A Look at Fargo- Season 3, Episode 3: “The Law of Non-Contradiction”

Let’s take Fargo and move it to California for a bit.  But not just that.  A character will get there by taking a plane!  Wizardry, I know, but let’s join Gloria Burgle for a trip as she heads to California.

The episode begins at the Golden Planet Awards as a young Thaddeus Mobley, played by Thomas Randall Mann, heads to the bar, where he’s joined by producer Howard Zimmerman, played by Fred Melamed.  Zimmerman congratulates Mobley on his recent success and asks if he would like to turn his book, The Planet Wyh, into a major motion picture.

Soon enough, shooting begins for the film and the two later watch a screening.  Howard introduces Thaddeus to an actress in the film: Vivian Lord, played by Francesca Eastwood, just as Thaddeus updates Howard on the screenplay.

It’s going well, but he thought this would take less time than he’s spent.  Howard then receives a phone call and tells Thaddeus that Warren Beatty can’t join the project because he’s under contract at Paramount.

So the two will have to find a new avenue in order to proceed.  And that’s when Thaddeus brings up his book advance.  He soon writes check after check after check to Howard and becomes more entrenched with the movie business, the drug game, and Vivian herself.  Drugs apparently make the sex amazing.  Hey, it was the ’70s.

One night, she offers Thaddeus a hit and after his sniff, the two later return to their motel room for some evening delight.  Later that evening, Thaddeus takes another sniff and later gets back to work on the screenplay.

From here, we hear Gloria narrating an animated sequence of a man and his android named Minsky, who can only say ‘I can help,’ as their rocket crash lands on Earth.   The man soon passes, but Minsky, himself a child android, now begins his journey through life.

As Gloria reads The Planet Wyh on her flight to Los Angeles, the man sitting next to her, Paul Marrane, played by Ray Wise, asks if the Wyh is a typo and then explains that this is his sixth flight this week- it’s only Tuesday.  Gloria soon arrives in sunny Los Angeles and looks through the newspaper clippings while stuck in traffic.

Not long after, she checks into her hotel, where the clerk, played by Intae Kim, asks if she’s here for the convention of Santa Claus.  He gives her room #203 and then says that she can smell the ocean.  There’s not a view, though- just a smell.  Then, out of nowhere, a Santa rushes in and makes off with her suitcase.  Santa Claus is a dick to Carrie Coon.

She soon reports the robbery to Officer Hunt, played by Rob McElhenney, and after revealing that she’s also in law enforcement, informs Hunt that she’s in the area to investigate a homicide, given that the victim spent some time here in the ’70s.

Gloria enters her hotel room and finds what she thinks is a person hiding behind one of the curtains, but it turns out to just be a pair of shoes.  But next to it is a box.  She presses a switch on the box to open it, but when she does, a hand from inside flips the switch back and seals the box shut.

So she decides to check on Nathan and tells him that even though Ennis wasn’t his grandfather, he was still something to somebody.  Okay, that counts for something.  She then tells Donny that she’s got a lead on Vivian Lord, though Donny informs her that the Chief isn’t happy with the fact that Gloria just left without permission.  The county isn’t going to pay for that, not that Gloria ever would’ve asked for that.

As for what to tell the chief, Gloria apparently saw the ocean.  It was wet.

She later heads to a diner and asks a waitress for Vivian.  An older Vivian, now played by Frances Fisher, denies knowing any Thaddeus Mobley.  Plus, she’s been sober for 29 years.  Before that, she was not, so even if she did know Mobley, it’s nothing but a dream to her now.  And despite Gloria asking for information about her stepfather’s death, Vivian won’t divulge any information.  Still, Gloria gives Vivian her card if she changes her mind.

 

That evening, Gloria returns to the hotel, where the Santa Clauses are busy playing cards she finds her by the pool.  In her room, she finds her retrieved suitcase, which now houses a candy bar wrapper and note from Officer Hunt.

Gloria heads to a bar and speaks with Hunt, who tells her that he tried to friend her on Facebook, which Gloria doesn’t use.  One hot woman that Hunt friended turned out to be a Nigerian man asking for money  Of course.  As Hunt gives Gloria a walkthrough of Facebook, Gloria promises that she’ll check it out- she probably won’t.  As for the homicide, Hunt hasn’t found anything on Mobley yet.

He soon goes off to take a shit.  And since it’s a small world, it turns out that Paul is also at the bar.  He officially introduces himself to Gloria, who explains that she works in law enforcement.  Paul then asks if Gloria’s married or divorced- given that, looking at her finger, she used to wear a ring, but now doesn’t.

Paul tells Gloria that soldiers give their wives a bill of divorce before he goes off to war. If the soldier doesn’t return in 12 months, the divorce becomes effective from that moment onward, but if he returns, they were always married.  So for an entire year, it’s like she was married and divorced at the same time.  Hunt returns and flat out asks Gloria if they’re going to sleep together, but that’s not gonna happen.

