FARGO Review: “The Narrow Escape Problem”

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This week’s episode of brings the focus back to Minnesota after an episode abroad last week. Ex-chief Gloria Burgle traveled to Los Angeles to determine if there was any motive for her step-father Ennis Stussy’s murder connected to his former life as a science fiction author named Thaddeus Mobley. There wasn’t, and we know this from the start, as we saw Maurice LaFey kill Ennis in his Stussy/Eden Valley/Praire mix-up. But now Gloria is back home and the plot is gaining momentum as she continues down the path that will (hopefully) lead her to cracking this thing.

Ray and his parolee girlfriend are still hell bent on acquiring that precious stamp of Emmit’s. After failing to find the stamp in Emmit’s home office, they have to come up with a new ploy. Ray knows his brother keeps a safe deposit box at the bank he keeps his money in. So they decide that Ray will get some curly hair and shave so that he looks exactly like Emmit, then demand the bank open the box for him. He tells them he lost his key and when they put up a fight he threatens to take his business somewhere else where they “put the customers first.” Finally they open it but the only thing they find is a bag of ashes, which turns out to be a beloved family dog. Frustrated, Ray withdraws ten thousand dollars from Emmit’s account (and a dollar in quarters for the meter). Nikki can’t understand why he ONLY took ten grand from his brother, but Ray insists that that would be criminal. He ONLY wants what is fair. I guess stealing ten grand doesn’t count?

We knew it was going to happen. Ray is starting to get his karmic comeuppance. He gets a talking to from his boss which eventually leads to his termination as a parole officer. Apparently somebody sent in pictures of Ray and Nikki canoodling. Parole officers and parolees are strictly forbidden to engage in a romantic or sexual relationship for obvious reasons. They may have let Ray off if he assured them it was a one time thing and it would never happen again, but he can’t contain himself. He tells them he loves her and intends to marry her. He begs them not to send her back to jail, and the result is they fire him instead. He is probably wishing he took more than that ten grand now.

Before he’s fired, though, our hero Gloria catches up to talk with him about his former parolee Maurice, now deceased. As we know, Ray and Nikki purposefully killed Maurice with an air conditioner pushed out Nikki’s apartment window. Ray stammers around her questions in classic Fargo utterances, perhaps protesting too much. He tells Gloria Maurice was a fan of “reefer” as though that exonerates him and makes Maurice deserving of his untimely demise. As I predicted, Gloria pieces together the odd coincidence that Maurice’s parole officer and her step-father who was murdered have the same last name. But what could that mean?! Of course the new chief is giving Gloria a hard time, as new chiefs usually do in these things. He says she’s making the case more complicated than it is and likens her to men who served under him in Fallujah who didn’t listen to his orders, getting themselves killed. Still, Gloria persists.

And good thing she does, as the end of the episode brings us an interesting discovery from new character, Officer Winnie Lopez. Winnie is a delight and full of pep. She and Gloria meet while sitting next to each other in separate bathroom stalls and Winnie asks her for a “putter-inner.” Winnie is following up on the case of Sy Feltz hitting Ray’s Corvette and a diner waitress’s car with his Hummer in that parking lot a couple episodes ago. Ray isn’t pressing charges, but the waitress is. Like Ray, Sy stammers a bunch when Winnie confronts him about Ray being the brother of Sy’s boss. In the end, it’s Winnie who notes something very interesting to Gloria: Ennis had the last name of Ray and Emmit Stussy. Emmit Stussy lives in Eden Prairie and Ennis Stussy lived in Eden Valley. More bizarre coincidences that have to mean something. But what?

Speaking of Emmit, he is really in over his head with fantastic villain V.M. Varga. This episode Varga and his crooked teeth show up at Emmit Stussy’s home around dinner and helps himself to pork chops. Emmit tells him that he has crossed boundaries, but predictably Varga does not seem to care. He presents Emmit with the necessary paperwork to make him a full time partner in the Parking Lot King of Minnesota’s business. Emmit objects, but also seems intrigued when Varga tells him he has secured twenty-five million dollars in credit on Emmit’s behalf. Varga has been monitoring Emmit’s social media and phones (this is turning into somewhat of a theme this season–remember the weird Facebook convo last week?). Varga knows about his brother Ray and asks if he’ll be a problem. Emmit assures him he will not be–but we know he will. He already is.

Overall it was a great episode that moved the plot forward much more effectively than last week’s. We are seeing some dots connected in our hero Gloria’s mind and got a great new female character in Winnie. You may have also caught that the opening monologue likening all the characters to characters from the story Peter and the Wolf was performed by Billy Bob Thornton, returning after playing an integral role in season one. I really love these tiny connections showrunner Noah Hawley peppers in to this series. It makes it all the better.
TB-TV-Grade-A-Season 3, Episode 4 (S03E04)
Fargo airs Wednesday at 10PM on FX

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Paul didn’t write this review. It is a fateful case of mistaken identity.
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Still quiet here.sas

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