Thursday, June 22, 2017

FARGO 3.10 - "SOMEBODY TO LOVE"

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“We see what we believe, not the other way around.”

This twisty, dark, bizarre season began with an accused man being brought into a room, to sit before a representative of the state who coolly laid out the circumstantial evidence that he was responsible for a terrible crime.  It ended the same way, only this time instead of knowing the man was being railroaded, we knew that he was guilty of everything the government was saying, and more.  This time the accused was the one rattling off state-sanctioned “facts” as irrefutable proof of his innocence, rather than the inverse.  In the Cold War era, the nightmare was that the state could dictate its own preferred reality upon the helpless individual.  Today, the even more frightening prospect is that even the government is powerless to rein in the shadowy, moneyed interests that set the terms for our brave new world.

But before we get to that room, we have the final moves in Nikki’s revenge scheme.  Her transformation into a commando may not be the most believable of turns, but having Wrench to do the heavy lifting helps in that regard and in any case it is satisfying as all get out to see the tables turned on Varga.  He slithers away, but the moments of fear, vulnerability and surprise she engenders in him will be important to remember when we circle back to that room, and that ending.  But first, she still has to reckon with Emmit. This is less satisfying, as she pulls her shot just enough to take out an innocent highway patrolman instead.  That she gets taken out too should seem like a bigger deal, but the introduction of this wholly innocent collateral damage puts it in a more nebulous place. It’s still a bummer, but she kind of has it coming and it’s neither the biggest tragedy or most deserved comeuppance the series has depicted.  So my favorite character gets shot in the head and my response is basically mirrors Gloria’s “well, okay then.”

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It was a flippin' sweet coat, though

It appears to be just the latest iteration of Emmit’s completely inability to get himself punished for his misdeeds, no matter how directly they place him in a literal crossfire. But then the show plays its niftiest little trick of the episode, using a time jump, chyrons, and an elegiac version of the main theme to suggest that it is transitioning to a coda.  The expectation forms, quickly and quietly, that we will float through a couple more check ins with the survivors and go straight to the credits.  But then Wrench shows up to throw a wren...some sort of spanner in the works, and put a bullet in the back of Emmit’s head.  It’s belated payment for his late(st) dead partner’s end of the deal.  He did get the money, after all; she was owed the brother. 

With Swango and the Stussys sorted, we circle back to that interrogation room, and that ending.  It’s a classic Lady or the Tiger ending, and boy, I love me a Lady or the Tiger ending. Enough that I liked the ending of The Sopranos right off the bat, and I rank Inception as one of the best films of the century despite finding about 50% of it to be a boring slog.  I like it because it allows you to have it whichever way you like, or both, if you prefer the Lady on Tuesdays and Tiger on Thursdays.  But I also like it because it makes you work.  Because it forces me to take at least that final step for myself, and requires an engagement beyond passively lying on my couch while shoveling Rocky Road into my gullet.

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right...couch...

Now, there’s a case to be made that this sort of ending is a cop out, a failure follow a particular thematic throughline to its logical conclusion.  And done poorly, that may be the case.  The key to properly crafting such an ending, and what this finale excels at, lies in making both the Lady and Tiger seem like equally viable options.  This is actually very, very difficult.  Generally, a long lead up will have accumulated enough evidence to accidentally favor one side over the other, even though by definition there can be no “right” answer  - if Tony “really” was killed, they would have just shown it rather than crafting an elaborate question mark.  In this case, we have seen ample evidence that Varga does have connections and powers that may as well be supernatural for all that local law enforcement is concerned.  And it wouldn’t be the first time he had whisked a suspect Gloria thought she had dead to rights out from under her.  IRS Agent Dollard also noted that his initial investigation was stymied by interference from Washington, and even after the evidence was dropped in his lap, the result was a misdemeanor plea and probation.  On the other hand, Varga is most definitely not infallible, given the loops through which an amateur bridge player was able to throw him.  He didn’t plan on losing 2 million dollars, or Yuri or Meemo or any of the rest of his men, to her.   And he never intended to see Gloria again, or the inside of a DHS interrogation room.  When people refuse to play along with his line of fables and bullshit, as Gloria pointedly does in the room, he has been shown to be quite mortal.  It also seems entirely plausible that the bloody, costly end to the Stussy affair led to some loss of standing, such that whatever other forces control the levers of power are more inclined to just cut him loose.