I mean, Mac did just come out for real on this most recent season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, so the chances of this happening were always going to be slim.

Gloria later returns to her hotel room, finds a note on the door, and the box working.  She soon turns off the light.

Then we revisit The Planet Wyh as Minsky continues traveling the Earth as centuries pass.  Each century, the android would have to stop and recharge, and it’s during those times that the android was vulnerable to attack.  Soon enough, three men pull off one of the Minsky’s arms, but he continues his journey.

Well, that was sad to watch.

The next day, Gloria heads to the Writer’s Guild of America and asks for information on Thaddeus Mobley, but the clerk tells her that the guild doesn’t represent book writers.  She instructs Gloria to wait and soon brings her a screenplay for The Planet Why, written by Thaddeus Mobley and produced by Howard Zimmerman.

Gloria then heads to a hospital and speaks with an older Howard Zimmerman, now played by Roger V. Burton, who is hooked up to a machine and now speaks by using an electrolarynx.

He calls Thaddeus a failed writer and then asks Gloria if she knows about science.  To him, we’re all just floating particles- objects in space.  No one knows where we are, but once in a while, we collide and that’s the moment where we feel real.  But after that, we float off again, as if we don’t even exist.

Zimmerman used to think that these collisions meant something, but not anymore.  He then tells Gloria to leave, so she asks an orderly if anyone else visits him.  Howard’s only other visitor, Gladys, died and he’s been at the hospital since the accident, but at this rate, he’ll be a vegetable soon.  Gloria then leaves.

Back to Minsky, who continues to watch civilizations fall as hope becomes despair.  From time to time, technology sent word back to his home world, but at that point, there was no one to respond.  In some rubble Minsky tries to fix an arm to replace his missing one, but then something happened: a saucer approaches the planet and soldiers file out and open fire on all citizens.  A light emits and lifts Minsky into the saucer.

Gloria awakens to find a note slid under her door- a note that tells her to call Vivian.

The episode then flashes back to Thaddeus, stopping by to ask Vivian for coke, finding Howard in her room.  Thaddeus demands his money, but it’s all gone.  It’s a hard lesson, Howard says, but he knows that Thaddeus will thank him.  Thaddeus is stunned to learn that Vivian didn’t love him- just took advantage of him and his wallet.

Howard tries to calm Thaddeus, telling him that he did a favor.  Everyone has a role to play and Thaddeus’ was to cough up money and then screw.  Howard strangles Thaddeus long enough to get him to calm down and lose his breath, but then Thaddeus strikes back, grabbing a cane and beating Howard with it.  But instead of striking Vivian, he just tells her that she’s a bad person and flees.

Back in the present, Gloria is stunned to learn that Zimmerman and Vivian conned Thaddeus.  She asks Gloria if Thaddeus would’ve hired someone to get revenge on Thaddeus, but no- that incident and Ennis’ death are unrelated.  As Gloria goes to leave, Vivian admits that Thaddeus was right about her being a bad person.  However, Thaddeus wasn’t so good, either.

After Gloria has some alone time at the beach, we flash back again to Thaddeus rushing to his hotel room and packing as much as he can.  As he stares at the blood on his hand, he soon rushes to the bathroom and vomits into the toilet.

Juxtaposed against this in the present, Gloria finds an insignia on the toilet that reads ‘Dennis Stussy and Sons’ with the D rubbed off, so it reads ‘Ennis Stussy and Sons.’  Ah.

Back to the story.  The Federation of United Planets wants to honor Minsky for his service, as he’s lived for 2.38 million years  His data will help decode the very fabric of the universe.  Minsky still wants to help, but his service is complete.  It’s time for him to shut down, so Minsky does just that.

Back in Minnesota at the Eden Valley Funeral Home, Gloria and Nathan attend the going away service for Ennis.  When it’s all said and done, they decide to head for Arby’s.  Donny informs her that someone found prints at Ennis’ place.  After running them through the database, it turns out the prints match to one Maurice LeFay.  Doesn’t sound like a Russian name, but Earl confirmed that’s the guy who came looking for a phone book.

However, LeFay is dead due to a freak accident involving an air conditioner that fell on him.  Yes, an air conditioner in the winter.  Well, with Maurice dead, he’s probably not going anywhere anytime soon.  So it’s time to ponder all future moves, as this case is far from closed.  The episode comes to a close as Gloria- now with her new box- and the others drive off to have some milkshakes and curly fries at Arby’s.

It always comes back to Arby’s, doesn’t it?

So it’s not a bridge term, but let’s define it anyway: the law of non-contradiction is a law of logic that states a statement cannot be true and un-true at the same time when dealing with the same context.  Furthermore, if you have a set of statements, none of those statements can contradict or negate the truth of any other statement in that set.

