Fargo Season 3, Episode 4: ‘The Narrow Escape Problem’ (RECAP)

Chris Large/FX
Pictured (l-r): Ewan McGregor as Emmit Stussy, David Thewlis as V.M. Varga.

Music, both score and soundtrack, has long been a defining feature of the Fargo franchise. With so many familiar character types and returning themes each year, the show itself can feel like a series of new arrangements of a classic tune. The opening narration of “The Narrow Escape Problem,” taken from Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” and performed by none other than Season 1’s Malvo, Billy Bob Thornton, goes so far in its musical methodology as to assign each of Season 3’s main characters to an instrument and a role in the accompanying fairy tale.

Emmit is assigned the role of the bird accompanied by flute, Ray the duck with oboe accompaniment, Nikki the cat who moves to clarinet tunes, Sy the grandfather with the bluster of bassoon, and V.M. Varga the wolf of ominous French horns (as opposed to the friendly Defence Against the Dark Arts kind). That leaves the role of the dauntless wolf hunter Peter, and his iconic string melody, to Gloria.

As it turns out, there’s a reason Varga, the wolf, has such scary-looking teeth: a compulsion to consume more than he can digest via bingeing and purging. Even when he goes to Emmit’s house to demand partnership in Stussy Lots, he finds time to excuse himself from the kitchen table to purge his meal.

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Emmit, unlike the bird in “Peter and the Wolf,” seems to be growing more amenable to the idea of an alliance with the wolf. At first offended by Varga’s intrusion into his home, Emmit cracks the faintest of smiles when Varga lets him know he’s in the “billionaire business.” He may not be swayed by Varga’s warnings of an impending working-class revolution (which seemed plausible in 2010, and seems even more so today), and he still doesn’t seem to grasp the need for the type of invisibility Varga has achieved, but Emmit certainly hears the part of Varga’s talk about hoarding obscene amounts of wealth. With Emmit’s reluctance to get into bed with Varga seemingly overcome, the biggest sticking point between the two now appears to be Ray.

Varga has dug up some dirt on Ray and the stamp feud online, and seems concerned that the brothers’ situation will take a biblical, Cain and Abel turn. A few of this season’s “Internet, am I right?” jokes have fallen flat, but the sight gag of a villain like Varga silently Facebooking photos of Ray’s car while a poster of Joseph Stalin watches over his shoulder lands just right, especially when taken together with Varga’s speech on the importance of anonymity.

Depending on how closely Fargo ends up hewing to the plot of “Peter and the Wolf,” Varga’s interest in Ray could be a foreboding sign. The duck in the fairy tale gets swallowed whole by the wolf. Although, given Varga’s proclivity for regurgitation, there’s a chance being swallowed whole wouldn’t be fatal for Ray, if Gloria is able to act quickly enough.

Ray, for his part, seems to be becoming more of a liability by the minute. First, he disguises himself as Emmit for another failed attempt at stealing the stamp (or successful bank robbery, depending on how you look at it), which he thinks is in a safety deposit box. He then gets fired from his post as a parole officer for his relationship with Nikki, and he doesn’t even show for his bridge sponsorship meeting, leaving Nikki in the lurch, which probably won’t sit well with her. But most importantly, just before he’s fired, he gets a visit from Gloria regarding Maurice, putting her one step closer to pulling all of this season’s disparate threads together.

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Gloria has recently come to terms with the cosmic coincidences of Ennis’ past. Still, she’s confident enough in her investigative abilities to disregard the new chief’s (Shea Whigham) dictate that Ennis’ killing was alike to a random IED in the desert. She’s certainly not the type to be an obedient soldier, even if it means she’ll be more likely to wind up in a body bag.

Gloria seems, in fact, to be the perfect person to hunt down Varga and his shadowy empire, given her now well established invisibility to technology. Varga, who relies on the carelessness of his targets, particularly in the online space, won’t be able to see Gloria coming, since she can’t operate an automatic soap dispenser, much less a Facebook account.

While investigating Maurice, Gloria crosses paths with officer Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval), who happens to be at the parole office to take a statement from Ray about Sy’s vehicular rampage. The two part ways after a bit of uncomfortable bathroom chat, but Winnie is too excited to meet a female chief to let the relationship end there.

(L-R): Carrie Coon as Gloria Burgle and Olivia Sandoval as Winnie Lopez. (Chris Large/FX)

After she has a talk with a panicky Sy about the Stussy Lots Hummer involved in the hit-and-run, Winnie decides to look up Emmit, and she notices some striking relationships. She’s able to put together that Ray Stussy and Emmit Stussy are brothers, and she notices that Emmit lives in Eden Prairie, which sets off some alarms in Gloria’s head.

As of now, it seems that Gloria is one small step away from linking Ray to Ennis. The larger questions that remain are how Ray’s guilt will reflect back on Emmit, and how Varga will deal with Peter and the police sniffing around so close to his lupine hunting grounds.

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Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • Yuri’s little monologue about the different Russian words for “truth” seems unsettlingly applicable to current politics, particularly the part about “untruth” being the tool that the leader uses.
  • More so than Sy, the new police chief of Eden Valley seems like the grandfather figure from “Peter and the Wolf,” telling Peter (Gloria) not to go out because the wolf is too dangerous.

Fargo, Wednesdays, 10/9c, FX