Fargo Season 3, Episode 4 Review: The Narrow Escape Problem

As we approach the halfway point of Fargo Season 3 (already?), it’s might be useful to pause and consider what we’ve learned… if anything. The players are all positioned on the board, but the master plot remains opaque. Sure, there are three parallel stories, which will eventually dovetail, but the mystery isn’t really who killed, stole, lied, or died; instead, the real question is: who’s got control and what do they want to achieve?

Thisepisode opens on the mundane (a hallmark of Fargo), just another typical morning with the central cast, set to the orchestral backdrop of Peter and the Wolf — that classical old fable from everyone’s youth, which recounts the bravery of a boy and the harsh lessons of nature. Interestingly, Peter and the Wolf is also a Russian tale about hunter and prey, which obviously mirrors the events in Fargo. Russians, it seems, have regained their standing as the central villains of our day.

Perhaps most intriguing: we learn that V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) has a Soviet background to go along with his South African accent. He’s chosen to consolidate power in Eden Valley, amidst its frozen parking lots and cheap diners — for reasons that remain momentarily unclear. Varga is a serious adversary; a man of intellect, patience, and diligence — he’s an unstoppable, unavoidable force, much to Sy (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Emmit’s (Ewan McGregor) chagrin. Varga wears $200 suits, sleeps on the floor of his warehouse, and expounds on the inherent conflict between rich and poor — he’s essentially the invisible man, until he’s not.

This theme of invisibility is extended to Gloria (Carrie Coon), albeit in a quite different way. Gloria resides in the past, where people didn’t lock their doors and technology doesn’t negatively intrude upon daily life — we continue to see constant reminders in her inability to interact with the basic tools of modern living. Yet she is as unrelenting as Varga, and perhaps equally as intelligent; their eventual collision should be tremendous.

Meanwhile, Ray (Ewan McGregor) and Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) continue their escapades, which actually yields a profit this week (if only temporarily). In their most inspired play to-date, Ray impersonates Emmit to gain access to his brother’s safety deposit box (and a generous helping of cash). What makes this incident so compelling is that we finally begin to understand Nikki’s odd infatuation: they’re one in the same, eternal soulmates with an illicit bond. Unfortunately, the lack of subtlety in their tradecraft costs Ray bigtime when his bosses receive a stack of compromising photos from Emmit’s recent house party.

Where all these shananigans begin to merge is in the distribution of power, who wields it, and how. Ignore the swank offices, sprawling homes, and expensive cars; look instead at those who would ordinarily go unnoticed: the female cops, the loser parole officer, and the invisible man… these are the real power brokers, the ones with guile and a willingness to exercise it (though with no guarantee of success or survival). That’s where we’re headed in the final episodes, these are the ones to watch, until they meet their inevitable, violent, and dubious end(s).

Grade: B+

Have you figured out what’s really happening in Fargo Season 3? If so, 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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