Opening the episode is the voice of Billy Bob Thornton reciting Peter and the Wolf using the main cast of Fargo as the main characters. Thornton’s dry tone of introducing the characters in the symphonic fairy tale fits perfectly. Could Noah Hawley and Monica Beletsky (the episode’s writer) be hinting at a fairy-tale-like story? Varga – the wolf in sheep’s clothing; Sy – the grumbling, warning grandfather; the brothers Stussy – the competitive birds; Swango – the cat stalking both birds; and Gloria – the wide-eyed young lad with hopes of catching the wolf.
In Peter and the Wolf, Peter is warned by his grandfather to not play alone in the meadow, warning the presence of wolves. The boy responds with “a boy like me isn’t afraid of no wolf.” A duck and bird rib each other for either not swimming or flying while a cat stalks them both.
Suddenly, a wolf appears and consumes the duck with one swallow. Peter ties a noose around the wolf’s tail and hangs it from a tree. Proud of his victory, he convinces the hunters chasing the wolf to display his trophy in a zoo. The play ends with the sounds of the duck still alive in the wolf’s stomach.
Lots of parallels to be drawn from that opener alone. The main one that stuck out is Varga’s mouth. The wolf in the fairy tale consumes his prey whole without chewing. Varga’s introduction in The Narrow Escape Problem shows him overindulging in breakfast foods, which he pukes out in the very next scene.
His speech about blending into his environment lends some credibility here with his actions. Eating large quantities, as he does in the opener, is a reflection of a wealthy person. A contradiction to Emmit indeed, but this could speak to deeper problems. Referring to the housing collapse, he tells Emmit people will begin to revolt against the people who are more fortunate. Emmit is not rich but he maintains appearances; nice clothes, expensive car, mansion of a house.
Using one’s wealth to become invisible. Invisibility to get away or to sneak into places. Varga stating he keeps a low profile isn’t entirely true; he just hides his wealth behind a cheap suit and cheaper airline tickets. Perhaps he throws up his food as a penance for his greed and gluttony?
Gloria’s battle with electronics continues in this episode to hilarious effect. It’s funny to see her struggling with automatic faucets after a trip to the restroom. Juxtaposing her struggles with electronics with people glued to Facebook is made abundantly clear she dodging trouble. Varga knows everything about the brothers Stussy because of their Facebook profiles. Nothing is left to the imagination.
Fargo, this season, feels more like a cautionary tale. Fargo, season three, is telling a fairy tale for this age – for those nose-deep in their phones. Obviously, there’s more nuance than what I’m explaining, but it’s interesting to see why the writers chose to juxtapose Peter and the Wolf in the very beginning. Varga’s teeth are almost literary – beware the wolf with grotesque teeth. Could his evil ways be manifested through his teeth? His penance of gluttony doesn’t work is his sins have stained something so prominent as his appearance.
Winnie Lopez may just be the season’s token character. Written as unassuming, she’s much smarter than her cheery demeanor would have you believe. Lopez may just be the partner Gloria needs to continue her hunt for the ‘wolf’, even if she doesn’t know it yet.
The Narrow Escape Problem, the title of the episode, refers to biology and a narrow window in which a molecule could escape being bonded to a domain. Emmit’s escape window has ceased as he’s absorbed by Varga with the expectation of wealth and invisibility.
Ray, on the other hand, had the chance to escape from Swango, someone who probably is using her sexuality for personal gain. Instead, like his brother, he bonds with the one person who is going to backstab them.
For what purpose does Swango need to use Ray? Now that he’s fired, how would that relationship continue to work? Varga talks of sibling rivalry in the bible, could this bonding find both Stussy brothers forming an alliance? Fargo has subverted expectations so far and I hope that trend continues throughout the season.