The principle of restricted choice is terminology that bridge players use. If you don’t happen to play the game, all you need to know is that it’s about the probability that allows players to figure out who is most likely to hold a certain card. That seems to be the scenario for this season — our characters play their hands with their prescribed partners, and we watch to see where the cards fall. That moment in episode 1 where Ray (Ewan McGregor) and Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) went to a bridge tournament is looking like a sweet little nod to the theme in retrospect. I’m guessing we’ll all be able to enjoy this season without taking up bridge, but as an avid player, my Granny will enjoy the layers of it more than me.
We open on Gloria (Carrie Coon), who is having flashbacks to finding her father dead. She’s flipping through a stack of sci-fi pulp novels she took from his house — it turns out he was an award-winning author who wrote under the pen name, Thaddeus Mobley. In conversation with her fellow Eden Falls officer, she reveals that his killers glued his eyes and mouth shut. She also reveals that her cell service is terrible, and that seems like a thing that’s going to come back to bite her in the ass later. So does her partner forgetting his gun in the car. The sensor on this automatic door also doesn’t recognize her, and as I mentioned before, I empathize. This phenomenon is a real problem for real humans, let’s give it a name by next week’s episodes (I’ll read your suggestions in the comments). We learn that Gloria’s a Luddite and step one of Sheriff Moe Dammik’s (Shea Whigham) absorption is unboxing some computers. In 2010. She leaves to interview a potential witness, and we get it, people in Minnesota are provincial. Her first big clue is that the guy tore out the phone book page with Ennis’s address on it, so they were looking for him.
Emmit (Ewan McGregor) and Sy (Michael Stuhlbarg) are trying to go through the proper channels to get V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) off their backs, but they’re are not playing their hand properly. When the ask their attorney to find him, after he so much as searches him online his internet goes out. That's’ some far-reaching power, who is this guy? The NSA? On the drive home, Sy says something that’s hella true about Ray to Emmit. “He doesn’t want the stamp pal, he wants your life.” How is that a thought that has never crossed Emmit’s mind already?
Off in his own world of intrigue, Varga shows up to banter with the locals and park the world’s most conspicuous big rig in one of Emmit’s parking lots. The man driving it is none other than Yuri Gurka (Goran Bogdan), the man the German authorities were seeking in episode 1 (and he later throws Irv off a parking structure). Guess his employers will be doing more than money laundering. (Side note: in Sy & Emmit’s exchange about this, Ewan McGregor seems to forget how to do a Minnesota accent and slips hardcore into his Scottish accent. “Slave girls?”)
After Ray and Nikki killed Maurice LeFay (Scott McNair) with an air conditioner last week, he goes to check his death certificate and finds it was declared accidental, misadventure by major appliance. Nikki slaps him twice when he comes to her about it and tells him it was because there’s something wrong with his chi, which may be the greatest line so far in this series. Then she tells him he’s got the soul of a poet and that he’s her honey bear. This character is amazing and that he has no urge to follow up on her declaration that she gave a fake ID to the cops and is renting her apartment under a fake name sums this shitshow of a relationship up. Oh and she can’t have sex because she’s on her period, then busts him for admitting he talked about her ass with his boss who called it “the Nutcracker.” Nikki Swango is the baddest bitch who knows everything about the fragile male ego.
“Who died? It’s 10:30,” says Emmit when Ray shows up at his house after Nikki talks him into robbing his brother rather than forgiving him because that’s just how she does. While they’re sitting outside having a brotherly chat, she breaks in to steal the stamp. Emmit notices the desk lamp she left on and sees that in the frame where his stamp used to hang is a picture of a donkey with “who’s the ass now?” written in her period blood. She also left him a used tampon. Baddest. Bitch. If Ray doesn’t realize how bad, he’s going to be very surprised by how this game of bridge turns out with that guy as a partner. While Ray leaves their convo feeling good, like this so-called blood feud is settled, Nikki is already trying to cover up what she did and blame it on Emmit. Where is the stamp? Apparently, Emmit’s cleaning lady broke the frame, so he took it down to have it fixed. Blood feud: on.
Sy is certainly inserting himself into Emmit and Ray’s feud a lot. What is in it for him? Blood always ends up being thicker than water, although his Hummer is thicker than Ray’s Porsche (or whatever, I really can’t identify car makes on sight).
This concept of partners makes the season interesting. Everyone has a counterpart, either egging them on into bad decisions or pushing them towards a dark fate. How will the cards be dealt?