If last week’s Fargo was a symphony and the week before’s an interlude, this week’s can only be classified as a funeral march—although no one actually died. The solemnity was more in form than function, expressed through muted colors, elegiac music selections, and slightly more methodical editing. That is, until the final scene.
As was established in past installments, Season Three’s halfway mark is essentially the point of no return, the moment wherein the true stakes are established and the more farcical capers give way for darker plots. Think of the brutal killing of the hapless personal trainer in Season One, or the ambush of the Kansas City mobsters in Season Two. Both reversals were prime examples of the show’s ability to transitional naturally between tones per the story’s demands.
But this time around, the shift feels a whole lot starker.
Continue reading Tea & Review: Fargo – The House of Special Purpose
Included in every season of The Leftovers, nestled within the grand, cosmically surreal narrative of the series proper, are more intimate stories dealing with the minutiae of the central characters’ lives. The most consistent and consistently entertaining of these have been focused on everyone’s favorite religious zealot, Matt Jameson (Christopher Eccleston), with each installment adding more depth to the preacher while testing bringing his faith to the brink of oblivion.
Season One’s “Two Boats and a Helicopter” was structured almost as a dark joke, placing Matt in the midst of a series of misfortunes as he battled the Guilty Remnant and tried to raise funds for his Church, ultimately losing almost everything. But still, his faith remained strong.
Season Two’s “No Room at the Inn” was more harrowing than wry, turning Matt into a sort of martyr figure taking on the burdens of the outcasts living outside Jarden, Texas. And though all signs pointed to him having become dangerously delusional, he was vindicated by the end of the season, his faith never wavering.
And now, with “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World,” his personal arc has finally reached its climax.
Continue reading Tea & Review: The Leftovers – It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World
The sewer in Maryland has eyes! Yellow eyes peer out from the opening right under the curb. The businessman who passed by enters his empty office building and arrives in his empty office. It’s nighttime, of course. This man winds up dead, of course. We don’t see the murder, but we do see a screw on an air vent turning itself shut.
Scully lunches with academy buddy Agent Tommy Colton where they chat about his fast-track success and her close encounters with Spooky Mulder. Immediately after jibing her, Colton reveals he’s got a case he can’t crack about a murder in a locked room with no point of entry apparent, and it’s not a suicide. This is one in a pattern of cases of victims who have had their livers ripped out with bare hands. When she says it sounds like an X-File, he’s all like, no it’s not! Immediately, he asks for her help so that he can solve it, meaning it actually is an X-File and he wants Mulder’s help. Spooky Mulder. As long as Mulder knows it’s Colton’s case, dammit!
X-file: People are getting killed and losing their livers to someone who can get in and out of rooms without needing a door or window.
Mulder feigns surprise at having a reputation and then asks if everyone thinks he’s spooky. Neither of the previous episodes described him as spooky, and now they’ve said it eight times in two minutes. He then asks Scully if she thinks he’s spooky. No time to respond as Colton arrives on the scene of the office where the businessman was killed the night before.
Continue reading Why You Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching You: The X-Files Revisited – Season 1: Squeeze
Whereas last week’s trip to Los Angeles was something of an experimental detour, “The Narrow Escape Problem” may be the most Fargo episode of Fargo thus far. All the ingredients are there: overly complex problem solving, tactless Midwesterners, oddly friendly police officers interrogating flustered first-time criminals. We even get a quirky framing device.
Speaking of which—the use of a fictional recording of Peter and the Wolf narrated by Billy Bob Thornton as a sort of thematic exoskeleton is definitely the most intriguing element of the episode, by far. It plays with the idea that the characters in Fargo are recurring archetypes, while suggesting a new perspective through which to view the somewhat familiar story being presented.
But as usual with this show, I have to ask: what does it all mean?
That is to say, the narration pairs up several of the major characters with Peter and the Wolf counterparts (as well as the respective instruments that represent them in the composition), but what exactly does that say about each of them?
Gloria (Carrie Coon), for example, is Peter, the central intrepid adventurer who ignores his grandfather’s warnings and defeats the villainous wolf. The analogue here is, of course, rather obvious. Thus far in the season, Gloria has repeatedly ignored the will of her superiors in order to bring down the people responsible for her stepfather’s murder. The thing is, though, she doesn’t actually know who she’s up against. Is she, like Peter, underestimating her opponent?
Continue reading Tea & Review: Fargo – The Narrow Escape Problem
Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) and Nora Durst (Carrie Coon) have never made a whole lot of sense as a couple, which is why their pairing on The Leftovers made perfect sense. Apart from their shared rejection of any sort of divine explanation for the Sudden Departure, they were never established to have a whole lot in common. They were just two people who were able to find some release in each other with the understanding that they were both too damaged to really come back from whatever losses they had incurred in the past.
So when their relationship seems to fall apart in “G’Day Melbourne,” the dissolution is both heartbreaking and a completely natural result of everything that preceded it. Their paths became intertwined for a while, and now a variety of factors have seen fit to untangle them.
But before I get ahead of myself, let’s recall how we got here.
After the events of “Don’t Be Ridiculous,” Kevin and Nora head to Australia so that Nora can expose the people claiming to be able to induce departures for the frauds she believes they are. At least, this is what she has told Kevin. In fact, we don’t know if this is simply a lie she’s telling to hide the fact that she’s willing to risk death to be with her children again.
After an uneventful flight, the couple arrives in Melbourne and, after checking into their hotel, almost immediately go their separate ways. The remainder of the episode sees them embarking on parallel adventures which leave them both feeling more alone than ever.