And even with everything else being zeroed out, the scales of interpretation still tip, in my view, toward the last person to speak, or the final image.  “Somebody To Love” balances this really well, by allowing Varga to lay out his version of events after Gloria’s, making it seem more credible from an audience perspective.  But then she reiterates her conclusion, and he closes the debate by calling it a waste of breath.  So he technically gets the last word, but it’s not as authoritative as if his story about the man who would set him free had been our closing statement.  And then we see her face last, as an uncertain smile creeps onto her features.  And then, the final image isn’t either of them, but the empty hallway and ticking clock, as they wait to see what sort of tiger will show itself. 

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"Is...is that it?"

Which is how it has to be, I think.  Wedded as I am to my interpretation of Varga as the embodiment of disinformation and Fake News, it would not be appropriate to end with him soundly defeated by the forces of traditional American values.  And it would be too defeatist to end with him utterly triumphant, suggesting that the conquering of same is complete and irrevocable.  We are still fighting against what he represents, a fight that is complicated and difficult and significantly bigger than my personal loathing of Donald Trump.  Passing the White House back to the other side won’t end that fight, if such a shift also happens on the back of dubiously-sourced innuendo and outright lies.  If Varga does go away, chances are his replacement won’t have such fucked up teeth, and maybe he won’t be talking of pitchforks specifically.  But the new boss's message will be the same.  Nothing is as it seems.  All your fears are justified. In fact, it’s worse than you thought. Your friends, your neighbors, your institutions, they can’t be trusted and aren’t worth investing in.  Only I can tell you the real story, which is that the only way to keep what you have is to play dirtier than everyone else.  But all you have to do is sign on the dotted line, and we’ll take care the rest…

“There’s violence to knowing the world isn’t what you thought,” Gloria tells her son over popsicles. But, she adds, even though the world doesn’t make a lot of sense, “how we get through it is, we stick together.”  The Vargas of the world want to use that violence to induce feelings of helplessness, and when they succeed it leaves us so vulnerable that even DJ Qualls can seem like an unstoppable adversary.  But I do think Gloria has the right of it; if the Stussy brothers had stuck together, instead of clinging to the versions of the story that flattered their preexisting perspectives and grudges, Emmit would not have been such easy prey for the predators, and the Wildcat Regional may have been the start of something beautiful, instead of something stupid and bloody. 



Maybe. 




 COEN BINGO AND OTHER RANDOM SHIT

  • The title of the episode is the same as the Jefferson Airplane song that features prominently in “A Serious Man”.
  • In a great interview with Alan Sepinwall (requests from Schwartzblog for such access have sadly gone unaddressed), Hawley calls Fargo a “tragedy with a happy ending”, which is a turn of phrase I really should have come up with myself, in 20 weeks of trying to describe the show.
  • For the record, I was totally wrong about the Widow Goldfarb.  I still don’t quite understand how having her in the wings to buy a bankrupt company after its value has been bled dry. Also, as nothing ever came of it, I guess Thaddeus Mobley was just a very fresh-faced 40 year-old in those 70’s flashbacks after all.
  • This is the second Lady or Tiger? Finale to fall on Carrie Coon’s shoulders in the last month.  The Leftovers finale is another of those cases where when you dig into the particulars, one of the options doesn’t seem all that viable.  SPOILERS:  She confirmed the possibility of undoing the giant traumatic event that broke the entire world, and this is not of any particular interest to anyone?  Does not compute.
  • Varga gives his name, if I’m not mistaken, as “Daniel Rand”.  Which is…Iron Fist?  I have no idea what to make of that, except that Hawley has an established affinity for more obscure Marvel comics. 
  • Varga has one last lie for the road – “Anything further would be wasting our breath. And if there’s one thing I can’t abide, it’s waste.”   Now just point him to bathroom stall with the softest kneeling towels, please.
  • The finale could have used one more beat with Lopez.  If you aren’t going to exit her on her tremendous friend game from last week, you need to give her more than a line or two of exposition at a crime scene.  I also could have used one last scene with Chief Moe and Deputy Donnie, who both dropped out of the narrative without the grace notes Hawley normally grants to characters of even minor stature. 
  • Speaking of minor characters, there is really no better show on which to be cast as a henchman than Fargo.  Roles that appear at first blush to be mere flunkies wind up being as formidable and distinctive as Yuri and Meemo, where in years past you have Hanzee usurping Big Bad status from the ostensible shot-callers and Wrench resurfacing in a different story altogether as a righteous ass-kicker.
  • I do wonder how Wrench’s prominence played to people who had skipped season one.  Not that there is any truly vital backstory missing, but you have to be more inclined to accept his sudden airdrop into the frontlines of the story if you know who he is as soon as Nikki sits down on the bus.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

