Fargo Recap: Season 3, episode 4, ‘The Narrow Escape Problem’


Fargo brings back the narration for an excellent episode, with “The Narrow Escape Problem.”

The previous episode of Fargo focused heavily on Gloria’s trip to California, temporarily leaving behind much of story. While it was interesting and inventive, it felt like there was something different. Episode 4, ‘The Narrow Escape Problem,’ wastes absolutely on time on getting the train rolling again. And it does so with an old, but appreciated, trick: the return of the narrator. The intro to episode features narration by none other than Billy Bob Thornton, his first return to Fargo since season 1. It’s a clever way of letting the viewers know that this is going to be something special.

Let’s take a moment to talk about the intro. Thorton narrates, wonderfully (and using cues from Peter and the Wolf), the action of the Stussy brothers. Ray is going to pretend to be Emmit, Varga (the wolf in this metaphor) has his work set up in Emmit’s office, and Gloria is back at it. It’s the most creative first five minutes that Fargo has ever done. Now, let’s talk about Ray’s ridiculous scheme.

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Ray decides that the best way to get his hands on this stamp is to pretend to be his brother to retrieve a spare key to the safe deposit box. Which, by the way, does not contain the stamp in the first place. There’s something cartoonish about the whole thing, but that’s part of its charm. Emmit is a rich and powerful man, so demanding that the box is drilled open comes quite naturally to Ray. He also wants to withdraw about $10,000, which he is warned against doing. But Ray is greedy, and not all that bright. It turns out that the only thing in his safe deposit box is a satchel filled with what turns out to be cremated remains.

‘The Narrow Escape Problem’ brings back the new police chief, who gets stuck in some rant about how things should be run. Yeah, he’s not too bright either. The theme of Peter and the Wolf plays throughout the episode, popping up to highlight missed connections – such as Gloria and Nikki walking past each other – or when Sy puts boots on Ray’s car. It’s playful and works to great effect.

This episode is also about brining threads together, and so Gloria has a little sit down with Ray concerning poor Maurice. That’s when she realizes that he has the same last night as Ennis, though that doesn’t go too far for now.  Ray’s superiors also find out about his relationship with Nikki, and when given the choice to give her up, he does not take it. His profession of love is almost touching until he’s told that they could send her back to prison. Already the vice is beginning to close around Ray.

Image Credit: FX

We’re introduced to our second female police officer this episode, Winnie. She’s a bit on the ditzy side but is positioned to be something of a minor player. She ends up being the officer that confronts Sy about what he did to Ray’s car, which just proves that he’s not really made for criminal activity. His bumbling attracts the attention of Varga’s men,

Speaking of Varga, he decides to show up unannounced at Emmit’s for dinner. Watching Varga in an intimate setting like this highlights his position as another excellent Fargo villain (please don’t make us rank them.) He’s not particularly attractive, but he’s charismatic and erudite. He also suffers from what appears to be bulimia, which is an odd character trait to have.

Later, in private Varga gives Emmit a lesson on his own personal philosophy, showing how he uses his wealth to stay under the radar. Well, we already know what happens to people who just happen to google him. He also knows about the stamp. Varga knows exactly how to gain control of

Emmit, and asks if Ray or Nikki will be a problem. Emmit’s answer isn’t exactly brotherly, though Ray did just steal $10,000 from him. So there’s that.

Next: Top 5 WTF moments from Fargo: The Narrow Escape Problem

In the end, Winnie stops by Gloria’s place to connect some more Stussy dots from her, proving her worth. After four episodes, all the pieces seem to be in place for Fargo to bring about the chaos and madness that we all know is coming. ‘The Narrow Escape Problem’ is technically a stepping-stone episode, but it’s done so well that stands as the best of the season so far. This is prime Fargo right here, people.