FX’s Fargo season three episode eight was a bizarre, twisted tale that welcomed back an intriguing supporting character and said goodbye to at least one villain, leaving another bad guy’s fate dangling for at least one more episode. Episode eight titled ‘Who Rules the Land of Denial?’ begins by showing the bus crash was actually a much more elaborate setup than originally assumed. A mini-ramp was quickly built to launch the bus, guaranteeing it would fly in the air and likely land on its side.
The action picks up inside the bus as Nikki’s seatmate, Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard), works to set them both free while watching three men (wearing animal heads) attempt to cut through the bars and enter the back of the bus. Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) scrambles out the back emergency exit while her newfound friend goes hand-to-hand with Golem (DJ Qualls), the man who attempted to inject her at the police station, as the other two men (Yuri and Meemo) stand back and watch. Mr. Wrench and Nikki escape into the woods, leaving the men behind to try and sort out which direction they fled.
A couple listening to Christmas carols drives by the scene but doesn’t stop once they see the men standing outside the bus in animal heads. They speed off but Meemo (Andy Yu) jumps in his car and is quickly on their tail.
Nikki and her fellow fleeing felon continue through the woods, and it’s only when Nikki asks about the plan that she finds out her new friend is deaf and mute. They’re still held together by a chain, and Nikki can’t believe her luck. Noises not far away force them to hide as Yuri (Goran Bogdan) and Golem appear in the forest.
Morning arrives and Nikki keeps up a running commentary that her new partner can’t hear. He uses a stick to ask who’s after her, and she replies by writing, “Sorry.”
Yuri and Golem use binoculars and see Nikki and Mr. Wrench not too far off. Just then an arrow pierces Yuri’s bear head. In an incredibly Fargo-ish scene, hunters have mistaken the fake head for a real bear.
The two hunters arrive and find the headpiece stuck to the tree with the arrow holding it in place. Yuri gets the drop on them and the next scene shows he and Golem now have their weapons. They track Nikki and Mr. Wrench further into the forest, and Golem spots a piece of fur from Nikki’s jacket stuck on a tree branch.
Nikki and Mr. Wrench cross a small stream and slouch down against a tree for a brief break. Nikki, who looks like death warmed over, silently recalls her last conversation with Ray as she walks behind Mr. Wrench.
The sky darkens as the trees thicken, and Nikki and Mr. Wrench discover a campsite with an axe. As Mr. Wrench uses it to attempt to break the chain, they come under attack. Arrows whiz by and then Mr. Wrench is cut from behind by Golem. Nikki and Mr. Wrench attempt to flee but being chained together works against them. Nikki is shot with an arrow in the leg and Golem races up to attack again. However, Nikki trips him with the chain and they begin attacking him, stabbing an arrow through his hand as another arrow whizzes by. They keep up their attack on Golem, pinning him against a tree stump and choking him with their chain. Mr. Wrench throws the axe at the unseen attacker in the woods while they continue to pull hard enough to actually decapitate Golem. His head falls to the snow while his body remains seated.
Blood covers the snow around them as Mr. Wrench pulls out the arrow that has pierced Nikki’s leg. He also manages to finally break the chain between them and helps Nikki to her feet. They pass by the axe dripping with blood and stuck in a tree. Immediately underneath on the ground lies a severed ear.
Nikki and Mr. Wrench continue through the forest and spot a blinking light which turns out to be from a bowling alley. Inside, Nikki fixes her hair, helps her friend into a seat, and then makes her way to the bar where she orders a double Whiskey and one for her friend. The place is empty except for Paul Marrane (Ray Wise) who you might remember as Chief Gloria Burgle’s seat companion when she flew to Los Angeles. Paul tells Nikki all days are long and that life is suffering, which does nothing to cheer her up. He then pulls out a kitten from a box and tells her its name is Ray. Yes, Ray!
She pets the kitty with her bloody hand as Paul talks about old souls attaching themselves to new bodies. Nikki holds Ray up and looks in his little kitty eyes as Paul goes on to describe lost souls who cannot find bodies. When he asks if she’s been to “this place” before, she replies, “The bowling alley?” He then asks, “Is that what you see? We all end up here to be weighed and judged, as it is now for you and your friend.” Paul continues, telling Nikki he believes her new friend (her fellow convict, not the kitten) is on a better path now. As for Nikki, by way of announcing her path he says, “Who will rise for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand against evildoers?” and then offers her a ride.
Paul says there’s a green Volkswagen Beetle out front and she can take it. The keys are under the mat. She thanks him but he says what he wants is for her to deliver a message to the wicked at the right time. “Though thou exalt thyself like the eagle, though thou make thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord.” Nikki attempts to repeat it, but Paul chuckles and tells her she’ll remember. As she gets up to walk away, Paul asks for Ray back. She kisses his little furry head and hands him over, asking Paul to do her a favor and give Ray a little bowl of beer when the Gophers play.
Nikki and Mr. Wrench get in the car and leave just as a bloody, one-eared Yuri enters the bowling alley.
(A brief refresher: In season three episode one a man named Jakob was interrogated in East Berlin in 1988 and accused of being Yuri Gurka. Gurka was being sought for the murder of his girlfriend, Helga Albracht.)
Now it’s Yuri’s turn to order a Vodka and napkins. Paul once again appears in the next seat at the bar and he knows Yuri’s name and all about his past. After calling him Yuri Gurka, Cossack of the Plains, grandchild of the Wolves’ Hundred, Paul passes on a message from Helga Albracht and the Rabbi Nachman. Yuri sees a vision of Helga surrounded by hundreds of friends and family members, all victims of the massacre at Uman perpetrated by the Cossacks.