Fargo: 3.08 Who Rules the Land of Denial?

The following review contains full spoilers for the eighth episode of Fargo season three.

After last episode's cliffhanger ending, the fate of Nikki Swango was up in the air, and it seemed like a swift ending was upon her. However, Who Rules the Land of Denial? draws that bus crash scene, and Nikki and Mr. Wrench's subsequent escape, into thirty minutes of white-knuckled tension, making this episode the most suspenseful of the season, and perhaps the entire series.

The action and escape scenes are exceptionally paced, so that you are faced with a creeping sense of dread as Nikki and Mr. Wrench plod along and Yuri and the crooked cop move ever close, hiding in the shadows. The lighting and editing are straight from an art-house horror film, and when the action does hit, it is brutal and nerve-wracking: the scene by the tree-stump is particularly memorable.

And then, of course, there's the scene at the bowling alley (undoubtedly an homage to The Big Lebowski), where Nikki runs into Ray Wise's character, who is revealed to be... God? Probably, or at least some higher power. It seems that Nikki and Mr. Wrench have arrived on Death's doorstep, probably due to their injuries, but they have been chosen by -- well, let's just call him Ray Wise -- to bring a message of repercussion to "the wicked," the first of which was Yuri, who ran into Ray Wise a little bit later. This was one of those inexplicable moments that have been a staple of Fargo since season one, when fish fell from the sky. Ray was resurrected as a kitten? I don't really get it, but I'll take it.

After that extended segment of pure, wild brilliance, the episode reminded us that Varga is still crazy with his poisoning of Sy, which didn't kill him but did succeed in rendering him comatose for a few months. Not much changed during that time jump, except that Emmit seems to be feeling differently about murdering his own brother. Somebody (probably an off-screen Nikki) is messing with his head, and the guilt is hitting him. Which, of course, is bad business for Varga, who tries to keep Emmit drugged and complicit.

But Emmit finally seems to see through Varga's non-stop bullshit, refusing to take the drug and sneaking away from his home to go to the police and confess his crimes, even though he appears to be in the clear. That means that he'll definitely tell Gloria about Varga, which will hopefully result in an epic showdown between the two. Gloria is probably one of the strongest characters of the season, even though there have only been a few episodes where actress Carrie Coon's talents were properly utilized by the writing.

Also, it can be assumed that Nikki is still out there, possibly with Mr. Wrench (he didn't have any real reason to stay, but I kind of want him to team up with Nikki again anyway). Like The Law of Non-Contradiction before it, Who Rules the Land of Denial? is a break from the otherwise standard proceedings of Fargo season three -- not that those proceedings aren't great -- and hopefully, the final stretch of what could be this show's classic season will keep the momentum and surprises going until the very end.

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