’s a little busy smoking a joint and talking to his shrink via speaker phone in the car. Then he loses the paper on which Ray wrote the address; it flies out the window, into the snowy roadside. Does he remember? Or will this cause unintended consequences? I’d vote on the latter.
When Emmit gets to the office he finds V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) waiting for him. He’s from their lender, Narwahl. Says they don’t need to pay back the money, apparently. It’s an “investment” he tells them. Followed by cryptic talk of “singularity” and “continuity.” Hmm, a few strings attached. Seems the boys got in over their head and didn’t ask questions before jumping in deep.


Chief Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) is at home celebrating her son Nathan’s (Graham Verchere) birthday. They’ve got a bit of a fractured family; modern by most standards. Another interesting family for the series.
A great tune, as always, plays (Adriano Celetano – “Prisencolinensinainciusol“) us through while cards are being dealt in a regional tournament. Dream team Swango and Stussy hit the tables together to make themselves a big a payday.
Poor, stoned Maurice, searching out the address he lost, remembering it incorrectly and headed in the wrong direction. Headed right for Eden Valley, where Gloria’s the law. Then the guy winds up going to Ennis Stussy’s – no relation to the twins, far as we know – place, where Gloria just left. She turns back to get the model he made for her boy, then finds the place in shambles, door open. The old man taped to a chair, dead. After looking around awhile she locates a hidden compartment in the floor with a box in it; inside, old books, a figure, and more.
When Maurice goes to see Ray, things are messy. The misunderstandings are only just beginning to pile up. It’s about to get wild, and nasty. Particularly when the parolee goes crazy on him, pulling a gun. However, Nikki’s always thinking. As Maurice leaves the apartment, they drop an air conditioner on his head obliterating him. They’ve got a plan and everything. A convenient way out.


This is the beginning of what’s sure to be an interesting Season 3. Such a great premiere, and I know there’s even greater things to come.
Not sure how the East Berlin moment earlier plays into the whole thing, though there’s a Russian connection: Maurice is wearing a shirt in the bar with RUSSIA written on it; maybe nothing, or maybe something. Who knows.

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.