Fargo out-Fargos itself with season three episode four of the critically acclaimed series. Storylines weave together in new and entertaining, twisty ways and Ewan McGregor delivers one of the best performances of his career with this fourth episode titled ‘The Narrow Escape.’ The episode also welcomes back a familiar Fargo player who, unfortunately, we don’t see but do get to hear.
A narrator (welcome back Billy Bob Thornton!) tells us that each character is going to be represented by a musical instrument. He then begins to match characters from Peter and the Wolf with the key characters in this season of Fargo. The narrator reveals the bird, Emmit (McGregor), is played by a flute. The duck, Ray (also McGregor), is played by an oboe. Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is the cat, played by the clarinet. As these characters are introduced, we’ve been watching Ray complete his disguise and now he looks much more like his wealthy twin brother.
Sy (Michael Stuhlbarg) is the grandfather of this tale and he’s played by the bassoon. V.M. Varga’s thugs are the hunters’ shotgun blasts, played by the kettle drums. The wolf, V.M. Varga (David Thewlis), is played by French horns. Gloria (Carrie Coon) is clearly the Peter of this story, and is played by the strings. (Note: this is much more entertaining and understandable on the screen than it is in written form.)
As the music ebbs and flows, we’re informed the events took place in Minnesota in 2010. The orchestra plays as the title card graces the screen while Gloria drives her police car to St. Cloud. Meanwhile, Nikki delivers Ray to a bank where Emmit has rented a safe deposit box. She reminds him they have a meeting with a high roller later that day and then off he goes to impersonate his rich brother.
After an overly enthusiastic new employee welcomes him to the bank, the manager shoos her away to fetch “Emmit” a soda and then invites him into chat in his comfy private office. Emmit explains he lost the key to his safe deposit box and the manager is sympathetic but says they’ll have to order a new key and it’ll take a week. During this conversation, Emmit’s been meek and obliging but now he decides to follow Nikki’s instructions and use his power to get things done. He threatens to pull his accounts, saying he’ll find a bank that puts the customer first. The manager immediately gives in and will call someone in to drill the lock ASAP.
Now that he’s found his footing, Emmit also demands $10,000 from his accounts along with $1 in quarters. When the manager stammers a bit, Emmit gives him a look and the man caves again. He’ll do the paperwork for Emmit.
The lock is drilled and Emmit has the box in his possession. Inside is a velvet bag with the word “Luverne” embroidered across the middle. Emmit opens that and it’s filled with dust. He tastes it and immediately spits it out and then dumps it into a nearby trashcan. He rummages through the ashes and nothing is there.
Emmit rushes back to Nikki who’s waiting outside in the car. He’s excited he took $10,000 from his brother, but she wants to know why he took so little. He reminds her they’re not crooks and only took what was probably fair market value for the stamp.
Sy informs Emmit of Ray’s treachery, and they’re both disgusted Ray would screw with the cremated remains of Emmit’s dog and withdraw money from his account. The topic changes to the suicide of their lawyer and they both think V.M. Varga had something to do with his death. Sy suggests they meet with widow Goldfarb who wants to buy into their company since this Varga thing is such a mess.
The kettle drums pound as Varga’s thugs leave the office with a briefcase. Emmit asks, “What the sh*t are they up to?”
Gloria goes through Maurice LeFay’s belongings at the coroner’s office, and among the items is the page torn out of the phone book with E. Stussy’s address. She looks at LeFay’s dead body on the table and it’s not a pretty sight as the top of his head is missing where the air conditioner unit smashed into him. She then goes through his wallet and finds a St. Cloud Parole Board business card.
Gloria meets with her new boss (the new chief) and he doesn’t understand why she continues to investigate LeFay. He was a loser drug addict who randomly selected her stepdad’s place, according to Chief Moe Dammik (Shea Whigham). For some reason, he starts talking about Fallujah and IEDs, comparing random deaths in America to the randomness of deaths in war. He believes it’s just a matter of wrong place, wrong time, and wants her to close the case. Gloria, however, isn’t about to let it go. She’s going to spend more time on the case, even without Chief Dammik’s approval.
Gloria heads over to the St. Cloud Parole Board and as she’s about to enter the building, Nikki walks right by her. Although they’ve never met, Gloria looks back and watches her leave. Gloria then adds another instance of being invisible to her running tally as the automatic door does not open.
The clerk looks up Maurice LeFay’s parole officer and tells her it’s Ray. Gloria steps into the restroom before visiting Ray and can’t get the water or soap dispensers to turn on (another example of her invisibility to sensors). A woman calls out for help with a feminine product but Gloria doesn’t have her purse. She offers to ask the clerk, but the woman tells her not to bother.
It turns out the woman in need is also a cop. She introduces herself as Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval) from St. Cloud Metro, explaining she’s trying to get pregnant and going into graphic detail about her sexual positions. Winnie has no problem getting either the faucet or the soap to work, and Gloria stands there dumbfounded with dirty hands.
