Fargo Season 3, Episode 2 Review: The Principle of Restricted Choice

Fargo has a history of bleak, black humor and sudden, shocking violence, which is key to its grimdark charm. So, if you thought dropping an air conditioner on a man’s head from three stories up was a wee over-the-top, even for this show… welp, this may not be the week to invite grandma and the little ones over for a screening.

If last week’s episode was pure table setting, this week we get delicious appetizers, as the tension rises and the conflicts are cranked a little tighter, yet very little actually transpires. We’re introduced to a few new minor characters, such as Irv the attorney (Hardee T. Lineham) and Moe the new police chief (Shea Whigham), plus a pair of V.M. Vargas’ “associates,” who aren’t nearly interesting as last season’s mute Kitchen Brothers — I assureyou, what they lack in personality they more than make up in menace.

What we do get is a great deal more insight into the various strengths and weaknesses of the core cast (emphasis on the latter). Everyone’s angling to improve their respective situations from last week, and in true Fargo fashion they all somehow make things much, much worse.

Emmit and Sy attempt an end run on V.M. Vargas, hoping to mount some kind of defense. They employ Irv to gather dirt, starting with a simple Google search — alas, Irv’s tech skills are, shall we say, lacking; he unwittingly downloads a virus and also invites Vargas’ unwanted, violent attention.

Nikki and Ray cement their relationship dynamic — and it’s becoming clear that she’s a couple cans short of a six-pack. Ray is traumatized about “his first murder” while Nikki brushes it off, “life is a journey, you know”; her focus is fixed on gaining a sponsor for the bridge Grand Nationals. Unfortunately, Ray’s “Chi” is blocked by his ongoing “blood feud” with Emmit, so (logically, I guess) Nikki hatches a new plan to recover Ray’s stamp, the elements of which are the very definition of hair-brained.

Gloria’s investigation into her stepfather’s murder is stalled by the installation of new chief Moe, who’s appalled at the department’s lack of modern tools and practices. We’re also realizing that something is a bit off about Gloria, who seems immune to door sensors — not exactly a rich character trait, but certainly an odd quirk for future development.

You’d be right to say that you’ve seen this all before.

Fargo Seasons 1 and 2 offered the parallel narratives of virtuous local cops investigating the illicit activities of nefarious external organizations who endeavor to malign the snowy white granduer of the northern Minnesota winter — I can forgive said pattern, however, given the compelling father-daughter Solverson arc and their juxtaposed timelines. However, in Season 3 the pattern has become formula and that robs this show — as clever and polished as it is — of much of its mystery and surprise. What we’re left with is cool characters and high shock, as evidenced by Irv’s rapid demise and Nikki’s impromptu instant message.

Somehow, all of these various plot lines will eventually dovetail, though there’s no guarantee that any of it will make logical sense. That’s OK, because the journey is indeed the point — but if you’re even a tiny bit squeamish about lady parts and their associated monthly business, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Grade: B+

How do you feel about the pace of Fargo Season 3 so far? Let us know in the comments down below!

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David Kozlowski

David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.

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