FARGO 3.09 - "APORIA"

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“A lie’s not a lie if you believe it’s true.  Do you think that?”
“It’s not my story.”


It’s been true, and not to the season’s benefit, that it has felt  like Emmit’s story more than Gloria’s.  As the center of Varga and his brother's machinations Emmit has gotten more focus than about any character outside Nikki, but he still felt less defined than his brother that only made it to the halfway point, or his sidekick Sy, or his villainous tormentors, or Gloria, our ostensible hero.  “Aporia” makes great strides to bring this less consistent season of Fargo to a strong close, by letting Emmit and Gloria finally voice the deepest angst they’ve been pushing down all season, and allowing Nikki the most swagger since at least the Wildcat Regional.  It may not be the “best”, or most outre, episode of the year, but it is the most satisfying. 

Pushing Emmit to his breaking point finally reveals some depths to his character beyond moderate cowardice and moderate greed.  He “won” exactly the life he wanted, but carried into it a nagging awareness that he did it by handicapping his brother’s shot at the same. In a roundabout way, this makes more sense Emmit’s odd lack of reaction to losing his wife over a clumsy forgery of a sex tape.  On some level, he has an inkling that his family may be better off at a remove from whatever lies at the end of the Varga imbroglio, but on another level, he has always felt that he cheated his way into that family, so it only makes sense he’d be cheated out of it.  Then he’s even cheated out of the penance he has assigned himself, as Varga sows enough disinformation to overcome even a direct confession.   

This comes as a blow to Gloria, who had finally allowed herself to get her hopes up that she could close the book on this thing (not an unreasonable expectation, seeing as she did have a confession and all).  It sends her spiraling into self-doubt about whether she can ever accomplish any good in her job, or whether she even exists at all.  Luckily, she has a friend to dust her off and give her a hug.  Stated directly like that, it sounds like a rather pat resolution for an existential crisis, but as scripted and acted by Olivia Sandoval and Carrie Coon, it feels like an actual, nice moment between friends.  Which is harder to pull off than it sounds.  Gloria needs to feel like she’s seen, and Winnie does her one better by saying not only do I see you, I actually like you.  People just need to hear that now and then, even (perhaps especially) amidst whirlwinds of fratricide and mistaken identities and brazen assaults on the structure of civilized society while wearing animal masks.

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This. This Must Be Stopped.

She also advocates for resilience and a long view of the battle between good and evil, one where good ultimately triumphs no matter how recent and crushing its defeats.  Gloria might be more receptive to that particular message if she knew that her old suspect had already returned to upend the Bad Guys’ best laid plans. While Burgle & Lopez are an adorably supportive pair of partners, Swango & Wrench are a well-oiled machine of strategic vengeance.  I had a feeling that some sort of ambush was coming when we lingered on the semi idling at the stoplight, but it was still a total fist-pumper of a moment when Nikki appeared to casually drop a friggin’ grenade through the shattered window.  That it turned out to be a bluff, to steal the mobile command center rather than destroy it, was even more satisfying.  But still not even the best part.  The long- awaited Swango vs. Varga face-off was all I could have hoped for, allowing our accumulated knowledge of Varga’s tactics to play off our increasing context for Nikki’s bridge fixation as an outlet for a strategic mind in a serious of small feints and countermoves that leaves the Big Bad Wolf gnawing at his own leg in frustration while our girl struts out to a triumphant horn section, sidekick in tow.  The time for tampon pranks has long passed, and Nikki surprises everyone but herself by upping her game accordingly. Varga, meanwhile, can’t manage to buy her off, poison her, or have her shot. 