Elsewhere in the building, Ray’s chatting with Nikki on the phone when Gloria knocks on his office door. She’s stunned to learn his last name is also Stussy and Ray says it’s a pretty common name. Gloria explains she’s there investigating Maurice LeFay’s involvement in a murder and Ray tells her he heard Maurice had a run-in with an air conditioning unit. Gloria knows that (she’s seen the body for herself) but is trying to understand why Maurice would drive 30 miles out of the way, grab a page from a phone book, and then search Ennis’ house for something specific before killing him. Ray lets her know Maurice was a pothead and he was going to be hauled in for flunking his pee test, but then he died. Interview over, Gloria leaves him her card in case Ray thinks of anything.
Ray’s day doesn’t improve when his boss calls him in for a meeting with the deputy director. They show him photos of he and Nikki and now Ray’s in big trouble for breaking the rules. It’s against the law to date a parolee and Ray has only one shot at keeping his job. He has to lie and say it only happened once. He’ll get a suspension but won’t lose his job. Ray can’t do it – he declares they’re in love and getting married. His boss threatens to revoke Nikki’s parole, believing she’s hoodwinking Ray. Ray swears she’s not a bad person and goes off about their bridge team. His boss gives in and instead of locking up Nikki, they’re firing Ray. But, he has to sign a document saying he won’t sue them for wrongful termination.
Ray, now unemployed, leaves his office for the last time and finds Sy waiting for him in the parking lot. Sy doesn’t say anything, just points at Ray. When Sy drives away in his Hummer, Ray’s car comes into view and it’s been booted.
When Sy returns to the office, Officer Winnie Lopez is waiting for him in the lobby. He’s obviously confused by her presence, and stammers when she wants to talk to him in private. (V.M.’s henchmen are hanging out in the lobby listening in.) She finally explains she’s there to find out about a Hummer that did damage to another car. She’s investigating the damage done to Ray Stussy’s car and since the vehicle was registered to Stussy Lots, Winnie wants to know who was driving it. Sy gets flustered and doesn’t understand why, if Ray’s not pressing charges, she’s investigating the incident. Winnie lets him know the owner of the other car he hit on the way out of the parking lot does want action taken. It’s a police matter since the driver left the scene of the accident. Sy promises a girl from H.R. will call her the next day with info on who was driving.
Ray drowns his sorrows at a bar, one arm leaning on his box of possessions he took with him from his office. Meanwhile, Nikki is having to entertain their potential backer. She apologizes for Ray being a no-show, saying he’s usually punctual.
V.M. Varga shows up at Emmit’s house unannounced at dinner time. He invites himself to dinner over Emmit’s objections, making himself at home. V.M. tells Emmit’s wife he has some amazing business opportunities to discuss with her husband, saying he wants to broaden their partnership. V.M. compliments Emmit’s business acumen and pulls out a stack of papers to be signed.
The papers will make Varga a partner in Stussy Lots, and Emmit says he’s not going to sign. Emmit still wants him to take back the money he borrowed, but Varga just tells a story about how those who aren’t in the 1% will eventually come for those they believe are filthy rich. He wants Emmit to amass so much money he can be protected from threats, and then out of the blue Varga points to the donkey picture on the wall and wants to know if that’s where the stamp used to hang. Emmit’s confused by Varga’s knowledge of the rare two penny red US misprinted stamp. Varga also knows about the feud between Emmit and Ray, and Emmit declares that’s off limits. Varga says he hears things, and we see a flashback of him listening in on Emmit’s phone calls.
Varga tells Emmit he’s currently in the frying pan but could be in the fire if he’s not careful. The peasants will be coming to get him. Varga then announces he’s Emmit’s guardian angel. He also informs his new partner the bank increased his credit line by $25 million. Varga confirms he’s studied Emmit’s books and now he’s going to be in the billionaire business. But first, Varga wants to be assured Ray and Nikki won’t be problems. Emmit calls them both losers and says neither will be a problem.
And now we return to the narrator who says grandfather’s angry Peter went into the meadow. A wolf could have attacked, and Peter would be in trouble.
Over at Gloria’s place, she studies the St. Cloud Parole Board business card, lost in thought. The narrator tells us Peter/Gloria didn’t pay attention to the warning because Peter/Gloria isn’t afraid of wolves.
Gloria’s tucking Nathan in for the night when Winnie shows up to talk about her investigation. Winnie explains about the car crash and how the person responsible worked for a company owned by the victim’s brother. Then she ties it into Gloria’s murder case, because it’s the same last name as Gloria’s murder victim. So, the murder victim was a Stussy, the guy whose car was run into is the parole officer Gloria visited, Ray Stussy, and Ray’s brother owns Stussy Lots which leased the Hummer. And, the guy who owns the company, Emmit Stussy, lives in Eden Prairie while Ennis Stussy was murdered in nearby Eden Valley.