Fargo: 3.04 The Narrow Escape Problem

This review contains full spoilers for the fifth episode of Fargo.

Last week, Fargo took a break from nearly all of its main conflicts and focused on police chief Gloria Burgle. It was a brilliant move by Noah Hawley, as Gloria went from yet another protagonist cop to a fully formed character, and the show itself got to show some of that peculiar je ne sais pas that makes Fargo quite unlike anything else on TV. But with The Narrow Escape Problem, it's back to business again, as the walls begin to close in on Ray and Emmit Stussy.

The two brothers have been feuding with each other for several episodes now, hiding stamps and breaking into banking accounts. However, it feels like Ray and Emmit's first mates -- Nikki for the former, Sy for the latter -- are more invested and dangerous in this sibling war, vandalizing their rival's properties with cars and used feminine hygiene products. Sy's impulsive actions lead to unwanted police attention, while Ray's employers learn of his illegal relationship with Nikki, prompting his immediate dismissal as a parole officer.

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If he knows what's good for him, Ray will disregard this petty feud. His biggest problem will soon be Gloria, who, thanks to an unassuming questioning of Ray and the chatty cop investigating Emmit's company (thanks, again, to Sy's tantrum at the diner), might finally have the whole Maurice situation figured out. Meanwhile, Emmit is under even more pressure from Varga, who has easily asserted himself as the new boss of the parking lot company. And as the season nears a close, we can expect a massive coalescing as every character's path crosses, leading to what will certainly be many, many casualties.

Of course, The Narrow Escape Problem was a good episode. Fargo is incapable of having a bad episode. Bill Bob Thornton's opening voice over was a clever throwback, and the idea of associating each character with a different instrument is utterly genius. Plus, Varga continues to grow into one of the creepiest and most formidable foes in any season, which is no small feat. His speech about a lower-class uprising and purging scenes were haunting.

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Its status as a well-crafted, acted, and executed hour of television is undeniable. But at its core, there was very little true progress in The Narrow Escape Problem. While every episode of season two built meaningfully towards the finale, this new entry feels more interested in introducing a bunch of problems for its inhabitants. My fear is that once final credits of this season roll, it will feel like a traditional (but still great) crime story, and less like the impeccable character study that made its predecessor so perfect.

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Tags Fargo
Category Episode Review

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