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.
Not only is the episode transitory, taking us into what will presumably be the season’s climax, but it also features characters in various states of transition. Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is about to be sent to prison after being framed for Ray’s murder; Gloria is nearing her unwanted demotion from chief to just another officer; and Emmitt (Ewan McGregor) is moving closer and closer to the dark side, where Varga (David Thewlis) is keeping his seat warm.
The thematic resonance here is only compounded by the fact that the episode ends with Nikki on a bus, literally traveling, in what happens to be one of the finest sequences this show has produced.
After being interrogated, mocked, and nearly murdered by an heretofore unknown assassin, Nikki gets a bit of respite when she’s questioned by Gloria—finally, the two underestimated women at the center of the season meet. It looks like the soon-to-be-ex-chief might make things right for the heartbroken ex con, but the feeling of hope doesn’t last long as Moe (Shea Wigham) has Nikki hauled away.
Then things turn bleak. There’s already been a sense of dread permeating the last forty minutes or so, and it quadruples once Nikki gets on the bus. The other prisoners are all in chains and predictably look miserable, and everything is washed out and grey. Nikki is led to the back of the bus as a dour bit of score plays, and she is sat down next to—surprise—an incredibly haggard looking Mr. Wrench (who was last seen fleeing a hospital in Season One).
The bus takes off, but it doesn’t get far. As we’re heading down a dirt road in the dead of night, Yuri (Goran Bogdan) appears from out of the woods and steps in front of the vehicle, causing the driver to swerve and crash. Then Yuri and Meemo (Andy Yu) hop on and begin sawing away at the barrier between the driver and the prisoners.
And that’s where the episode ends.
Not wanting to speculate too much, I’ll just say that this scene was one of the most remarkable I have ever seen for a number of reasons, not least being the fact that it made me emotional, reintroduced a character we hadn’t seen in a while, built up a good deal of suspense, and gave us one final surprise, all in less than five minutes. And none of it felt rushed.
But wait, there’s more: the reintroduction of Mr. Wrench does a couple of things, but apart from setting up a potential escape for Nikki what it really drives home is how connected the seasons of Fargo really are, taking me back to my initial point, about parts being as important as the whole.
Season Three has really been its own thing so far, untethered from the familial relationships and crime syndicates of the previous two. But now we have a connection, and we’re beginning to see how each year of Fargo adds to the series as a whole, just as each unique episode adds to each year’s arc. By the end of this, we might actually get a glimpse at some kind of bigger picture.
But for now, we can keep enjoying the ride.
- The return of the Wrench and Numbers theme as the camera panned over to Wrench was also an excellent touch, and the way the music shifted played into the whole transitory theme of the episode quite nicely.
- Once again, Sy (Michael Stuhlbarg) didn’t get a whole lot to do, but his breakdown when he got home from his meeting with Emmitt was genuinely affecting.
- I think Yuri is officially a more frightening villain than Malvo; while Malvo’s expertise made him dangerous, he was still kind of fun to watch. Yuri is all menace.