You Think You Know Me, But You Don’t: Fargo, “The Narrow Escape Problem”

Scientifically speaking, there’s a calculation to be made when particles (Brownian, that is) within a cell might attempt to break free. Diminishing time is factored against a tiny opening for liberation; that’s “The Narrow Escape Problem” and the same dilemma Fargo‘s hapless brothers Stussy face in episode 4.

As Lorne Malvo Billy Bob Thornton delightfully narrates Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Ray and Nikki ready their duplicitous plot. With a kiss and parting Swangoism — “Remember richest guy in the room is always the boss” — the bewigged brother finagles his way into the Copley Bank and Trust, Box 1606, to retrieve a vaulted stamp, comes up empty-handed and ashy-tongued, instead. (He tasted the dead dog?!! Who does that?).

The sound of kettle drums announce Yuri’s arrival at his Stussy Lots keypad-locked office; French horns herald V (for vomitous?) M Varga’s horrific binging and purging. Sy finds his zen in a model village, parking (planning ploy?) toy cars. Appropriately caffeinated, a pair of thugs head out for the day’s work, and Yuri tells a tale of This boy, Putin who rules the schoolyard by his fist. “… there is also Nepravda — untruth … The truth is whatever the leader says it is.” New Chief, Sheriff Moe mansplains Maurice’s case to Gloria; she schools the oblivious moron in basic syllabling, ignores his blathering, and as she heads back out to Ray’s Parole Office, shares a glorious double-take-worthy passing with Nikki, whom she’s sure to meet again.

In Fargo’s Menstrual Moment, Part the Second, Gloria is subjected to Officer Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval) lamenting her period’s unwelcome arrival, the lack of supplies (“I got a pound of t.p. in there”), advantageous intercourse positioning, and the importance of looking “each other in the eye when makin’ babies.” Ray receives two unsettling visits; after he nervously sits through Gloria’s questioning, his boss and the department Deputy Director offer an ultimatum:  “Son, you’re in a shitstorm; we’re the ones holding out the umbrella.” Reassuring them Nikki’s “not a recidivist”, the utterly lovestruck brother quits his job, packs up in the given ten minutes … walks out in time to see his accursed Corvette, booted, courtesy of Sy.

Feltz gets back the trouble he gives with Officer Lopez’s investigative visit, quietly, effectively monitored by Meemo and Yuri, whose boss politely pops by Emmit’s for dinner (albeit, temporarily ingested) and to explain quid pro quo, wherein the marvelous David Thewlis admirably delivers more than his quota of the hour’s quotable quips, and schooling his host in a glorious monologue that runs the gamut from biblical brothers to Brazil’s Glock-carrying 6-year-olds, and America’s economical and refugee crisis, employing — as so many wolves leaders before and after him have — his truth (fear) to manipulate the hairier Stussy brother. As the hour closes out with Officer Lopez’s visit to Gloria, and whose discovery of a familial connection is steps behind what a mother and an officer (and we) already know(s); it won’t be long before Emmit screams out from Varga’s bilious belly. Would that it were — we know better than to hope — Ray (and Nikki) could somehow calculate their narrow escape, but Fargo isn’t one for happy endings.

Not So Deep Thoughts:

There are very few television shows that thrill me like this one does. Noah Hawley created two of them. Hearing Billy Bob’s voice at the opening made my heart jump. So wonderful.

I want so badly to believe there’s wiggle room for Ray and Nikki.

Is Varga more humane underneath it all? Is that why he’s bulimic, a self-imposed pennance for the things he does that might go against his modest “housemaid’s boy” upbringing?

Noah Hawley’s writing always kills it, but this hour — by Monica Beletsky (Friday Night Lights, The Leftovers, Parenthood) is superb, beyond … David Thewlis’ dialogue alone, and his incredible, breathless performance, filled my soul. The political commentary, the timeless observations on brothers, wealth and society, is worthy of playing on a loop. In fact, here’s much of Varga’s amazing monologue.

This moment when Nikki looks right at the camera — brilliant.

Shea Wigham’s macho Moe rant was all the more hilarious because Gloria just ignored what he was saying, except to poke fun at him. Bless Carrie Coon’s expressive face, and Gloria’s ability to sort through bullshit.

Music this hour (aside from its classical score):

Galactic, You Don’t Know

Great lines:

Nathan to Gloria:  “Mom, I’m not a baby.”

Gloria:  “You’re my baby.” (said every mother, ever)

Emmit as Ray to Buck:  “While you’re at it, I’ll take ten grand in hundreds, and a buck in quarters for the meter … Buck, If I wanted an opinion from an asshole, I’d ask my own. Got it?”

Yuri to Meemo:  “There is Pravda, Man’s truth, Istina, God’s truth, But there is also Nepravda — untruth — And this is the weapon the leader uses, because he knows what I don’t — truth is whatever he says it is.”

Ray to Gloria about Maurice:  “Death by major appliance.”

Stella to VM:  “I don’t mean to gossip, but are you English by any chance?”

VM to Stella:  “I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world.”

VM:  “May I be so forward as to ask for the location of your WC?”

Emmit to Stella:  “He means the crapper.”

VM responding to Emmit’s “I’m calling Sy”:  “And here’s me thinking you were the boss.”

Parts of his entire monologue to Emmit:

“Millions of people bought houses they couldn’t afford and now they’re on the street.

85% of the worlds wealth is controlled by 1% of the population. What do you think is going to happen when those people wake up and realize you’ve got all their money?

I fly coach, not because I can’t afford first, but because I’m smart. So, look at you and look at me, and tell me who’s the rich guy. [Emmit:  “I feel like this is a trick question.”]

You’ve no idea what rich means.

[Emmit:  What’s action item number 2?”] To use that wealth to become invisible.

It’s all very old testament, really, this feud between you and Raymond.

Do you know that there are 25 chapters in the book of Genesis that refer to the feuds of brothers?


Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis has been writing about the entertainment industry for ​over ten years, and is the ​Editor-in-Chief at Oohlo, where she muses over television, movies, and pop culture. Previous Senior News Editor at Pajiba, and published at BUST.

You may also like...