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It’s enough to drive a man to eat a quart of Rocky Road on the toilet

 
Nikki counters all of Varga’s moves, but I want to focus in on the one tactic that does take her off guard; to mitigate the deterrent effect of meeting in the open with someone you intend to kill, he packs the lobby with men matching his basic build in the same nondescript jacket and tie.  It’s a move that encapsulates his entire methodology, in that it’s hardly foolproof, but it doesn’t have to be.  He’s weaponizing the problems of mistaken identity that have driven so much of this year’s story, by quietly sowing the seeds of doubt and misinformation.   

Now, I try not to get overtly political in this space, because critics that insist on making every movie or show about their personal politics annoy the crap out of me even when those politics are in general alignment with my own. But,...okay.  You may have heard some scuttlebutt about how Russian intelligence services are suspected of tampering with our election processes, as they are accused of doing throughout Europe and Asia.  The question of the day is to what extent the Trump campaign was knowingly complicit in abetting these efforts.  I’m not going to pretend that I know at this point exactly who knew what or when they knew it; who was a mastermind (Varga) and who was a semi-knowing patsy (Emmit) and who just so caught up in their own civil feud that they didn’t realize what they were dealing with until it was too late (Swango).  But it’s an important question to answer completely, because even if it turns out all the president’s men are innocent of actively conspiring with foreign powers, those powers are still conspiring.  As long we take Chief Moe's route of closing the books and moving on as quickly and quietly as possible, the Vargas of the world will carry on, free to further manipulate us and poison dissenters.

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Sy's Moustache: April 19, 2017 - June 7, 2017
Rest In Power

So whatever the truth of the matter, be it high treason or comedy of errors, I hope Robert Mueller turns out to be more of a Gloria than a Moe.  His job will be as difficult as hers, because per pretty much all reporting and western intelligence agencies, Putin has embraced a chaotic form of disruption that is not much concerned with carefully orchestrating specific outcomes.  The alleged collusion with the Trump campaign wasn’t about grooming a Manchurian candidate, but rather the careful manipulation of social media to dissemble specifically targeted propaganda.  In the short term, such stories serve to undermine specific politicians, but even when the “fake news” is outed, it still works to degrade confidence in the media and elections themselves.  What Putin and his strategists have realized is that a democracy relies on an informed public to function, and when attacking such a country directly is too dangerous, it only takes a little muddying of the information waters, a touch of the titular "aporia", to start it eating away at its own foundations. 

Varga knows that criminal investigations are similarly vulnerable.  His move with the coats is digital astroturfing in analogue form.  He doesn’t need an airtight alibi, just enough to get Moe and Gloria arguing over what they’re looking at.  And the scary thing about it is that it doesn’t even require Moe to be on the take, or a specially-tailored plan to exploit the particularly contentious dynamic between those two individuals.  It’s just a general awareness that if the cops are tripping over themselves, they’ll never catch up to him.  Does it matter that the “serial killer with an oddly literal method of victim selection to match two complete, and completely different, MO’s” cover story doesn’t hold up to very much scrutiny?  No more than it matters that it is much more plausible that Trump was compromised by accepting investments from a Varga-type organized crime figure to bail out some ailing real estate venture back in the 90s than by some mythical video of golden showers at the Miss Universe pageant. No, what matters is that introducing a competing narrative requires that energy and attention be spent to debunk it, all while the trail to the actual truth gets colder and more obscure.  What the Russians, real and fictional, have figured out is that if you can create an environment where it’s impossible to definitively prove anything, there is nothing you can’t get away with. 

Or maybe I’m way off base.  Maybe too much cable news has me reading current events in what is just a straightforward story about a powerful international criminal with Russian ties propping up a dim-witted “billionaire on paper” for his own ends, while said billionaire is flummoxed by a phony sex tape and demands to release his tax information, as the investigation into their connection is stymied because those in charge of it would much rather end it quickly and quietly than catch the actual culprits.  Perhaps the finale will prove me definitively right, or wrong.  Or maybe it will just add another layer of competing narrative to separate us from the truth.


