Peter and the Wolf Adds Texture to Fargos Most Formulaic Episode Yet
After the last two seasons of Fargo, expectations for this third couldn’t have been higher. Maybe that’s why it feels like it’s going through the numbers a little bit this season. Especially coming off of last week’s L.A. adventure, which was just the kind of surprising departure we need to see more of from this series. This week’s episode was undeniably Fargo in every way. That’s not a bad thing, it just feels like we know what to expect now. There were still some surprises, and Billy Bob Thornton’s narration of Peter and the Wolf added a fun new way of thinking about these characters.Peter and the Wolf underscores the entire episode, and each main character is assigned a counterpart from the children’s story. Emmit is the bird, Ray is the duck, Nikki is the cat, Varga is the wolf, Yuria is the blast of the hunter’s shotgun, Sy is grandfather and Gloria, of course, is Peter. Each has their own instruments associated with them. This season is all about telling stories, and this episode focused on musical storytelling. It wasn’t as thoroughly explored as last week’s animated sequences, but it did make this episode more than the next step in the Fargo formula.It did lend a sense of dread to a scene that’s become a Fargo staple. Some of my favorite scenes in the Coen Brothers movie and the last two seasons have been where the policewoman casually questions the man she doesn’t yet fully realize is behind the crime she’s investigating. That first moment where they’re in the same room, when she knows she’s hit on something, but doesn’t know what. And in attempting to distance themselves from their crime, the men generally make fools of themselves, setting off alarm bells where there would otherwise be none. This episode gave us two of those. The first came when Gloria questioned Ray about Maurice. Ray didn’t completely freak out, but he was unusually evasive. Particularly when she mentioned he shared a last name with her late stepdad.Ewan McGregor as Ray Stussy (Photo via FX)The second came when a different officer, Winnie, questioned Sy about a traffic accident in a parking lot. Ray isn’t pressing charges, but the waitress whose car Sy clipped on the way out of the parking lot is. Plus he fled the scene, which is highly illegal. Since the Sy’s Humvee is registered to the company, Winnie wants him to check up on who was driving. That simple question reduces Sy into a puddle of half-sentences and out-of-nowhere hostility. He manages to be a worse liar than William H. Macy’s character in the movie. That’s a feat. There may be a reason beyond guilt that this line of questioning stressed Sy out so much. This is where the Peter and the Wolf characterization comes in. As Winnie is questioning Sy, Yuria (the shotgun) stares at him. There’s no blast yet, but it’s enough to make us think it’s coming. Sy’s desire to spite Ray may end up getting him killed.One big surprise that happened this episode was Ray’s firing. Sy’s photos of him and Nikki together made their way back to his bosses. Since he refuses to claim it’s a one time thing and break off his relationship, he’s let go. Now, it looks like things are going to unravel quickly for Ray. Instead of joining Nikki to meet with the Bridge sponsor, he spends the evening in a bar. That may have doomed their plans to win big on the Bridge circuit. As the couple grows increasingly desperate, their tracks may become harder to cover.David Thewlis as V.M. Varga, Ewan McGregor as Emmit Stussy (Photo via FX)Speaking of which, Ewan McGregor did some amazing acting in the opening moments of this episode. Ray disguises himself as Emmit, intending to steal the stamp from the safe deposit box. Of course, that’s not where Emmit is keeping the stamp. All Ray finds are the cremains of a dog, which he throws in the garbage and uses the bag they were in to carry out $10,001. (The $1 is for parking.) We’re watching McGregor play Ray, play Emmit. Since McGregor plays both roles, this is a challenge we don’t get to see actors attempt that much. It’s fun watching the little ways in which McGregor made his performance in this scene feel just slightly off. Likewise, it’s a testament to his abilities that we recognizes both characters as completely different people, to the point where we can tell when one is dressed like the other. It may be a little gimmicky, but in a season that feels a little too samey, the gimmicks are needed to spice things up.Carrie Coon as Gloria Burgle, Olivia Sandoval as Winnie Lopez (Photo via FX)At the end of the episode, Gloria finally gets a major break in her investigation. Winnie shows up at her house, revealing that her investigation led her to one Emmit Stussy, who lives one town over from where Ennis did. The pieces are starting to fall into place for the police, as everything spirals out of control for the Stussy brothers. Things are likely about to pop off pretty soon. At least, I hope they do. The unusual focus on storytelling this season keeps making me think they’re going to subvert the usual Fargo formula. But we’re four episodes in, and aside from last week’s L.A. detour, they really haven’t. This episode was still a fun, tense and well-written hour of television. I guess it shows how great the first two seasons were that we expect more than that from Fargo. Now, we aren’t even halfway through the season yet, so there’s still plenty of time for the show to surprise us. I just hope it gets there soon.