In terms of Fargo or, more to the point, this episode, best way I can try to put it is as: Thaddeus Mobley spent some time in California.  His death in Minnesota is because of his move from California.  There’s a contradiction right there: Ennis’ death had nothing to do with his time in California.  That said, there’s still a sequence of events that started in California that, years down the line, would result in his death.

If Thaddeus hadn’t changed his name to Ennis Stussy, perhaps Maurice wouldn’t have mixed him up with Emmit and killed him.  That’s a massive leap because, again, Maurice killing Ennis has no link to Zimmerman, but Thaddeus picking that name he saw on the toilet led to Maurice’s case of mistaken identity.  Like older Zimmerman talking about collisions meaning something at first, they soon end up amounting to nothing.

And that’s where we arrive by episode’s end as Gloria’s trip to California ends up being, for the most part, a waste.  Thaddeus getting conned, getting involved with the drug life, and beating Howard was just a chapter from his past and nothing more.  So why take this approach?  Why have an episode where Gloria steps out of her comfort zone in Minnesota, goes in a circle and ends up with next to no leads on her stepfather’s death?

Well, it works for a couple of reasons.  For one, it places and allows us to see Gloria outside of her element.  Given her aversion to technology, she was already behind the times in her own, and she keeps mentioning the fact that she’s the Chief, but she’s not the Chief- itself a contradiction.  It’s as if she just wants to go about life the way she knows how, but is stuck due to outside circumstances, some out of her control.

We’re so used to the snowy setting in the Fargo universe that it was a refreshing change of pace to end up in California of all places, and during a Santa Claus convention where it appears the Santas aren’t very jolly at all if they’re going to rob people of their suitcases. Instead of this being a small town where everybody knows everybody, it’s a busy, loud, and intrusive city that clashes against everything Gloria knows.

And this creates a great fish out of water situation that results in Gloria sticking to her guns and not allowing the fast-paced life of California change her outlook on…well, anything.  She’s not even repulsed by it, either- she just moves along in her quest to solve this case.  Despite Ennis not meaning much to Gloria, she’s at least committed to getting the job done.

Again, she doesn’t make much, if any progress- the discovery of Maurice’s fingerprints occurs without her help.  Sure, the imprint on the toilet could soon lead her to Ray and Emmit, but had Gloria embraced technology even a bit, she could’ve avoided this entire California trip with a quick Google search.  That said, we just saw in the previous episode what Irv searched for Varga on Google, so maybe that’s not the best idea.

Still, I enjoyed Gloria’s trip to California.  We’ve spent the past two episodes mostly with the Stussy Brothers, while Gloria has been off to the side.  Now she’s placed front and center and Carrie Coon is excellent here as we see Gloria’s frustration and exhaustion tire, but not wear her out to the point of packing it in and going home.

Her life has been changed by a random act of violence, and even if it means stepping out of her element and dealing with some odd fellas, it’s still her responsibility to solve this case.  She might be behind the times, but she still believes her ways work and she’s going to do her darndest to produce results.

Even if that means dealing with some oddballs.  I had no idea that Rob McElhenney was going to appear in Fargo, but I liked him in this role.  Sure, he was more interested in getting into Gloria’s pants, but he’s not a complete sleaze.  After all, he did manage to retrieve Gloria’s suitcase and up until his big admission, it felt like he just wanted Gloria to open up, become less Minnesota-nice and more modern.

Side-note, Rob McElhenney is the second of the main group from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to appear on Fargo, after Glenn Howerton’s Don Chumph was killed in Season One.  Who could be next?  I’m holding out hope for Danny DeVito.

Anyway, Paul at least seemed more interested in Gloria as a person and didn’t look to have any strings attached to his conversation.  And Ray Wise’s performance made Paul feel more approachable compared to Hunt.  I enjoyed his story as well, as it exemplified the law of non-contradiction: being married and divorced at the same time?  There’s a real paradox.

Same goes with Thaddeus Mobley’s life as a writer.  Part of me wishes that we’d gotten a brief look at Mobley’s life prior to becoming a writer.  Maybe a glimpse of something and then just jump to the award ceremony, but it’s not a massive deal.  Either way, we see that he’s a great writer if he’s earning awards, but doesn’t know the ins and outs of the industry.

Like Gloria, he’s a fish out of water when he’s seduced and conned out of his money by Howard and Vivian and he made the most of it as long as he could until desperation got the better of him.  Not the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle that one would expect when they’re moving up in that world.

I didn’t expect the animated sequence, but I enjoyed watching Minsky’s journey through life, although the tragic parts were a bit upsetting, I’ll admit.  That said, like the trip to California itself, it was a change of pace from what we’d expect from Fargo and the scenes themselves made me felt we were back in the astral plane on Legion.

An unusual turn of events with this California trip, but “The Law of Non-Contradiction” was a good episode that allowed Carrie Coon to take center stage in Gloria’s continuing investigation into Ennis’ death.  She might not have made much progress and chances are she has a lesser opinion of California now, but with some new leads at her disposal, this case is far from over.

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