TV

‘Fargo’ Frozen Five: Nikki Swango Runs, And Fights, And Abides


The Fargo Frozen Five is a weekly countdown of five notable things from FX’s Minnesota murder show, meant to serve as a supplement to our standard recap coverage. It will probably get weird at times. In a way, that’s kind of appropriate.

5. [assorted screaming and panting]

For the first time this season, my decision to structure these posts around notable lines of dialogue bites me in the caboose, as this week’s episode opened with the largely silent adventures of Nikki Swango and Mr. Wrench as they ran through the Minnesota forest, bloody and chained together, in an attempt to escape a crossbow-wielding Yuri and his mask-wearing henchman. I’m okay with it. What a great piece of business it was, just a steady diet of scary and dark and tense. So tense. I thought for half a second that we were gonna lose Nikki Swango. I was not prepared for that. It’s nice to know a guy who is really good at heaving axes. That seems to be the lesson here.

The interesting thing, which we’ll be circling back to in the near-ish future, is that we lost track of the two of them right around the time of our three-month chronological leap, from Christmas 2010 to March 2011. One assumes a chunk of that time was spent healing, as Nikki still had a battered abdomen before she got shot in the shin with an arrow, but the big question here is if the two of them are still together. I hope so. I’m all in on Swango-Wrench. They’re already quite a team. Look at what they did to DJ Qualls.

Shouts to Qualls for landing a role on a big-time prestige drama in which he a) botches a hit on a prisoner, b) botches a second hit on the same prisoner, and c) gets his head torn off his body by a prison chain. Guy was on screen for maybe four minutes. That’s efficient.

4. “Ah, geez”

The focus going forward will be a freshly-demoted Gloria Burgle serving foreclosures and investigating the Stussy Fiasco on her lunch break, or however all that will shake out given Emmit’s appearance in the closing moments, but let’s stop here to note something. Gloria got the call about the bus crash and prisoner escape on Christmas morning, and after listening to the other end of the call for a few seconds, responded, “Ah, geez.”

Yes, fine, “Ah, geez” is a pretty standard Minnesota reply to, well, anything, but think about the information that was conveyed first. A bus carrying prisoners was run off the road by a man in a wolf mask and his cohorts dressed as pigs and lambs, violence erupted on the overturned bus, multiple guards were killed, and innocent passersby were run down and murdered just for driving down the street at the wrong time. It was chaos, a front-page story in any news market, possibly even on a national level, let alone a sleepy Minnesota town during the holidays.

Gloria Burgle: “Ah, geez.”

I love it.

3. “I’m afraid you have to leave the cat.”

A few notes on my favorite scene of this episode, and maybe of the entire season:

– Ray Wise returns. When we last saw him, he was in California, chatting up Gloria Burgle and popping the balloon of the very horny Facebook-savvy cop played by Rob McEhenney. Now he’s in a Minnesota bowling alley.

– I mean, probably? In an interesting turn of events, he also now appears to be some sort of mystical spiritual figure — per Sepinwall, his character’s name, Paul Marrane, “is one of many names ascribed to The Wandering Jew, who was cursed to walk the earth until the Second Coming because he taunted Jesus on the cross” — who is hellbent on Old Testament revenge, and looking to use Nikki to “deliver a message,” presumably to the show’s other mysterious powerful figure who is fond of long monologues about battles from wars of the past, VM Varga.

– He also has a kitty!

– The tiny kitten may or may not be the reincarnated version of the recently deceased Ray Stussy.

– Heeeeeyyyy

– Yuri is probably dead now, at the hands of an angry heavenly army, which, you know, happens.

– Ray Wise is one of those dudes who looks absolutely terrifying at all times, even while holding an adorable kitten. He’s probably a very nice man who has family and friends who love him dearly, but every time I see him pop up on a show or in a movie, before he even says a single line of dialogue, the first thing that pops into my brain is “Oh, that’s the devil.” Like, Satan, made flesh, preparing to tempt some poor human and make off with his soul. If I were him I’d just cruise around town in a convertible, wearing sunglasses and a bright red suit, freaking everybody the heck out.

2. “My name is Emmit Stussy. I’m here to confess.”

Seems like a big deal. Also seems like something that could prove Gloria right and ruin Moe’s “mashed potato theory” from last episode. Moe’s gonna be so mad. I can’t wait.

Also, what are we thinking with the campaign of psychological torture being waged on Emmit? Nikki? Nikki and Mr. Wrench? Varga, in an attempt to drive him insane and run him out of the business completely? I lean toward one of the first two, both because Varga needs Emmit for various frontman tasks like signing papers and keeping his involvement a secret, and because the end of the season is screaming toward us and it’s time to start getting serious about comeuppance. Nikki has that message to deliver, after all.

1. “Aw, geez.”

The crazy thing about this episode is that Sy was forced to drink poison tea, threw up in his office moments before slipping into a coma, and was next seen months later with a beard on his face and tubes going in and out of him to keep him semi-alive, and yet the most miserable he looked all episode was when he waved to Emmit. Poor Sy.

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