“The Narrow Escape Problem,” the fourth episode of Noah Hawley’s “Fargo,” opens with a narration from Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” as we see each of the series’s characters portrayed using different instruments. And the voice of the narrator? Billy Bob Thornton, unforgettable as sociopathic hitman Lorne Malvo in the FX anthology’s first season. Although this episode, written by Monica Beletsky and directed by Michael Uppendahl, utilizes the classic children’s story to frame the dangerous predicaments of our main characters, it also serves as a showcase for the brilliant David Thewlis and his Emmy-worthy work as shadowy businessman V.M. Varga. Below, read our “Fargo” recap that details the Top 5 moments from Season 3, Episode 4.
Ray’s disguise — Ray (Ewan McGregor) and Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) are looking to raise capital to secure their places on the competitive bridge circuit, and they know exactly where to strike. Ray will disguise himself as his brother Emmit, and will try to get into Emmit’s safety deposit box in the hopes of getting his hands on the valuable stamp that Emmit used to build his business. Ray enters the bank and meets with his account manager Buck Olander, and claims to have lost his key. When Buck says that it will take a week to order a new key, Ray prepares to leave. Then with a sudden show of assertiveness, Ray threatens to take all of the Stussy accounts to another bank, causing Buck to order the lock drilled. The box contains just a sack with the cremated remains of a family pet, but Ray settles for taking ten thousand dollars from Emmit’s account. It is the first time we see Ray with a spine as he begins to assert himself, albeit at his brother’s expense. However, Ray refuses to see himself as a criminal; even after ordering a theft that led to two deaths, and stealing from his brother, Ray explains to Nikki, “We’re not crooks.”
A new friend — Meanwhile, Gloria’s (Carrie Coon) investigation into Ennis’s murder has brought her to St. Cloud. After viewing the mangled body of Maurice LeFay (Scoot McNairy), Gloria goes to interview Ray about his connection to Maurice. Continuing her struggle with modern technology in the form of a restroom sink and soap dispenser, Gloria meets Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval) a perky and verbose local police officer who clearly has no problems talking to people. In a matter of seconds, she tells Gloria — in way too much detail — about her and husband’s attempts to get pregnant. Later, Winnie leaves a friendly note on Gloria’s windshield, and it becomes clear that we haven’t seen the last of the plucky Officer Lopez.
Ray’s bad day — Even after his victory at Emmit’s bank, Ray is soon crushed by a series of setbacks. First, Gloria interviews him about his connection to Maurice, although she is momentarily caught off-guard when she discovers Ray’s last name is Stussy, just like Ennis. “What are the odds?” she wonders. Ray says that he knows little about Maurice, but he is clearly shaken by how quickly the murder has reappeared at his door. Just as he is about to leave, he is called into his boss’s office where he is fired after his relationship with Nikki is discovered. As he leaves with his belongings, he sees Sy (Michael Stuhlbarg) in the parking lot, having placed parking boots on Ray’s car. Ray sits alone at a bar, and completely forgets about his dinner plans with Nikki and their potential sponsor. One step forward, and two steps backward.
A visit from Varga — After Ray’s machinations at the bank, Emmit’s day goes from bad to worse when Varga shows up at his door step unannounced and decides to have dinner with Emmit’s family. They retire to Emmit’s office, where he is shocked to find that Varga wants to be made a partner in Emmit’s company. He proceeds to deliver a chilling monologue about the state of the world, a world where wealth is the only thing that can protect you from what he calls “the age of the refugee”: Brazilian children carrying Glocks, Mexicans pouring over the border, “boat people” fleeing the Congo. He paints a picture of a future where the poor masses will rise with pitchforks and torches against the wealthy, and that the only defense is the acquisition of wealth. “There’s an accounting coming Mr. Stussy,” Varga warns. “You think you’re rich, but you have no idea what rich means.” Varga then delivers a second monologue about sibling rivalry and the Bible as a means of confronting Emmit about Ray and his potential to cause problems. Emmit wonders how Varga knows about Ray. “I hear things. Hear them because I listen. I see them because I watch,” Varga confesses as we see a montage of him listening to Emmit’s phone calls and hacking his computer. Realizing that Varga has the upper hand, Emmitt signs the partnership papers as Varga welcomes him to the “billionaire business.”
Varga continues to be a fascinating creation: a lanky, yet terrifying criminal mastermind whose vision of the world seems like it came straight from the Trump administration. Not to mention that he is also a bulimic (shown in graphic detail), which would explain the rotten teeth. Yet, in the hands of the remarkable David Thewlis, Varga is one of the show’s most hypnotizing characters to date. Thewlis dominates the scene, delivering his lines with a mesmerizing combination of charm and venom, moving around the room like a predator — perhaps a wolf — trying to corner his next meal.
Returning home to a new lead — Gloria at home pondering her interview with Ray, when she gets an unexpected visit from who else, Officer Lopez, who has been investigating the hit-and-run accident between Sy and Ray in Episode 2. She tells Gloria that Sy’s car is registered to the Stussy company, that Ray and Emmit are brothers, and that Emmit lives in Eden Prairie (in case you forgot, Ennis lived in Eden Valley). The episode ends as we see Gloria start to put things together in her mind, setting the stage for a possible confrontation with Emmit, Ray, and potentially Varga.
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