The finale of the Fargo’s third season is so unpredictable, so confoundingly inexplicable, that as I’m writing this review I’m really having trouble parsing it. If I had to rate it I’m not sure I would be able to, but thankfully all I really have to do is come up with a kind of easily digestible critical interpretation that tries to make sense of an hour that repeatedly reinforces the idea that life is inherently meaningless.
So here goes…
We open with Emmitt (Ewan McGregor) and Gloria (Carrie Coon) signing papers, both preparing to seal their fates and vacate long-held positions. Emmitt attempts to threaten Varga (David Thewlis) into letting him go and fails spectacularly, while Gloria gets a call from Chekhov’s IRS agent that makes her stay her retirement from the force. Then all hell breaks loose.
Continue reading Tea & Review: Fargo – Somebody to Love
Season Three of Fargo has been the Cold War to the second installment’s World War, and the penultimate episode follows suit by building a climax out of an anticlimax. This year, eight episodes worth of buildup doesn’t amount to a massacre or a standoff or even a real shootout. Instead, what we get are small victories nestled in larger disappointments, and more importantly, characters coming to terms with who they are.
“Aporia” begins with yet another murder, though this one has even less to do with the main action than the unnecessary execution of Ennis Stussy that put to whole plot in motion. The victim, perhaps unsurprisingly, is another Stussy, killed by Meemo (Andy Yu) to make Emmit’s (Ewan McGregor) confession to Gloria (Carrie Coon) appear less plausible. Of course, given Chief Dammick’s (Shea Wigham) unwillingness to believe anything that isn’t completely straightforward (and the fact that Varga’s (David Thewlis) henchmen don’t just leave it at one dead name-alike), it works.
But that doesn’t mean the confession was useless.
Although Emmit is ultimately allowed to go free (for a laughable measure of “free” anyway), his admission of guilt allows the audience to hear all that he’s been bottling up about his brother through their troubles, in addition to providing him with some much needed emotional catharsis that will keep his conscience steady in the finale and hopefully fuel his ability to bring the hammer down on Varga.
Continue reading Tea & Review: Fargo – Aporia
The Leftovers has come to an end. Three years of experiencing the maddening doubt of inexplicable loss through the eyes of an eclectic ensemble of characters and it turns out we were watching a love story the entire time.
“The Book of Nora” is as elegantly simple and simply beautiful a series finale as one could ask for. It provides potential answers while refusing to confirm anything; it gives us one final, meaningful look at characters we’ve grown to love; and it is as emotionally charged as anything on television has ever been.
This final hour (and a bit) devotes its first third or so to picking up where Nora (Carrie Coon) and Matt’s (Christopher Eccleston) adventures left off and seeing Nora through to her final destination, so to speak. She and her brother say their goodbyes, she records her last will and testament, she makes the final decision to enter to magical radiation departure machine, and she takes the plunge.
Continue reading Tea & Review: The Leftovers – The Book of Nora
The writers of Fargo have, over the course of nearly three full seasons, done an excellent job of crafting individual episodes which tell their own little stories while at the same time contributing to a larger narrative. This is a difficult thing to achieve in any serialized medium, but it is especially hard when you have a limited number of hours with which to work. Fargo doesn’t have the privilege of being able to stall or go on tangents, and yet it still manages to create little thematic pitstops on the way to each tenth episode.
In Season Three, it has been especially easy to pinpoint what each particular episode was about, or rather what each one did that set it apart from the rest. We had Gloria’s (Carrie Coon) solo trip to L.A., the Peter and the Wolf analogue, and an episode that delved heavily into Russian and Eastern European concepts. Other installments, meanwhile, have prioritized individual characters and relationships.
Tonight’s episode—“The Law of Inevitability”—is thus far the hardest to pin down. One could argue that it’s an episode that needs to pick up the pieces left after Ray’s murder last week, and so doesn’t have time to be about anything. And while I think that’s true to an extent, I also believe that same practicality affords it a theme that is in and of itself inevitable: transition.
Continue reading Tea & Review: Fargo – The Law of Inevitability
Fargo the series has gotten very good at being unpredictable in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Noah Hawley doesn’t throw in random plot contrivances mid-season to stir things up; he subtly builds to seemingly unlikely events that in retrospect turn out to be the natural result of what came before. As such, while the climaxes of Fargo installments do not necessarily abide by traditional narrative logic, they do make complete sense in context.
“The Lord of No Mercy” does a magnificent job of building tension, effective even after it becomes clear that it’s mostly misdirection. Most of the episode follows a cat and cat and mouse game between Gloria (Carrie Coon) and Winnie (Olivia Sandoval), Varga (David Thewlis) and his henchmen, and Ray (Ewan McGregor) and Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), in the immediate aftermath of Nikki’s beating. From the beginning we know that Ray is out for blood, and not long after that we learn that Meemo (Andy Yu) is on his tail with similar intentions. We know someone has to die before the hour is up.
But the who, how, and why of it are something to behold.
Continue reading Tea & Review: Fargo – The Lord of No Mercy
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
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
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