Fargo Season 3 Episode 2 Review: The Principle of Restricted Choice

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Tensions rise between Emmit and Ray, though (unbeknownst to one another) both brothers have far larger problems to deal with on Fargo Season 3 Episode 2.

Also, Nikki left a used tampon in Emmit's desk drawer. So there's that.

Plan B - Fargo

"The Principle of Restricted Choice" found the narrative sectioned off in three separate portions – Gloria's story, Ray's story, and Emmit's story.

Much like the first two seasons of the series, I'm guessing that as the season progresses, the three distinct plots will come closer and closer, intersecting and eventually condensing into one.

Gloria's main concern was investigating her stepfather's murder. They're pretty clear on the how (asphyxiation via glue) but it's the why and the whodunnit that's a mystery.

Gloria: They glued his nose and mouth shut. Are we thinking cause of death is somehow a cliffhanger?
Donny: Guess not.

The most interesting aspect of Gloria's story so far is this Thaddeus Mobley business. Gloria found several books by that author in a hidden box under Ennis' floorboards.

Either her stepfather was a sci-fi aficionado (and weirdly secretive about it) or, as Gloria guessed, he himself was Thaddeus Mobley and changed his name once he arrived in Minnesota and married her mother.

Of course, we the viewers are well aware that Ennis' death had nothing to do with his possible secret writer identity. But odds are that Gloria will follow this trail and likely uncover some interesting things about her late stepfather – until she becomes drawn into this larger VM Varga drama.

Gloria also dealt with her job being in jeopardy, thanks to her department being absorbed into a larger one. 

Running a police department sans technology (no computers!) in 2010 is a little weird, but I still didn't love the way the new chief spoke to her. He reeked of arrogance and just a hint of sexism.

Saying that Gloria was mouthing off to him like his teenage daughter? Uh, no thanks. Talk about majorly unprofessional.

I'm very much looking forward to Gloria cracking the case right under his nose and showing him up, a la Fargo Season 1's Molly Solverson and the utterly hapless police chief played by Bob Odenkirk (his character's name escapes me, and that's probably the point).

On the bright side, Carrie Coon's oh-so-subtle reactions really prove why she's one of TV's best actresses. Only two episodes in and she's already so great in this role.

Gloria's last seen meeting with the convenience store owner in a scene that's quintessential Fargo at its finest.

The guy is more concerned with keeping his public phonebook intact than he is with the fact that a murderer stopped by en route to commit the murder and got his victim's address out of that book. 

Elsewhere and separately, Emmit and Ray contended with one another and also their own, far more serious problems.

Ray Stussy - Fargo Season 3

Ray was, rightfully, concerned about the fact that he and Nikki had just murdered a man (RIP, weird Maurice!). He was worried about being caught, but more than that, he felt guilty.

Nikki, on the other hand, is shaping up to be a bona fide sociopath.

She could care less about Maurice's death, and she's utterly unworried that they'll be caught. She meticulously dictated to Ray exactly what he should do to cover his tracks at the parole office and to throw off suspicion about his ties to Maurice and to Ennis' murder. But really, all she wants to do is concentrate on their next bridge tournament.

Nikki is scary good. And also just kinda scary.

On the bright side, Nikki's ramblings gave us the single greatest phrase of the hour, and possibly one of the greatest Fargo-isms to date:

Besides, you said yourself, he messed up, your man. Killed some random geriatric in the sticks who happened to have the surname, so even if they wanted to solve it, the police, what possible solve is there besides unfathomable pinheadery?


Unfathomable pinheadery is a great way to sum up this season so far. And I say that in the best, most loving way.

Emmit, meanwhile, was dealing with the not-so-gradual takeover of his business operations by the rat-faced VM Varga. Varga just moved on into the office with his two stooges, carting in boxes and boxes of mysterious paperwork.

But even more frightening was the mystery truck that he parked in one of the Stussy parking lots – a truck that may or may not have "slave girls" in it. Or drugs. Yeah, probably drugs.

Emmit: You think maybe it's... I don't even want to say it out loud.
Sy: Slave girls?
Emmit: What?! No! I was gonna say drugs! You think it's slave girls?!
Sy: ...no.

That exchange made me laugh out loud in the most literal way. Michael Stuhlbarg as Sy is comedy gold this season.

As an aside, I'm pretty sure Varga's minions are named Yuri and Meemo. Is Yuri the Yuri Gurka mentioned in the Fargo Season 3 Premiere prologue in East Berlin 1988? Sure seems that way, based solely on his brief exchange with Emmit's attorney Irv.

That and the fact that he subsequently shoved Irv off of the parking lot structure with the help of Meemo, effectively shutting down his investigation into VM Varga.

Poor Irv knew that looking into Varga was a bad idea, but Emmit and Sy bullied him into it anyway. And now where is he? Super dead, that's where.

Finally, the two brothers' stories intersected as Nikki convinced Ray that he needed to either steal his stamp back from his brother or make peace with him, in order for Ray to clear his own "chi." Yeah, sure, Nikki.

In reality, it's fairly obvious that Nikki is more concerned with anything that can make her more money, rather than Ray's supposedly unbalanced chi. The Nikki/Ray relationship is making me more and more sad as time goes on. She's so clearly using him.

Emmit and Ray were both content to legitimately make peace with one another. When Ray distracted Emmit so that Nikki could sneak into the house and steal the stamp, he really meant the words he was saying to his older brother, and Emmit was happy to hear them.

Unfortunately, Sy in Emmit's ear and Nikki in Ray's meant that the two brothers aren't going to have a family bonding session anytime soon.

At last check, Sy (who seemed about 300% angrier at Ray than Emmit did) was threatening Ray to stay away from Emmit, after Nikki left behind a used tampon in Emmit's desk drawer when she realized he'd swapped the framed stamp with a picture of a donkey.

Feminine hygiene, deployed as a weapon?


Then again, Nikki did find safety deposit box information. What's in that box? And is she planning on sharing that information with Ray anytime soon? Odds are, probably not.

Stray thoughts:

  • I love the already repeated gag about automatic sensor doors not opening for Gloria – it also happened outside Ennis' general store on the Fargo Season 3 Premiere. It feels very symbolic, in a weird way that I can't yet put my finger on.
  • Both this installment's title and the premiere's are references to bridge theory. Because of course they are.
  • On that note, the Principle of Restricted Choice "states that play of a particular card decreases the probability its player holds any equivalent card." (I know nothing about bridge, so thanks, Wikipedia!) This seems most relevant to the Emmit/Varga situation – Emmit and Sy literally have no cards left to play in this situation. Varga is walking all over them.
  • Can you make meth out of concentrated orange juice? Not last Gloria Burgle heard.
  • RIP Ray's Corvette, courtesy of Sy's temper tantrum outside the diner.
  • I continue to love the score, and yes, I'll say this every single week. In particular, the jaunty foreign tune playing when Yuri and Meemo tossed poor Irv off of the ledge was great.
  • I'm so curious to find out what the genesis is of Sy's intense hatred of Ray. Why is he so antagonistic towards him? Is it just protectiveness of Emmit?

What did you think of "The Principle of Restricted Choice"? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below and remember that you can watch Fargo online anytime here at TV Fanatic.

The Principle of Restricted Choice Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.9 / 5.0 (29 Votes)

Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Fargo Season 3 Episode 2 Quotes

Gloria: I'm here, right? You see me?
Donny: Is that a trick question?

Gloria: They glued his nose and mouth shut. Are we thinking cause of death is somehow a cliffhanger?
Donny: Guess not.