Continue reading Tea & Review: The Leftovers – G’Day Melbourne
“The Law of Non-Contradiction” is undoubtedly the most atypical episode of Fargo thus far, and that’s saying something for a show basically filled with atypical episodes. In an unexpected move, especially this early on in a season, it takes a break from the Stussy feud that’s shaping up to anchor the season so that Gloria (Carrie Coon) can travel to L.A. and learn a bit of info about her late stepfather that in no way moves the plot forward. Yet despite that seeming pointlessness, or perhaps because of it, it may be one of the most fascinating hours of television I’ve ever watched.
The titular law is a logical theorem which states, more or less, that a thing cannot be both what it is and what it is not. The concept is exemplified in a few ways in the episode: Gloria can’t be both chief and former chief, Ennis couldn’t have “sorta” been her father, and Thaddeus (Thomas Mann) seemingly couldn’t have been two completely different people.
Continue reading Tea & Review: Fargo – The Law of Non-Contradiction
In this column, I want to provide short descriptions of a particular genre of television series, the foreign detective series available on Netflix. The series I watch are both in English and in English-speaking places, and in foreign languages with subtitles. I watch foreign detective series for the pleasure of seeing a crime solved, the intellectual, emotional, and sometimes, personal toll the process demands of the detective. But, foreign series offer a glimpse, albeit fictional, into the lives of people in different cultures and geographies, for while the stories are fictional, the locations are, in the main, real. There are some programs that are set in fictional places, of course, and a few that are set in the past.
First of all, there are two Wallander series on Netflix. There is the one called “Wallander” with Kenneth Branagh as a producer, director, and lead character. This is in English and is a BBC production. In the United States, we saw it first on Masterpiece Theatre. The other one is called “Henning Mankell’s Wallander”, and this is in Swedish with subtitles. The two series are based on Henning Manskell’s character Kurt Wallander, a detective in the southern city of Malmö. The portrayals are different, but a great deal is recognizable between the two. The Branagh production tends to portray Sweden as a windswept barren land, but the Swedish production shows a vibrant European country with plenty of the old and new.
Continue reading Tea & Review: Wallander
Lucy’s (Eloise Smyth) naiveté lingers in episode 4. Despite a customer leaving her bed agitated and dissatisfied, she still asks Margaret (Samantha Morton) if he is to be her keeper. Shockingly, she believes that to be in the realm of possibility.
Later when she plays cards, Lucy yet again demonstrates her fledgling social skills. Not unlike her time at the Reptons (Tim McInnerny), she attempts to participate in banter and ends up missing the mark. Unfortunately though, to Lord Fallon (Ben Lambert) she sounds enticing. This is, of course, most dangerous given his particular, possibly murderous, sexual preferences.
She becomes increasingly more aware of her weaknesses as a harlot, rather keenly so when she overhears Margaret express concern at the lack of takers. To her credit, Lucy takes some initiative and seeks out Charlotte (Jessica Brown Findlay) for advice. From their conversation though, it’s clear Charlotte didn’t struggle early on to satisfy customers as Lucy has.
It’s hard to tell if Lucy’s bumpy entry into sex work is par for the course or if it veers from the norm. The only other new Harlot whose experiences might provide comparison and insight is Harriet (Pippa Bennett-Warner). Her expert handling of Repton does indeed put Lucy’s amateur fumbling in rather harsh perspective, but we might remember that Harriet is not new to this game. As she says, this is just the first time she’s getting money for it.
Continue reading Tea & Review: Harlots – Episode 4
On The Leftovers, faith and abjection are two sides of the same coin. People like Matt Jameson (Christopher Eccleston) and other followers of pre-existing belief systems have tended to attribute divine explanations to the Sudden Departure, while the more nihilistic among the cast have mocked the idea of meaning in such tragedy. As with all loss, some look for any reason to believe it was meaningful, while others are determined to spit in the face of consolation.
And then there’s Kevin. (No, not that one.)
Kevin Garvey Sr. (Scott Glenn) was, until now, the least developed central character on this show. As the ostensible main character’s father, he was a part of the narrative from the very start, but he had always existed on the sidelines. Now, we not only get to get a glimpse of his Australian adventures; we also get to learn a little bit about his past and what makes him tick.
And here’s the thing—Kevin Sr.’s not a likable character. He refuses to believe he’s anything other than the savior of all mankind, and this leads him to degrade Australian Aboriginal customs, alienate Matt and disregard his son, and accidentally kill one of the few people who was willing to help him. As far as heroes go, he’s firmly of the ineffective variety, and he appears to have done more harm than good…thus far.
Faith has clearly played a big role in Kevin Sr.’s decision-making, though not the sort of faith we’re used to seeing on this show. This episode establishes that he doesn’t necessarily care about any sort of divine power. As far as he is concerned, the voices in his head are commanding him to save the world—whether it’s for or from God is beside the point. The mission is to secure a future for humanity, regardless of what the almighty wants.
Continue reading Tea & Review: The Leftovers – Crazy Whitefella Thinking
Two episodes in, the third season of Fargo already feels a good deal different from its predecessors. Like Seasons One and Two, this one takes place in the same Midwestern setting and, as I noted last week, contains character archetypes we’ve become familiar with. Yet despite these commonalities, Season Three feels apart somehow. It’s not just that it doesn’t seem to have the obvious plot and character connections the previous installments did; its distance from the original film, both in tone and time, in a way makes it feel more urgent.
Season One was so preoccupied with proving its worth as a successor to the movie that it, in a sense, had to occupy that same 90s temporal realm despite taking place in 2006. Plus, the need for audiences to understand how it was connected to the preceding story added a layer of detachment to the whole affair. Meanwhile, Season Two was a prequel whose outcome was, in the grand scheme, more or less inevitable. In comparison, Season Three comes off as both contemporary and more intimate.
Continue reading Tea & Review: Fargo – The Principle of Restricted Choice