 


 COEN BINGO AND OTHER RANDOM SHIT

  • I got so caught up with Swango’s swag and Gloria’s near-breakdown that I completely forgot to look for Coen references, even on a second watch.  Um, let’s see…the Stussy dentist is clearly about to make a White Russian when Meemo kills him?  Yeah….that’s the ticket.
  • Moe parrots the interrogator from the opening vignette of the season, stating of the orgy of planted evidence and quick-n-tidy confession that “these are facts.”  And they are.  The trouble comes when you select to view only the facts that support the outcome you’ve already decided upon.
  • Gloria immediately passing her fries to Donnie is just the sweetest.
  • But Thewlis’s gaping, overbitten reaction to Meemo’s disheveled arrival is, in the parlance of our times, everything.
  • That widow Goldfarb sure seems shady, huh?  I’m not sure what is up with her.  On the message boards, some suggested that she must be in league with Varga somehow, which I can understand since he is the only other shady game in town.  But it doesn’t make a lot of sense that he would be orchestrating a buyout of the Stussy empire when he’s already managed the much more complicated task of taking it over from within.  My best guess is that the season will end with Varga going down but Meemo (who has already demonstrated smarts and a varied enough skillset to sit down with the IRS between flipping buses) stepping up to run “Narwhal” with Goldfarb as a new, improved frontwoman – smarter than Stussy, more agreeable than Swango.  I base this mostly on it not seeming to fit the Fargo brand for someone as monstrous as Varga to go completely unpunished, but at the same time the state of the world (particularly when this would have been in production) does not seem such that ending with Fake News utterly vanquished is a viable option, thematically.
  • I don’t imagine Trump watches any scripted shows besides SNL, but I imagine him seeing the file Nikki left for the IRS and spontaneously spurting “She’s a leaker!”   I really do love how the president has settled on this as some horrible insult.  It’s simultaneously childish-sounding and just so utterly, blatantly disingenuous.  We remember you publicly exhorting the Russians to commit espionage to provide you with more dirt on your political opponents.  Ass. 
  • I need a .gif of Varga sitting dead-eyed on the toilet, shoveling ice cream into his mouth, right now.  No, I don’t know what situation could possibly call for its application.  I’ll figure that out once I have it.  

Thursday, June 8, 2017

FARGO 3.08 - "WHO RULES THE LAND OF DENIAL?"

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“Y’know…kinda weird.”
“I know.  We’ll figure it out.”

I can’t promise I will figure it all out, as “Who Rules The Land Of Denial” is almost 4 distinct episodes mashed together, and at least one of them is really damn weird.  You have the survival horror sketch of Nikki and Wrench fleeing through the woods from Yuri and DJ Qualls.  Then you have the surreal interlude where they wander into a supernatural safe haven bowling alley.  Then you return to civilization for Varga’s last meeting with and removal of Sy from the picture, and then the jump to three months later, where his hold on the Stussy empire is secured but the only remaining Stussy is unraveling under the nagging guilt of fratri-manslaughter and consistent poking from Burgle & Lopez.  

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Tuesdays this Fall, only on TNT 

That last half has some surprising twists and a tantalizing cliffhanger, but it’s the first half everyone will be talking about. It left me so offbalance that the time jump, despite being a trick the show pulled in the first season and not being all that large in comparison to those undertaken by this or other shows, still caught me completely flat-footed.
 This jump is only about 3 months, and if it makes for a disappointingly abrupt exit for Michael Stuhlbarg, it allows for a jolt to the section of the show that needed it most.  Ewan McGregor has done a fine job of differentiating Emmit from Ray, but beyond that has not had much opportunity to portray him as a real guy of any depth.  Skipping right to the point where Nikki’s campaign of revenge mindfuckery can begin in earnest, instigating his break with Varga, promises to give McGregor more, if not necessarily more nuance, to play.  At the very least, the final moments of the episode have him taking his first proactive measure of the season.

