Fargo: “Who Rules the Land of Denial?” Season 3 Episode 8 Review

Photo Credit:https://showsnob.com/2017/06/09/4-wtf-moments-fargo-rules-land-denial/

“Who Rules the Land of Denial?” is split in half. The first half, had it been contained all by itself, would be the best episode of Fargo‘s third season. The second half would be one of the better ones of the season, moving characters closer to the season’s endgame in surprising ways. But seriously, let’s talk about that first half.

Fargo finally got the right kind of weird here. After most of the season seemed to be playing it safe, with expected narrative beats coming and going, we got the show’s version of purgatory, an empty bowling alley in Minnesota where God (Ray Wise, returning from the season’s third episode) sips a drink and passes judgement. It’s so perfectly in tune with the best of Fargo that a strong sense of giddiness actually took me over.

Before that Nikki practically had to crawl through hell, but she has help! Mr. Wrench returned from season one, drawing a fun connection between two anthologies, to aid in her escape. But Nikki never seems incapable in the entirety of the sequence. Beautifully shot and numbingly brutal, the escape was the most lively and exciting Fargo has been all season. And then they enter the bowling alley, where two imperfect people, covered in blood, are set free by a man acting as God. Nikki has become one of the season’s heroes, however flawed, as the season went on, one of this year’s most delightful deceptions as opposed to how she was introduced. Ray Wise’s “creator” confirms that she is the hero of this story. As the season’s most surreal scene yet, it brought Fargo back to a place where it could be unexpected and new.

So it was a bit of a disappointment when we saw day break and started visiting everyone else in the cast. Everything else that happened in “Who Rules the Land of Denial?” was generally great, but I almost wish the season had the time to commit to a full episode of Nikki’s escape mixed with extreme surreality.

But Christmas comes and goes after that long night. Gloria is called into work to deal with the attack on the prison bus. Sy visits Emmit on Christmas, only for Varga to poison him, sending him into a coma. In a slightly jarring surprise, two months then go by. It makes sense for the season to jump ahead now, but it’s placement after events that already follow the hyper-focused first half make the episode feel a little messy.

And yet, watching Emmit be tortured, by himself and by a mysterious person who knew Ray intimately enough to know how to torture Emmit (has to be Nikki, but I’m happy to let the mystery be for now), is satisfying as hell. It feels justified that Emmit turns himself in at the end of the episode, but it’s no less surprising. With two episodes to go, Fargo just changed the game again, and might be gearing up for a more surprising ending than the one this deceptively average season seemed to be building to. This show is exciting again thanks to this episode. It’s regained its freshness. And right in the nick of time. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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