Now THIS was an episode of Fargo, ladies and gentlemen! This season has been taking precious time to begin the ramp-up, compared to the previous two seasons that took off right away, but we have finally arrived at the moment where I wished I could just watch the final two episodes right away. “Who Rules The Land Of Denial” had the right amount of action, tension, dialogue, and featured a scene that changes the entire perspective of the season. That’s honestly my big talking point of the episode, but I’ll try to contain my interest to just head straight into that and start from the top.
We open a short while to where we left off in the previous episode. Yuri, Meemo, and the disguised police officer (I’m not sure if he has a name) are getting ready for the big ambush on the prison bus Nikki is on after disguised police officer fucked up killing her in her cell. It looked to me last episode that the bus crashed after trying to veer out of the way of Yuri standing in its way, but we see now that a inclined battering ram was basically installed in the middle of the road for this situation. A replay of the events from a different perspective is shown and we’re right back to Yuri attempting to burn through the door of the bus to get to Nikki.
Luckily, Mr. Wrench was not knocked out or killed from the impact of the bus overturning and is able to get Nikki up as well. They attempt to break their shackles free of the seat and barely managed to do so right as the door is finally cut open and disguised police officer comes running in with a knife. A tussle ensues, but both Nikki and Mr. Wrench pop out the emergency exit of the bus and take off. The three henchmen regroup outside just as a couple drive by and see the chaos that occurred. They continued on and pray that nothing will come of it, but Meemo quickly gets into a car and drives off after them. The last thing we see is Meemo’s car fastly catching up to them as they cower.
Meanwhile, deep into the Minnesota woods, Nikki and Mr. Wrench continue on to try and gain as much distance from their pursuers as possible. It is here that Nikki comes to the realization we already know: Mr. Wrench is deaf. Nikki attempt to break the chain that keeps them linked together with a rock, but Yuri and disguised police officer are hot on their heels. These scenes are some of my favorites of the episode as the tension is strong and Yuri wearing that damn Wolf hat reminds me of basically any horror film where the killer dons an animalistic mask as he hunts his prey, much like is happening here.
The time skips to morning and the duo is still wandering the woods, but approach a clearing where Mr. Wrench decides to finally ask Nikki, through the use of drawing in the snow with a stick, if the men are after her. Her reply? “Sorry” she simply rights and they continue on. We see that Yuri and disguised police officer have been watching them from a hill above the clearing. Yuri notices a tattoo of the name Helga on disguised police officer’s wrist and proclaims he also once knew a Helga, but “all she’d do is talk, talk talk” (This is important for later). Suddenly, an arrow pierces through Yuri’s wolf hat and two hunters come running up the hill to claim their prize.
Their prize, however, is the realization that it wasn’t an actual wolf they just shot, but the metaphorical wolf that is Yuri, now very unhappy with the state of his favorite hat. The next scene cuts to Yuri and disguised police officer now equipped with the crossbows the hunters had, but we never learn the fates of them (More than likely dead). The hunt continues into the night again and after a resting moment, Nikki and Mr. Wrench encountered an area with the hunters’ test target and, more importantly, an axe on a tree stump. Before being able to finally break free from each other, however, Mr. Wrench is shot by an arrow and then stabbed in the back in a quick flank by disguised police officer.
More arrows fly from the darkness of the forest surrounded Nikki and Mr. Wrench and Nikki eventually gets one in the leg after an attempted escape. The duo managed to trip disguised police officer as he makes another round though and Mr. Wrench stabs the arrow from his arm into him. Another arrow shoots by and Mr. Wrench throws the axe into that direction, miraculously connecting with it. The duo pin disguised police officer against the tree stump and then attempt to strangle him, only the chain rips right through his neck instead (I don’t think this is actually possible, but…television). Mr. Wrench assists Nikki in getting the arrow out of her leg and they then depart the blood soaked snow battlefield as the camera pans to reveal that while the axe connected, it only took Yuri’s right ear off.
And here is the moment I’ve been waiting to discuss. Nikki and Mr. Wrench approach a purple glow in the distance, which is revealed to be a bowling alley. Heading inside, Mr. Wrench takes a well deserved seat to rest, while Nikki heads to the bar and requests a double whiskey. The camera pans over to the right and reveals Paul Marrene (Played by Ray Wise), who was last seen in episode 3 when Gloria went to Los Angeles, is seated next to her and requests Sherry from the bartender. Something immediately feels off about the situation as you question how Paul would suddenly be in Minnesota. We get a stronger hint to why as Paul begins to quote The Book of Job to Nikki. In her confusion, he instead opens a nearby box and pulls out a kitten. Nikki takes the kitten and Paul explains that its name is Ray and asks Nikki if she’s familiar with a Kabbalistic concept of reincarnation known as Gilgul. A great moment happens where Nikki then lifts Ray the kitten up to her face and questions if this is what her dead lover had become in his reincarnation.
Paul explains that souls that cannot find a body to occupy after their death become lost and that the Rabbi Nachmann made it his mission to be buried in a mass grave of the Jewish victims of the massacre of Uman as he believed them to all be lost souls that he wished to comfort as “the master of the field”. Ray Wise channels a bit of Leland Palmer here as he then asks Nikki if she’s ever been to the place they’re in before. She flabbergastedly replies “The bowling alley?” to which Paul answers “Is that what you see?”. It’s a very Red Room from Twin Peaks scene, but it’s still not even finished! Paul explains that the room they’re in is basically a form of purgatory and that Nikki and Mr. Wrench are here to be weighed and judged. Mr. Wrench almost didn’t pass, but Paul convinced “the others” that he was on a better path. Nikki is also allowed to leave, but Paul asks her to deliver this message to the wicked: “Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord”, which is the verse Obadiah 1:4.
