'Fargo' recap: A trip to Los Angeles offers vacation from show's formula

This week's episode of "Fargo," titled "The Law of Non-Contradiction" is brilliant — no two ways about it. Weaving together three loosely related stories, connected through the theme of existentialism and the absurdity of life, the episode takes a break from the formula the show has perfected by telling a one-off story only connected to the larger plot in the slightest way.

It begins with a flashback featuring the elusive mystery character Thaddeus Mobley, the award-winning science fiction author of the books that Gloria found in her stepfather's basement.


Thaddeus has a conversation with a producer, Howard Zimmerman, about turning his book into a movie, to which Thaddeus enthusiastically agrees.

Then Thaddeus meets his leading lady, Vivian, and Zimmerman explains that he is light on funds and will reimburse Thaddeus after the movie is written. Thaddeus begins writing checks out to get the movie produced out of love for the beautiful woman.


On the Los Angeles set of "Fargo's" Season 3 adventure.

He works on his screenplay, and we get a look at an animated rendition of the story. It is about an android abandoned by his creator who has only one purpose: to help. It is brilliant and creative and childish — and every reason I continue to watch this show.

Ten minutes into the episode, we get to our main storyline. Gloria is reading Thaddeus' story on a plane.

"There's a robot, I guess, and he's wandering and he's looking for, I'm not sure, the meaning of life, I guess," Gloria says to her seat partner.

The familiar text flashes on the screen, "This is a true story," and the words fade out and leave only one word: "Story."

Gloria has flown out to Los Angeles to learn about this Thaddeus Mobley character. Her first experiences in the City of Angels are not the best, as she gets mistaken for a prostitute and then has her luggage stolen by a rogue Santa Claus.

The only good news is that Rob McElhenney, known mostly as Mac from the brilliant show "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," plays the responding officer. It lines up with the ill-fated role in Season 1 of Don Chumph, played by Glenn Howerton (Dennis from "It's Always Sunny"). Now all we need is a cameo from Danny DeVito and my life will be complete.

In her room, Gloria finds an empty pair of shoes and a box that flips a switch.

Gloria seeks out Vivian, now much older, in a diner populated by patrons buried in their phones. Vivian has no recollection of the young Thaddeus, but, then again, she has hardly any recollection from the '70s.

"Even if I knew this guy, it was nothing but a dream," Vivian said.

Gloria goes back to her room and finds her suitcase on her bed. Unfortunately, the suitcase is filled with only a Whatchamacallit candy bar and a note from the officer, Officer Hunt, inviting Gloria for a beer. Officer Hunt is bewildered that Gloria is not on Facebook, even though he was conned by a Nigerian man pretending to be a woman on the site.

"You gotta be on Facebook, though, cause it's like a small town, only online," Officer Hunt says, adding that Facebook is the only way to connect because no one has time for human interaction anymore.

Either way, Hunt found nothing about Thaddeus Mobley, so he is completely unhelpful to Gloria. He continues to be the worst by objectifying her and giving off an air of general creepiness.


Fortunately, while Officer Hunt is relieving himself in the bathroom, she notices her seat partner from the plane sitting next to her. The man, Paul, and Gloria strike up a conversation and Officer Hunt's pathetic advances are rejected.

Gloria goes back to the motel and receives a notice from her new chief, who is not too happy with Gloria's trip. She flips the switch on the box, the box flips the switch right back and Gloria goes to bed.

We are taken back to the animated world of Thaddeus's story. The protagonist android is contemplating the origins of life while walking the earth for centuries. Each century the android recharges, leaving him vulnerable. Funnily, while scavengers tear off the robot's arm, the robot offers his help.

Gloria continues her search for Thaddeus Mobley at the Writers Guild of America. The search produces the screenplay mentioned in the beginning of the episode, "Planet Why," written by Thaddeus Mobley and produced by Howard Zimmerman. Gloria visits the elderly Zimmerman in his nursing home.

Unfathomable pinheadery is afoot in the second episode of Season 3 of “Fargo,” Surprise, surprise.

Zimmerman speaks through an electric larynx. We learn through Zimmerman's robotic voice (ironic considering how he produced sci-fi movies) that Thaddeus was a failure. Zimmerman then launches into an existentialist tirade about how we are all just colliding particles that meet only to drift apart. The man, clearly at the end of his rope, no longer believes these particle collisions mean anything.

