Fargo, FX Season 3 (Spoiler free review!)
With the end of June comes the close of the most recent season of FX’s hit series, Fargo. After another season that was filled with surprises, twists, and turns, of course, everyone is wondering… will there be a fourth season? While series writer, Noah Hawley, cannot say for certain, it’s just best to wait and see. But the real question that remains is, Does this show deserve a season 4?
Fargo, at it’s core is a spin-off. It was made in the image of the movie, extolling on the themes of good versus evil, and the timelessness of that fight. While the movie was always considered a quaint little cult classic, the TV series introduced many to the bizarre universe that is Fargo for the first time. While not quite a crime drama, it is a drama, with hints of horror and sci-fi.
The show takes place Minnesota, though that is not always true. The titular city of Fargo, in the show and movie, are rarely, if ever visited. Instead, the name Fargo could really refer to the geographical area of the Twin Cities. The series, and the movie bring to it a small town charm that almost takes on a character of it’s own. The characters are marked by their Minnesotan accents (which sound similar to the way Canadians are said to speak), their gentle, and simple lives and manners.
To give a summary of the plot of the movie would be doing it a disservice to those who have not seen it, but it could be described as a series of unfortunate events. The movie feels similar to Pulp Fiction, in the introduction of characters, and interweaving stories. With every season of the show comes the same yet different formula: A complex issue that stands in the way of the protagonist accomplishing a goal, a plan that seeks to resolve the issue, the plan going horribly wrong, and the subsequent aftermath of the botched plan.
Although the idea of a formula might seem constrictive, it is what keeps the show and the movie tied, and allows for the writers to add little tie-ins from every season. The seasons themselves are not in chronological order. In fact, if the movie and the show were put in to order, it would be season 2, the movie, season 1 and then season 3. And even though they are connected by similar themes, characters, and even characters that reappear, each season is self contained.
The current season followed a pair of brothers who were involved in a blood feud which causes all of those around them to become involved with fatal consequences. Fargo is known for it’s star studded cast, and bringing some fresh faces to the scene, and this season was no different. Joining the cast this season was Ewan McGregor (Star Wars Episodes II & III, Trainspotting), David Thewlis (Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, Naked), Carrie Coon (Gone Girl, The Leftovers), Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man, Broadwalk Empire) & Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, 10 Cloverfield Lane).
Other seasons have included: Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, BBC’s Sherlock), Billy Bob Thornton (Armageddon, Sling Blade), Kristen Dunst (Spiderman, Melancholia), Ted Danson (Cheers, Saving Private Ryan) just to name a few. You’d think that it would distract from the show, but in my opinion, it only adds to the charm!
The third season, in my opinion was an exercise in patience. While it might be my favorite season of the show, I would be unfair if I did not admit that I had my reservations. One of the joys of watching Fargo is to see how badly things unravel, and then see how the show settles the ensuing mess that is left behind. The bad guys in this universe don’t always win, and so it is always a delight to see how it plays out. Unfortunately, this season to me felt as though it took a particularly long time to build up. I remember tuning in during the 5th or 6th episode and wondering, Where are the connections?
As I mentioned before, the devil is in the details, and while the level of attention to them is not quite as meticulous as Kubrick, it is present, and eagle eyed viewers are rewarded for spotting little hints of foreshadowing and connections from the previous installments. This season in particular asks that the viewers are patient, but it does pay off. There is something satisfying about catching the little nods to the other seasons and the movies.
Having said that, although rewarding, I felt as though this season was lacking, in terms of resolution. The show itself was as brutal and raw as ever, with Ewan McGregor pulling off the role of both Emmit and Ray Stussy–the two (not twin) brothers at the center of the feud. He did an excellent job of playing both roles–there were times I forgot that they were, in fact the same person. Cleverly having the brothers rarely meet in person, but just enough that it seemed believable, it was easy to forget that one man was doing both roles. Then there was the villian, David Thewlis’s Varga. Thewlis managed to bring the right amount of creepy, yet menacing to the character that made him as memorable as the other characters. Yes, the characters themselves were well written and skillfully played, however, it still didn’t convince me that this year, the pacing felt off.
The second half of the season makes up for the slow pace of the first half, but I find that newer viewers might be discouraged by the way things are laid out. In all, I would have to say that this season of Fargo while being well done, was not without it’s flaws. I felt that the way the season ended left a little too much to be desired, and with no real clear answer, (at least that I could see), I walked away from the show feeling more or less like I had been tricked, similar to the way I felt about the ending of Inception. I would give the show about a 7 out of 10. While everything else was done wonderfully, the “it’ll get done when it gets done” approach to the season in the way the events play out was just too slow. It left me feeling frantic, and the episodes which featured action felt particularly condensed. If I remember correctly, the final two episodes actually went over the alloted time slot of an hour, by about 15 minutes, to try and wrap things up. I felt like this could have been avoided, but perhaps we will see if there is a next season.
If you’re a fan of Hitchcockian themes, such as mistaken identity, and unfortunate circumstances, then you’ll enjoy Fargo. Just be aware that it’s rating is TV-MA, and rightfully so, as it includes violence, and a couple of swears.