Nikki attempts to leave, but Paul reminds her that Ray cannot come with her. She hands Ray the kitten to Paul and asks him to put some beer in a bowl for Ray to drink whenever the Gophers hockey team play on TV. He agrees, to which Nikki and Mr. Wrench take the Green Volkswagen beetle that Paul granted to them and depart. Yuri arrives just as they leave and enters the bowling alley as well, taking the same spot that Nikki previously did. He asks for napkins to put over his missing ear and some vodka. Paul then appears by him, but gives him a different fate than that of Nikki and Mr. Wrench. He isn’t allowed to leave purgatory as his sins are too strong. Yuri is revealed to have been the one that killed Helga Albrecht, the woman whose death was the focus of the very first scene of this season, and thus his soul has been claimed by her and all the others he has killed.
And with that we end the weirdest segment of tonight’s Fargo. I don’t know what Paul’s significance was when he appeared to Gloria back in episode 3, but it is made obvious here that he is a mysterious entity that judges the souls of the Earth. Upon some research, I learned that Paul Marrene is one of the names given to The Wandering Jew, a mythical immortal man who was said to have taunted Jesus on the way to the Crucifixion and was then cursed to walk the Earth until the Second Coming. Just as Season 1 of Fargo played with the idea of Lorne Malvo being the Devil incarnate and Season 2 revealed the existence of aliens, Season 3 has shown its supernatural element in the form of Paul and the bowling alley purgatory.
Returning to the show, we move to Gloria enjoying Christmas Day with her son, her soon-to-be ex-husband, and his boyfriend. She receives a call from the police informing her that Nikki’s bus was found crashed and heads out to investigate. It is here that we learn the fate of the couple Meemo drove after as their overturned car is seen with both of them killed. Once again, Gloria is sidelined in her investigations though, but this time by the US Marshalls, who try to get her out of the crime scene as soon as possible after they reveal to her that no female was found on the bus.
We cut to Sy trying to pay Emmit a visit at his house, only to be stopped by Meemo and then Varga. He is invited in for Christmas dinner and told that Emmit is sleeping. After Sy’s insistence that he doesn’t want to eat, he is given a cup of tea instead, which Varga seems very eager for him to finish. After that, he is quickly mushed out of the door by Varga, who says he’ll make sure Emmit contacts him once he’s up. Sy returns to the office and we see that something is not quite right with him and he knows it too. Mid-conversation with their receptionist, Sy vomits and then passes out. It seems that the tea had been poisoned by Varga in order to get Sy out of the picture and continue the control of Emmit to himself. Sy is now in the hospital and then after a zoom on his face and a pull out, we see he now has a full beard and a nurse writes on a board with March 15th, 2011 written on it. Time has skipped ahead from Christmas 2010 and Sy still is stuck in the hospital, seemingly on life support.
Emmit is revealed to be visiting Sy and upon leaving the hospital room, he is greeted by Gloria and Winnie as they continue to badger him over if he was responsible for Sy’s condition. Arriving to the parking garage, Emmit sees that his car has been replaced with Ray’s old Corvette. After taking a taxi to his office, he sees that every picture on the floor has been replaced with a picture of the stamp that caused the rift between him and Ray in the first place. And later, after taking a nap at home, he awakes to a moustache similar to Ray’s glued to his face. It is not revealed if this is Varga doing this in order to further break Emmit’s psyche or if it’s Nikki back for revenge.
My current bet is on Varga as he has the most to gain from the situation. If he is able to make Emmit go insane and commit him to a psych ward, Varga would then become the owner of the company, which seems to be exactly what he wants. He had already gotten Sy out of the picture, now all that was left is Emmit. He arrives at Emmit’s mansion after Meemo alerts him of Emmit’s panic and attempts to calm him down with another of his monologues, this time about how during World War II, there was a Japanese soldier that who refused to surrender even after knowing the war was over. Varga had already told Emmit that he won against Ray, so he wants him to stop fighting the battle and just accept what has all happened instead of lingering on it.
While Varga thinks he gets through to Emmit with this story, that doesn’t seem to be the case. After slipping him some pills to relax and sleep, Meemo takes Emmit upstairs, but it is revealed Emmit didn’t take the pills after all. He instead takes a trip down to the police station where he encounters Gloria and informs her that he’s ready to confess everything.
This is all leading up to what seems like it’ll be a damn good showing in the final two episodes. Varga has now lost his grasp on Emmit, Gloria will have everything she already knew finally confirmed to her, and the double team of Nikki and Mr. Wrench are still out there somewhere. With Paul telling Nikki she will have to deliver Obadiah 1:4 to the wicked (Varga obviously), it’s a no-brainer that she’ll be back if she isn’t already the one fucking with Emmit. And speaking of Paul, will this episode be the last we see of him and Ray’s new life as a kitten?
Who Rules The Land Of Denial? – 5 out of 5
- The tense forest chase between Nikki/Mr. Wrench and Yuri/Disguised Police Officer
- Ray Wise channeling Leland Palmer
- Everything else about the bowling alley sequence
- Sad to see Sy go out like that, hope he won’t permanently be a vegetable