We are brought back to the android wandering the animated earth, having an existential crisis of its own.

"Though his sensors recorded the data the numbers had become meaningless," Gloria's narration says. "From his remove he watched civilizations rise and fall. Hope became despair became hope became despair."

The android continued to wander the planet offering help to no one in particular until aliens visit and abduct him.

Gloria receives a message from Vivian requesting a call, and we flash back to Thaddeus, the unfortunate sucker in a grift.

Thaddeus visits Vivian and asks for more cocaine but is met with Zimmerman, who reveals himself as a conman in partnership with Vivian. Zimmerman offers some sympathy before his patience runs out and he captures Thaddeus in a headlock. Thaddeus breaks free and beats Zimmerman repeatedly, but stops short when he turns to Vivian, unable to strike the femme fatale. Thaddeus leaves, but not before uttering the perfect final words, "You're a bad person." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Vivian tells Gloria the story, and Gloria realizes that's all it is — an old story that has nothing to do with her stepfather's death. Heartbroken, she gets up to leave.

"He was right. I am a bad person, but he wasn't so good either," Vivian says as Gloria leaves.

Gloria takes a moment to ruminate on her life, likely about how meaningless it all is, on a Los Angeles beach.

We are taken back to the flashback of Thaddeus, a broken shell of a man having just beaten the hell out of his conman producer. He is rushing to escape his motel, and likely Los Angeles, but takes a break to puke in the toilet.

returned with a fresh story but "Fargo" returned for Season 3 with the same tone and staples that made the first two seasons must-watch television.

Gloria is packing to escape Los Angeles herself, and also finds herself in front of a toilet after having dropped something. She is surprised to see Dennis Stussy & Sons printed on the rim of the toilet. Only the "D" in Dennis was scratched off.

That's where Thaddeus, who looked at the same toilet while puking, got the idea for his new identity: Ennis Stussy.

We are taken back to the android. The android is being commended for his service by a united federation of planets. We learn that the android is the oldest sentient being in the universe and the data the little guy recovered along his journey is invaluable to the future of life. The android that only wants to help has helped in the biggest way, and is told he can finally shut down. The droid says he can help one more time, pops his top up and flips the switch to shut down.


The episode ends with Gloria receiving the prints from Thaddeus'/Ennis' house, which belonged to Maurice LeFay. Gloria learns that LeFay has been killed in a convenient accident and has hope that the case might be solved after all. We see that Gloria kept the flip-switching box in the back of her squad car and the episode ends.


This episode tracks three stories. The first is the story of Thaddeus Mobley, the man who was killed for having the wrong name. We learn of his particle collision with Howard Zimmerman, an idealistic conman, which ends with the repeated collision of a blunt instrument to Zimmerman's head. This collision resulted in Zimmerman alone in a hospital having lost any reason to live, and Thaddeus dead because some idiot ex-con lost a piece of paper. It is absurd and it proves that nothing means anything. It is a fully existentialist story.

The second is the story of the android that wanders the Earth for millions of years offering his help as civilizations build, only to inevitably crumble to the ground. Nobody accepts the android's help — they only rip him apart, and the android never can fulfill his purpose. Finally, the android learns his wandering was his purpose and it will help everyone in the universe; having fulfilled his life's goal, the android switches off. This story rejects existentialism and asserts that everything happens for a reason at the end of the day, no matter how absurd the circumstances.

Finally we have Gloria, caught in between the two stories. She wants to help, like the android, but she is chasing a bum lead in the case of her stepfather's death. She finds a machine with only one purpose, to flip a switch back in place. When she finally learns about Thaddeus' story, as incredible as it is, she realizes that it has nothing to do with his murder whatsoever and accepts that the entire trip was useless and absurd. However, by the end of the episode, Gloria returns to her real life and gets a glimmer of hope for her case.

There are obviously multiple interpretations of this episode, but to me "The Law of Non-Contradiction" is a life-affirming treat that rejects existentialism through, among other things, an adorable animated story. It is further proof that "Fargo" is one of the most refreshing and enthralling shows on television. It might be dark and absurdist, but everything comes full circle.

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