[Editor’s Note: The review below contains spoilers for “Fargo” Season 3, Episode 3, “The Law of Non-Contradiction.”]
Just when you thought “Fargo” was playing it safe in Season 3, in comes a big swing. Episode 3 had a lot of originality to it, breaking the pattern set by Seasons 1 and 2 while elevating one character to telling heights. In broad strokes, “The Law of Non-Contradiction” was dedicated to Carrie Coon’s character, Gloria Burgle; marked the series’ first entry to take place entirely outside of the freezing cold plains of Minnesota, Idaho, or the Dakotas; and unveiled a handful of animated sequences about a child robot searching for the meaning of life.
In other words, arguments that Hawley was ready to recede into formula were put to rest, and those of us already enthralled with Year Three were again reminded of Gloria’s distinct relationship to her policeman predecessors. Just as importantly, it threw an early curveball for everyone, knocking us off our game and reminding us how creative this anthology can be.
That being said, we’re still piecing together one of the episode’s metaphors. That box that Gloria found in her hotel room, the one that shut itself off every time you turned it on, felt targeted: Who would build such a useless machine? Every time you turn it on, it turns itself off. Does it represent Gloria’s feelings toward technology? That it’s more trouble than it’s worth? Is it a message left for her by someone — Ray Wise’s omnipresent frequent flier, Paul Marrane? Is it a reverse macguffin, a literal object meant to mean more to the show’s themes than the plot itself?
It very well could be all of the above, but that Gloria took it with her means she sees it as a clue or a physical embodiment of her frustrations. Either way, we’re eager to see if and how it factors in later on, just like we remain eager to see what happens next on “Fargo.” Anything’s possible, and that’s a good feeling.
MVP (Most Valuable Performer)
As much as I’d like to vote for Rob McElhenney, especially considering this marks the second “It’s Always Sunny” star to grace the “Fargo” stage (Glenn Howerton, Season 1, never forget), this is Carrie Coon’s episode and Carrie Coon will be discussed.
Episode 3 of “Fargo” marks the second hour of TV in less than two weeks to devote all its time to Mrs. Coon. “The Leftovers” did it first (and has been doing it regularly since 2014), and, yes, it did it better, but the emotional intensity infused into HBO’s drama gives it an unfair advantage in head-to-head dramatic turns; which brings us to what’s so remarkable about Coon’s performance in “Fargo.”
In “The Leftovers,” Coon is playing a psychologically ravaged badass who slides rapidly between extremes in the grieving process. Nora is angry and hollow simultaneously, and how Coon manages to channel both contradictory feelings into a similarly divergent demeanor — one both fragile and resolute — is something beyond my meager understanding.
In “Fargo,” Gloria is a typical Midwesterner, which means she’s not going to blow up or break down easily, if ever. And yet you can see a wide emotional range swimming in Coon’s eyes, reacting without reacting — like when she turns down Officer Hunt’s blunt proposition with a simple “what” — and providing ample summation simply by drawing out a two-syllable word. “OK,” Gloria says, when she realizes what little she’s learned in Los Angeles, cutting off her thought before it can be completed. And that’s just it: She doesn’t have to say much to get her point across, for us to understand how she’s feeling, and that’s a credit to Coon. She builds a person out of repression, serving both the character and her origins in the process.
Aces Quotes for Everyday Use
“The writers guild doesn’t represent book writers.”
“Well, that seems like an oversight.”
– Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) and the WGA office secretary, a fitting coincidence given how just days before air we narrowly avoided a writers’ strike
“Am I going to get laid tonight or what?”
– Officer Oscar Hunt (Rob McElhenney) and Ex-Chief Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon), not forming a connection
We collide… and suddenly, for maybe a minute, we’re real. And then we float off again, as if we don’t even exist.
– Howard Zimmerman, summing up the 2005 film, “Crash,” so no one ever has to watch it again
“Are you guys going to Arby’s?!”
– Officer Donny Mashman (Mark Forward), providing the proper level of excitement about attending one of America’s finest fast-food franchises
An Important Quote to Think On, Ya Know?
“No. It’s just a story. None of this has anything to do with… O-K.”
– Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon)
It’s unclear if Gloria’s aversion to technology (a.k.a. the future) will be her saving grace or downfall. Her cop isn’t like the cops of seasons past, as we went over last week. Sure, she’s pure of heart and a little too trusting — never leave your suitcase unattended in L.A. — but she’s also brash, impulsive, and stubborn. Gloria, like the android Minsky, Is on a quest to make sense of her newfound circumstances, and she’s not overeager to embrace change. She needs a good reason, and no one has given her one. Not yet.
This week’s episode offered both sides of the technology debate. First, Team Burgle, and why technology is a manipulative hindrance:
- Everything Officer Hunt (McElhenney) said and did represented the downfall of a society overly dependent on faceless interaction. Crass, charmless, and oblivious, Officer Hunt was the anti-Burgle.
- The android Minsky from the book is under-utilized. He could have done more, if given the chance, and retiring someone who appears outdated simply for that fact is misguided. Just because they do things differently — the old way — doesn’t mean those methods are ineffective. Gloria and her Telex obviously agree.
- Finally, Gloria’s above statement was proven false by her in-person discovery: That Thaddeus Mobley changed his name to that of a toilet manufacturer, Ennis Stussey.
But Episode 3 also supported the advancement of society, to an admittedly lesser degree.
- If the WGA records were electronic, Gloria wouldn’t have needed to wait ages for the slow-moving receptionist to track down Stussey’s file.
- If Gloria had a cell phone (or was willing to give her son one), Donny wouldn’t have had to pull the bus over for the two of them to talk.
- And again, going back to Gloria’s statement, her life would’ve been improved if she didn’t take that trip. She wouldn’t have lost her luggage. She wouldn’t be in trouble with her boss. She wouldn’t be away from home in a shitty town where your fellow “brothers” in blue won’t even do you a favor. They’ll just hit on you, very, very poorly.
Gloria’s final discovery, made in-person, reinforces her beliefs more than the other side, but there’s a compromise that needs to be made in this heated debate. There are benefits to development, forward progress, and change in general. For now, Gloria is pressing forward, her way. But she’s bringing that box with her.
“Fargo” Season 3 airs new episodes every Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX.