How Female Cops Molly Solverson and Gloria Burgle Shaped Fargo

first_imgStay on target As an anthology series, each season of Fargo tells its own complete story. As long as you jump in at the start of the new season, you don’t need to have seen the previous ones to appreciate what’s going on. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t connections and rewards for viewers who have seen it all the way through. With every new season, part of the fun is hunting for references to the previous ones. And the movie. And other Coen Brothers movies. While the second season was clearly a prequel to the first, the third season stands more on its own. So far, our one major connection has been the recent appearance of Mr. Wrench from season one. But of course, each season connects thematically to the others, and there’s no greater parallel between seasons one and three than the capable, underestimated lady cop.In season one, Molly Solverson (played by Allison Tolman) attempted to solve the mystery surrounding Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) and Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton). In season three, Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) tries to solve the murder of her former stepfather, which draws her into the middle of a feud between the two Stussy brothers (both played by Ewan McGregor). Season two didn’t have a lady cop, though Lou Solverson’s (Patrick Wilson) wife did help her husband figure things out. For the purposes of this comparison though, we’ll just focus on seasons one and three. Both are modeled after Marge Gunderson (Francis McDormand) from the movie. All three are faced with confusing, convoluted murder cases involving people who aren’t very good at the whole crime thing.Allison Tolman as Molly Solverson, Bob Odenkirk as Bill Oswalt (CR: Chris Large/FX)The StruggleOne thing that both Solverson and Burgle have to deal with that Gunderson doesn’t is having their authority constantly undermined by their (male) bosses. That’s partially to pad out the plot. The movie is just over an hour and a half long. With the convoluted case, bumbling criminals, and odd Mike Yanagita scene, that’s all it takes for Gunderson to solve the case. With each season of Fargo being 10 hours long, Solverson and Burgle need something other than the mystery at hand to struggle against. They need something to hold them back and prevent them from wrapping up the season one-and-a-half episodes in.For Solverson, that was Chief of Police Bill Oswalt, played by Bob Odenkirk. He was friends with Lester Nygaard, and was therefore all too willing to believe his story. When the details didn’t add up for Solverson, Oswalt put her under immense pressure to let it go. He didn’t want to believe that his high school buddy could possibly have murdered his wife. Even when a witness saw Nygaard talking with murder suspect Lorne Malvo, he insists there’s no connection. Further, attempts to question Nygaard lead to accusations of harassment, and a direct order to drop the case. In season one, Solverson is vindicated when the ill-fated FBI agents (played by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) take a look at her work. They marvel at the how much of the case she solved on her own, and make Oswalt feel stupid for not listening to her. Realizing that he failed to see that one of his best friends was a murderer, Oswalt resigned. Solverson, for all her hard work, became the new chief.Shea Whigham, Carrie Coon (Photo via FX)It’s hard to say at this point whether Burgle will see the same vindication. With two episodes left in the season, she’s only just now gotten a major break in her case, with Emmit Stussy apparently ready to confess. It’s hard to say whether that will matter to her boss, who remains the most frustratingly difficult obstacle any Fargo protagonist has ever faced. Played brilliantly by Shea Whigham, Chief Moe Dammik refuses to believe there’s any connection between the Stussy brothers and her murdered ex-stepfather, who also happened to have taken the name “Stussy.” He’s so obtuse; he spends an entire scene telling Burgle a long story that boils down to “coincidences are a thing.” Even when a suspect is almost assassinated in the police station, he still refuses to believe anything bigger is going on.He also represents a greater threat to Burgle than Oswalt did to Solverson. While Oswalt represented a boys’ club mentality standing in Solverson’s way, Dammik is there to take Burgle’s job. Gloria Burgle is already the chief of the Eden Valley Police when season three begins. Dammik is the chief of the County Police, who are absorbing her department. After last week’s time jump, the transition is over. Burgle is a deputy and the police department has a very different look. She may yet solve the mystery, but she won’t be chief again.Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo (CR: Chris Large/FX)The AnticlimaxBurgle’s story appears to be building up to another parallel between Burgle and Solverson’s stories: An anticlimactic end to the biggest cases of their lives. In season one, though Solverson gets credit for piecing everything together, she isn’t the one to take down Malvo. That honor goes to her husband, Gus Grimly, who isn’t even a cop anymore. He’s the one who tracks Malvo to his cabin hideout, and shoots him. In the season’s final scene, he receives a citation for bravery. Solverson responds that that’s OK. She gets to be chief. The whole season felt like a build up to a showdown between her and Malvo, and we didn’t get it. It was purposefully anticlimactic, because that’s not how real life murder cases play out. And Fargo is a true story, after all.Season three appears to be setting us up for the same kind of disappointment. She’ll solve the mystery, but we may not get the Burgle-Varga showdown we all want. She may not even catch him at all. Remember, it took a cornered Lester Nygaard, the police work of Molly Solverson, and the bravery of Gus Grimly to take Malvo down. Varga seems much more competent and restrained than Malvo. Nobody has been able to get the drop on him. He may just slip away from all this unscathed.Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard, Allison Tolman as Molly Solverson (CR: Chris Large/FX)The InterviewThe best scenes in all of Fargo are when the cop asks an involved party a simple question that bothers them way more than it should In the movie, this led to one of the great scenes of cinema history. All it took was William H. Macy and Frances McDormand sitting across a desk from one another, talking. Marge Gunderson asks again if any cars had gone missing from the lot, and Jerry Lundegaard flips out. (“I’m… cooperatin’ here!”) In that moment, everything Gunderson suspected is confirmed. Lundegaard is definitely involved in his wife’s disappearance, and after he flees the interview, it’s only a matter of time before he’s caught.This scene repeats itself multiple times over the course of a season on Fargo. In season one, Molly Solverson visits Lester Nygaard at his workplace multiple times asking for clarification about the night his wife was murdered. (I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I’m just now realizing how similar the names of the major players of season one are to those of the film.) It doesn’t take long before Nygaard starts yelling at her about harassment, begging to be left alone. His disproportionate reaction gives him away, inspiring Solverson to keep coming after him.Ewan McGregor and Carrie Coon (Photo via FX)Gloria Burgle has two suspects to question, though both are portrayed by the same actor. When she learns that the man who killed Ennis Stussy had a parole officer with the same last name, she starts thinking there might be some kind of connection there. One interview later, she’s absolutely sure there is. With girlfriend Nikki Swango by his side, Ray Stussy is cool and confident. Without her, he melts after two or three questions. Emmit isn’t much better. After questioning him, she doesn’t know about Varga, but it’s obvious he’s hiding something. After Ray turns up dead, she doesn’t buy the neatly packaged story Varga left for the police. She knows Emmit’s involved, but isn’t quite sure how.These scenes are where the policewomen of Fargo really get to shine. They aren’t the ones who chase down the bad guys in the end, so these are their big showdowns. They confront someone they suspect is a liar, and watch them prove it. Their styles of interrogation are a bit different. Tolman’s Solverson is relentless in her questioning, showing up at Nygaard’s office and home, constantly bringing up the details her boss is content to overlook. Burgle appears less sure of herself. As the world is changing around her, she still isn’t quite aware of how deep this murder case goes. She just knows that something is off. That’s all she needs to ask the right questions. It doesn’t even feel like she means to reduce her interviewees to quivering, shouting puddles of nerves.Jordan Peele as Agent Pepper, Keegan-Michael Key as Agent Budge, Bob Odenkirk as Bill Oswalt, Allison Tolman as Molly Solverson (CR: Chris Large/FX)MotherhoodThe policewomen of Fargo have very different relationships with motherhood. This all stems from Marge Gunderson, who was pregnant during the events of the movie. The first season managed to avoid direct comparisons between the Frances McDormand and Allison Tolman by having Molly Solverson start out a single woman. We go to know her has a funny, sharp and dedicated cop. Then, late in the season, the show jumped forward a year. Suddenly, she was married to Gus and well into a pregnancy. That’s when you realized she had more in common with Marge Gunderson than you ever thought. That’s when season one wore its movie inspiration proudly, telling you exactly what role Solverson was going to fill.Carrie Coon’s Gloria Burgle, on the other hand, is at a completely different stage in her life. She has a kid, and there’s no chance of a pregnancy happening anytime soon. Her son is the reason she even has a relationship with the murdered Ennis Stussy in the first place. She wants him to have a father figure to look up to, even if the closest thing she can offer is an ex-stepdad who divorced her mother ages ago.Carrie Coon, Graham Verchere (Photo via FX)Their relationships with motherhood forms how they relate to the mystery at hand. The stakes are high and personal, because for Gunderson and Solverson, they’re about to bring a child into a world that has suddenly proved to be much less safe than they’d assumed. In the movie, Gunderson tears up when she realizes that someone would kidnap, kill and woodchip people “all for a little bit of money.” In season one, Solverson’s hometown of Bemidji is suddenly home to a serial killer and a man who seems to have gotten away with killing his first wife. By contrast, season three has Gloria Burgle realizing that she can’t protect her son from the horrors of the world. She tries to give him a father figure, but he’s asphyxiated to death. She tries to fight off change, and live the small-town life she’s comfortable with, but the march of progress drags her along with it. She and her son have to navigate a world that is suddenly much bigger than the one they’ve always known.Ray Wise, Carrie Coon (Photo via FX)Why Is Gloria Different?The discerning lady cop has become a Fargo archetype at this point, but all three are very different people, and their cases mean different things to them. Marge Gunderson slowly comes to realize that humans are capable of some terrible things when a little bit of money comes into play. In the end, with the men responsible caught, she and her husband can look forward to welcoming their child into the world. Molly Solverson follows a similar journey, though the show takes the time to establish her as her own character. She isn’t as immediately snappy when an interviewee yells at her out of nowhere. It only makes her more suspicious and determined. By the end of the season, she’s in a similar place to Gunderson at the end of the film. She takes comfort in the fact that she kept her family safe. She’s proud of her husband’s accomplishments, and looking forward to meeting her child.Season three’s Gloria Burgle is the first of Fargo‘s policewomen to break this formula. That’s what makes her so interesting. In a season where the rest of the plot seems to be going by the numbers, Burgle is the one consistent bit of fresh air. It also helps that Carrie Coon is fantastic. Her story is all about getting lost in a world she doesn’t recognize. This was explored literally in the Los Angeles episode, but her own town is increasingly foreign to her. This is especially apparent when we see her relationship with technology. She doesn’t like it, and it doesn’t even recognize her. (Coon’s character in The Leftovers also shares this trait. Fargo creator Noah Hawley says he wasn’t aware of this, and Coon didn’t tell him.) This season takes place in 2010, a time when technology was rapidly taking over everyday life. Burgle refuses to be a part of it. Her police department is entirely offline. It doesn’t even have a website. It’s not until the county takes over that the office is forced to start using computers.Burgle’s distaste for technology has already saved her life once. When Varga searched for her on Facebook, he was shocked that he couldn’t find any evidence of her existence. She is the one person Varga can’t seem to hurt. Even as the world threatens to drag you kicking and screaming into the future, there appears to be some worth in lagging behind a little. Burgle’s unfamiliarity with the world around her may be what allows her to catch Varga. With two episodes left in the season, it won’t be long before we find out. Carrie Coon Joins Infinity War, A Strange Sequel and More MCU NewsFargo Leaves the End of its Story Up to Us last_img

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