The eighth episode of FX’s “Fargo” is one of the series’s Emmy submissions in the Best Limited Series Writing category, and it’s easy to see why. “Who Rules the Land of Denial,” directed by Mike Barker and written by series creator Noah Hawley and Monica Beletsky, was “Fargo” at its best, replete with graphic violence, enigmatic mysticism, and dynamic performances. Below, read our “Fargo” recap that details the Top 5 moments from Season 3, Episode 8.
Into the Woods — The episode opens with a tour-de-force 16-minute sequence that has to be counted among the series’s finest moments. We begin with Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) unconscious after her prison bus has been toppled by Yuri (Goran Bogdan), Meemo (Andy Yu), and their associate (DJ Qualls). Nikki finds protection from Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard)– the deaf assassin introduced in Season 1– and the two manage to escape the bus and flee into the nearby woods.
The three assassins pursue Nikki and Mr. Wrench– and bump off a few innocent bystanders along the way. Utilizing a couple of crossbows–courtesy of some unfortunate hunters– they manage to pin down Nikki and Wrench, but are unable to finish the job, particularly after Yuri loses an ear–courtesy of a well-thrown axe by Mr. Wrench– and another assassin is gruesomely decapitated, leaving Nikki and Mr. Wrench in a pool of blood and snow, battered but alive. While this episode was submitted for writing at the Emmy’s, I wish they would have submitted this for directing as well. It is one of the most gripping sequences of the entire television season: tense, claustrophobic, and anchored by Winstead’s grounded performance as we see Nikki in pure survival mode in a situation that brilliantly mimics the plot of the classic 1950’s film, “The Defiant Ones.”
A “Wise” man —Nikki and Mr. Wrench make their way to a bowling alley, eerily reminiscent of “The Big Lebowski.” Nikki orders a drink, and finds herself sitting next to Paul (Ray Wise), the mysterious traveler that Gloria encountered in episode 3. It becomes clear that Paul is more than just a business traveler. He begins telling Nikki about “the nature of existence…life is suffering,” something Gloria is beginning to understand. Paul produces a kitten that he has named Ray, a coincidence not lost on Nikki, particularly after Paul expounds upon the nature of lost souls, referencing the massacre of Jews in the Ukrainian city of Uman in the 1700’s. Paul suggests that he has had a hand in directing Nikki’s path, and offers her a vehicle to help her escape. He only asks that Nikki deliver a message– Obadiah 1:4– to the wicked when the time comes.
After Nikki and Mr. Wrench escape, Yuri enters the bowling alley, gushing blood from the wound where his ear used to be. He too encounters Paul, who tells Yuri that he has a message from the massacred Jews of Uman, AND from Helga Albrecht, the woman whose murder was the focus of the season’s opening moments. Yuri then has a vision of thousands of Jews in an open field, all staring malevolently at him.
So who is Paul? Is he some sort of angel or other supernatural being? Could it be this season’s version of the UFO appearance from season 2? And what does this mean for Yuri? In any other series, this sequence would seem out of place. But this is “Fargo” after all, and who better to embody a mysterious entity than Ray Wise?
Sy’s extended vacation — Sy (Michael Stuhlbarg) goes to see Emmit (Ewan McGregor) at his home, but is intercepted by Varga (David Thewlis). After telling Sy that he is now five million dollars richer, Varga offers Sy some tea, saying that it is his mother’s special recipe. Sy returns to the office, but instantly collapses and we flash forward three months, finding Sy is in a coma and hooked up to a respirator, signaling that Varga has finally succeeded in ridding himself of a key stumbling block on the road to having complete control of Emmit.
Emmit’s Bad Day — Speaking of Emmit, the trauma of his brother’s death is beginning to wear on him, and external factors aren’t helping. First, while visiting Sy in the hospital, he sees Ray’s Corvette in the parking lot. Then when he returns to the office, he finds that all of the pictures in his office have been replaced with images of the now-famous stamp that led to his feud with Ray. Emmit calls Varga in a panic, believing that Ray and Nikki are attempting to gaslight him. After returning home, Emmit sees his reflection in the toilet and finds that he has suddenly grown a mustache. Varga gives Emmit some sedatives, saying that even heroes have setbacks from time to time. After Emmit passes out, Meemo carries him upstairs and leaves him, only for Emmit to reveal to us that he didn’t actually take the pills.
This is my confession — We see Gloria (Carrie Coon) stuck in her new role as a deputy after losing her job as chief of police. But she is more focused on the divorce papers that have crossed her desk. After ultimately choosing to sign her divorce papers, she is stunned by the arrival of Emmit, who says that he wants to confess. What will Emmit’s confession mean for Gloria’s case, and how will Varga react to Emmit’s betrayal? With only two episodes left in the season, it’s safe to say that there will be significant repercussions in the weeks to come.
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