TV Recap: Fargo Season 3, Episode 2: "The Principle of Restricted Choice"
Coming off of last week's stellar premiere, the second episode of Fargo's third season, "The Principle of Restricted Choice" continues to flesh out the assortment of characters and their intertwining plots, leading to a number of compelling moments, all sinister in different ways.
Following the discovery of a collection of old sci-fi dime novels hidden by her now deceased step-father, Gloria Burgle is dealing with having her position taken over by Sheriff Joe Dammick (the always great Shea Whigham), while taking it upon herself to know more about Maurice and his intentions for coming into contact with her family. Her intellect is unmatched, as in no time at all she’s able to form a bridge between Ennis’s death and the gas station where Maurice had visited and stolen a phone book page from which led him to the wrong address.
Dealing with the repercussions of Maurice’s violent death weighing on his conscience, Ray’s plan to take back what’s rightfully sees another attempt, this time with Nikki’s encouragement and planning. Nikki is the real brains of the pair, coming up with ingenious yet dangerous methods to help Ray get what he wants, even going as far to give an optimistic view to having killed Maurice (“Life’s a journey, ya know?” she states).
The most intimidating scene of the episode is a continuation of the one from last week, as V.M. Vargas returns with his associates to Emmit’s office, with the intent of taking over the business as a money laundering operation for his illegal acts. Countless boxes of documents enter the premises, while Emmit and Sy are helpless to do anything – the best they can hope for is to put on a guise of being willfully negligent now, so that they uphold some claim of deniability in a court of law. Either way, it feels like their world is slowing coming down on them, and as seen by Vargas’ methods of dealing with those who oppose him. An associate of Emmit and Sy who meets with them at the beginning of the episode to discuss their initial meeting with Vargas is killed by two of Vargas’s goons, in a darkly comic manner.
Ray and Emmit meet towards the end of the episode, with Ray presenting the pretense of wanting to end their ongoing feud in the face of their familial bond. But of course, this is all part of Ray’s plan, serving as a diversion while Nikki breaks into the mansion to retrieve the remaining stamp. Unfortunately things don’t go as planned, and we see the brothers share a tender, believable moment, making Ray’s betrayal all the more menacing. On top of this, Nikki’s burglary does not manage to result in obtaining the stamp, which has been moved (after Emmit’s cleaning lady accidentally damages the frame, we find out later) and replaced with a picture of a donkey. Believing it to be an act of insult towards Ray, Nikki is provoked to leave behind a bloody tampon for Emmit and Sy to find, which doesn’t take long for them to find out the culprit.
Sy takes it upon himself to make it clear to Ray that he will never see Emmit again, and to show he’s not messing around, drives his Hummer into Ray’s Corvette (this sudden and reckless act also causes damage to various other cars in the surrounding area). It's clear that Ray's objective has been made all the more difficult, with bridges burned and a partner that is willing to do anything to see him succeed. We're not sure what direction he'll take in next week's episode, but it's surely one that will dig him deeper into the hole he's made for himself.
“The Principle of Restricted Choice” doesn’t bring a whole lot of major developments, but does manage to build upon the madness of this season's debut, and raise the stakes for various parties involved. It may be too early to say, but the series' approach in giving the audience an assortment of characters to root for appears to be working, yet it feels like the madness and the likely to ensue body count are just about to start rising.