[Editor’s Note: The review below contains spoilers for “Fargo” Season 3, Episode 4, “The Narrow Escape Problem.”]
The powder keg is lit. Time to explode.
We’ve been waiting for Ex-Chief Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) to connect the dots between Step-Father Stussey’s murder and the Stussey brothers for the past four weeks, and now she’s caught up. It took a trip to L.A. and a lot of time pissing off her new boss, but Gloria is ready to make things right; to find justice for the deceased; to protect the innocent from the wicked.
So why are we so terrified?
Part of it can certainly be attributed to the ominous musical and verbal allusions created by this week’s surprise narrator, Billy Bob Thornton. We’ve outlined them below — as well as their connection to Sergei Prokofiev’s “symphonic fairy tale for children,” “Peter and the Wolf” — for anyone with a touchy memory, but imagining the ghost of Lorne Malvo (Thornton’s Season 1 character) teasing the fate of our characters in 2010 was spooky enough to get our hairs on end.
But that’s not really it. The narrative suspense within Season 3 has been set up from the get-go. We’ve only garnered more evidence to be worried about Gloria (her boss comparing her to dead soldiers didn’t help), Ray (now he’s fired?), Emmit (in deeper than ever with the menacing Varga), and Nikki (a new target for Varga). And now we’re ready to see the fireworks. That’s a lot of pressure for Episode 5, but we still feel safe in Noah Hawley’s hands.
Our hair wasn’t prickling in fear, but anticipation. Next week is going to be good. Now then, “are you sitting comfortably?”
“Each character is going to be represented by a different member of the orchestra.” And the orchestra was assembled as follows:
Bird –> Flute –> Emmit (Ewan McGregor)
Duck –> Oboe –> Ray (Ewan McGregor)
Cat –> Clarinet –> Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead)
Bassoon –> The Grandfather –> Sy (Michael Stuhlbarg)
Blast of the Hunter’s Shotguns –> The Kettle Drums –> Yuri (Goran Bogdan)
Wolf –> French Horns –> Varga (David Thewlis)
Peter –> Strings –> Gloria (Carrie Coon)
MVP (Most Valuable Performer)
From a writers’ perspective, the very idea of Ewan McGregor playing Ray Stussey playing Emmit Stussey is too clever to pass up. You’re taking an actor already playing twins and asking him to pretend to be one twin as the other twin. And the wig! The wig has to be convincing enough to believe the good people of “Fargo” would buy it, but not as good as the ones McGregor’s been wearing all season. Altogether, it’s just a touch of meta in a world typically absent such outside distractions.
It’s two performances in one, and three performances in total for McGregor. We love the idea of it, but we love the execution more. For the first half of Ray’s visit to the bank, while pretending to be Emmit, he was a nervous nelly. Ray seeped through and only the blind trust of Minnesotans carried him through. Then, at the edge of defeat, he pulled out the big guns, threatening the bank manager with losing his business. It worked, and he didn’t lay off the anti-charm for the rest of the visit.
It may not be as big of an acting challenge as it is fun to talk about, but McGregor still had to be so deeply aware of both characters that he’d understand Ray’s perception of Emmit: how they differ, how they’re alike, what he’d say and do when pushed. It all came through in McGregor’s brash but false confidence. Just like the wig, we could see the difference between what’s real and what’s fake, but the “Fargo” citizens couldn’t.
Continue reading for the most telling quotes from Episode 4.