But we’ll get back to Emmit next week.  The more striking part of the episode is the first half, starting with the harrowing escape from the bus and flight through the woods.  It’s par for the course for the characters to be hunted at this point in the season, but the way that the show can segue from comedy of errors to straight-up horror continues to impress after several years.  “Tonal Mastery” is the sort of term that pops up a lot in reviews/criticism, and most of the time it will refer to the ability to insert jokes and gags without breaking a more serious overall tone. But I would also say that it’s a sign of this show's absolute mastery of tone that despite its pronounced sense of the comedic and absurd, it is also confident enough to cast DJ Qualls as a heavy, and play it completely, unwinkingly straight. And it actually works!  Qualls’ character (apparently credited as “Golem”) fails at every turn, but the intensity of his scowl and unrelenting effort made him register as an actual threat, right up to his giddily grisly demise.  Until then, the quiet stalking sequences are intense, eerie, and stomach-churning when it comes to the coldness with which guards, motorists, and hunters are dispatched by the real predators. 

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"That's it.  That's our face of Terror." 

As their prey, Wrench and Nikki make a surprisingly and immediately likable team.  I’ll be honest, as much of a booster of the series as I am, I don’t remember many specifics of his story in the first season.  His insertion here as a major player is probably confusing to those that started more recently, but it’s also extremely utile in providing both stakes and complications to the chase.  Considering/flattering myself to be a savvy viewer of television, I have been convinced that Nikki would survive the season and bring about the downfall of her tormentors since she crawled away from Yuri’s beating.  So while I was eating up the stylishness with which the attack and pursuit were filmed, I was never especially scared as to the outcome for our girl.  Which is why shackling her to a partner, and one I had a preexisting but minor connection to, was such a brilliant little twist.  If he was just an entirely new face, I would have immediately marked him as a redshirt and refused to invest in his survival.  And if he had been a more major or sympathetic character in prior seasons, I would have assumed the show wouldn’t kill him off either.  But instead, Wrench hits this perfect little Goldilocks balance, where I thought the show might sacrifice him to secure Nikki’s escape, and also I actually cared whether or not it did.  This is the kind of quiet, nuts-n-bolts storytelling genius that distinguishes Hawley’s shows for me, that grounds the plots as he preps for the giant leaps of narrative fancy.

Leaps like the interlude in the bowling alley. As sure as I was that Ray Wise would return, I never for a second thought “maybe it will be as a possible dybbuk, distributing cats and harsh Jewish philosophy in a purgatorial bowling alley.”  But I went back to his first appearance in episode 3, and his introduction there makes more sense (well, a different kind of sense) in hindsight. When told Gloria’s book features a wandering robot searching for the meaning of life, his wry “I know how that goes,” and mention of constant travel did not evoke any particular suspicion that he was a divine emissary.  But it also fits with the revelation that his name is one of the monikers of the mythical Wandering Jew.  And I’m of two minds about this, really.  As a viewer, I think I might prefer a version that suggests Wise and the alley’s mystical natures with a lighter hand, evoking the theological implications without confirming their supernatural-ness expressly. The Coen’s ability to walk that line is one of my favorite things about their output.   

But as a reviewer, there’s a way that it is exciting to have such a weird and significant departure from “formula” to talk about. There is an extent to which Fargo is hemmed in by its hyper-specific setting and strictures of the genre-unto-itself that demand we always begin with some bumbling dilettante crooks that run afoul of genuine Evil, and a stalwart, salt-of-the-earth cop that will close the case after all the requisite blood has been shed.  I mentioned in the premiere review that such familiarity is not the same as predictability (a much worse problem to have), but I try to only do episodic recaps of shows I love absolutely because familiarity can breed contempt when you force yourself to rehash it on a week-by-week basis.  There are some shows whose flaws I'm sure I could take more in stride if I hadn't made myself try to find new ways to articulate them for ten straight weeks.

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Apropos of nothing

That is certainly not an issue I’m having this week.  As I wrote about at some length last season, quasi-supernatural hunters are nothing new for Fargo and the Coen sensibility it emulates.  But while the mysterious Nemesis figure is a staple, it is normally aligned with the forces of Evil.  At most, it is completely detached from the efforts of the good guys as it hunts the hapless sinners.  Marrane breaks from this tradition by offering forgiveness and affirmative assistance to the prodigal grey hats, and direct judgment upon the black hats.  Divine retribution has always been central to Fargo’s thematics, but it has at best been callously indifferent to the “good guys”: a UFO whose intentions are too inscrutable to tie to the effects of its appearance, or a car crash demonstrating Anton Chigurgh is not above the caprices of fate he claims to embody.  This is the first time that the supernatural has been depicted as genuinely benevolent. 

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Well, as benevolent as a Cat Person could possibly be

And yet, while this could be construed as a major thematic betrayal of the Coen ethos, I can’t imagine them doing anything but grinning at the audacity and manner of presentation. Not just because of the aesthetic nods to the Big Lebowski, or playing to their particular Talmudic interests, but because it can take even a devoted aficionado of their ouvre like me and throw my assumptions for a loop.  And because when it comes down to it, Marrane does seem to echo their view that, give or take one Yuri Gorka, if there is going to be any shift for the positive in the world, it is going to have to come from the meager, imperfect efforts of regular people.  He does not offer Nikki simple aid, he gives her a mission: punish the wicked, and when you do, tell 'em you're on a mission from God.  

I am not sure how the implications of this will play out in the remaining two episodes, but if I would hazard a guess that Marrane will at the least encounter Gloria one last time, to give her some sort of vague, cosmic affirmation.  Whether that’s a congratulation for excising Varga’s malignant influence permanently, or an encouragement to keep toiling in the face of defeat, I’m not so sure.  But I’m keen to find out. 

 


 COEN BINGO AND OTHER RANDOM SHIT

  • Gloria suggests that Sy might have been poisoned “like that Russian fella.”  Does that mean Yuri turned up poisoned at some point, or is she referring more generally to cases like Alexander Litivenko?
  • The opening sequence of Yuri and co. setting up the bus ambush reminded me not of a Coen movie, but the opening train robbery in Andrew Dominik’s 2007 surreal western masterpiece The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford.  It’s a long, slow, sad, and absolutely beautiful movie. 
  • Meemo taking off in pursuit of the unfortunate couple that happened to drive by the bus is very similar to the inciting incident of Fargo the film.
  • Nikki and Wrench being chained together while on the run, of course, recalls the Stephen Baldwin/Lawrence Fishbune classic Fled.
  • No sign of the IRS the last couple week.  No way that doesn’t come back in some fashion by the end.
  • This was the first time I noticed that for all their nightmarish efficacy, Meemo is the only of the villains that has touched a gun all season. 
  • I keep wanting to make some connection between the biblical Joseph and Nikki’s technicolor dreamcoat.  Alas, I got nuthin’.
  • The manner in which Wise appears next to Nikki at the bowling alley to wax philosophical echoes Sam Elliot’s cowboy in The Big Lebowski.
  • The woods that Nikki and Wrench trudge through are reminiscent of the iconic killing grounds of Miller’s Crossing.
  • Emmit’s guilt and conviction that he is being haunted by Ray has shades of Blood Simple to it.
  • It becomes more obvious this week that Andy Yu, who plays Meemo, is a trained dancer, which I should have known just from his posture.  Dancers have a way of standing still, a coiling, that belies a complete control of their physicality beyond simply being light on their feet. Properly utilized, this makes for a quietely menacing performance even when at rest (for the best, most chilling example I can think of, see Mads Mikkelsen’s performance on Hannibal).
  • Speaking of performances, Mary Elizabeth Winstead has been absolutely killing it this whole season.  Her performance has only gotten better as it transitioned from the brains/mouth of Swango n’ Stussy to a quieter, internalized engine of survival, still cut through with little moments like her involuntary coo at the sight of the kitten.  It’s a G.D. shame that she will likely be submitting for Lead in a Miniseries against Coon, who is not giving as good a performance on this show, but will likely be given the trophy as a sop so that Emmy voters can justify ignoring her performance on The Leftovers in the Series category, in favor of some benign network vehicle.  Not that The Leftovers is as good a show as Fargo, imo, but it features a deeper, more challenging performance by Coon.  So it goes.