Fargo’s third season doesn’t quite reach the near-perfect heights of the first two seasons, but it still delivers fun and interestingly flawed characters, some great scenes and a generally interesting plotline. Not much else to say, opening-paragraph-wise, so let’s just take a closer look, shall we? …
Ray Stussy and Nikki Swango, after unsuccessfully trying to rob Ray’s brother Emmit, become involved in a double murder case. One of the victims is an old man with a mysterious past whose stepdaughter, Gloria Burgle is a policewoman who is far more clever than her superiors think. Meanwhile, Emmit tries to cut his ties with a shady organization he borrowed money from two years ago, but the company, and its boss V.M. Varga, have other plans…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
This technically isn’t my normal screenshot, but I love how it demonstrates the two completely different characters that Ewan McGregor plays.
Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) – Emmit runs a now successful parking lot company and has a happy marriage with plenty of kids, nothing could possible go wrong… until it does… and boy does it ever!
Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) – Gloria is used to being in charge of her small town’s police department, so when the Eden Valley police department get absorbed into county department and she finds herself with a controlling boss, things start getting a little more stressful… and that was just the beginning.
Ray Stussy (Ewan McGregor) – While Emmit got the money and the lifestyle, Ray got a banged up old car and a job as a probation officer… Still, the job lead him to find the love of his life, which I’m sure will lead to nothing but happiness!
Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) – Nikki loves playing competitive Bridge and is generally very good at predicting moves and planning ahead… this comes in handy when she and her fiancée Ray get entangled in a rather complex web of lies and law breaking…
V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) – Extremely unpleasant British businessman who seemingly always gets his way. Flanked by armed bodyguards at all times, he is a master at manipulating people to his will and then vanishing back into the ether.
Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard) – Deaf assassin who had once previously got caught up in the shootings involving Lorne Malvo four years ago. He ends up in a prison bus chained to Nikki Swango, soon finding himself in another complicated mess…
Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) – Loyal right hand man of Emmit Stussy, Sy finds himself on the receiving end of a lot of abuse from Varga and his men, who would prefer to just manipulate Emmit by himself…
Plus many more!
Man, that facial expression says it all… possibly the most obnoxious character I’ve seen on TV!
Fargo is many things, but first and foremost it’s just great storytelling. It gives you great, often wonderfully flawed characters, and puts them in situations both dark and darkly comedic. Season 3 is no different. Seeing Emmit Stussy’s life literally unravel thanks to one wrong business move a year prior was really interesting, but mainly due to David Thewlis, who literally steals every scene he’s in and is completely convincing as frankly one of the least pleasant TV characters I’ve ever had to watch.
Ewan McGregor’s other role as Ray Stussy was also great, top marks to the actor for playing two completely different characters in the one show, getting sympathy from Ray and feelings of “he deserves this!” followed by “Poor guy, that’s going too far…” for Emmit. Ray’s love with Nikki plays around with you, at the start thinking the people around him are right and he’s just being manipulated, then seeing it is actually love making Ray’s accidental death all the more tragic. By, the way, didn’t see that coming! I hope you listened to my spoiler warning, because that scene was amazing.
Michael Stuhlbarg’s Sy Feltz also deserves a mention, because I REALLY felt sorry for him at several points. The scene where Varga… literally forced him to drink his piss nearly made me gag due to the close ups of Sy’s moustache… then the whole poison thing… I mean, he had plenty of flaws (who doesn’t in this show, apart from female cops…) but seeing he never really fully recovered was sad… I also have to praise Carrie Coon as Gloria Burgle. I may have my dislikes about the unoriginality of her character and plotline (see below!) but she still played the role perfectly.
Top marks for the ending as well. Super tense face off between Emmit and Nikki, then Emmit, Nikki and a policeman were great. The idea that once again Emmit ended up getting away with it and instead of confessing to anyone, he got his old life back… for five years, then was finally offed. That’s another thing, actually: Russell Harvard’s Mr. Wrench was once again a great character. I was happy to see him survive another season (that’s all three, if you count his brief childhood cameo from Season 2!). The final scene with Varga and Gloria, where Gloria thinks she’s finally got him at last, and Varga once again guarantees he has a way out, and then we fade to black without knowing which was right… was good! Most times that would be frustrating, but it fitted Varga so much that I couldn’t help but smirk as the credits started rolling.
I’m not sure where to put my thoughts on Episode 3 “The Law of Non-Contradiction”. The episode is about Gloria Burgle going to L.A. to research her stepfather after his recent death. She finds out he was secretly a sci-fi writer who had a … rough time, to say the least, all the while cartoon inserts of one of his books (“The Planet Wyh”) fill out the episode. In the end, it has no connection to the overall plot, Gloria returns home and the series resumes in the next episode. It was well written, and the scenes set in the past were often full of good Fargo dark humour and tragedy, but… it, by it’s own admission, has no actual point to it. Like Season 2’s UFO, I think it was just created to get people talking about a “deeper meaning”, whether it actually has one or not…
Two female cops who are looked down on by their male superior officers for the price of one!
Gloria Burgle, as I said above, is well played by Carrie Coon, but the character and her key story of being overruled by a obnoxiously inept superior officer is a literal repeat of Season 1, and because of that I found it quite annoying. Fargo has had such a unique feel each season, to get something that directly calls me back to a previous season in tone felt completely out of place.
I also have to mention that the colourful henchmen this season, Andy Yu’s Meemo and Goran Bogdan’s Yuri Gurka, were completely unmemorable, especially against Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers from Season 1, and Mike Milligan and the Kitchen Brothers from Season 2.
Lastly I have to say that the first half of the season was quite slow. The prior two seasons fired on all cylinders from the off and kept going with great … well, everything, where as this was slower and more deliberate. It’s not a really bad thing, as I’ve said before on this blog, if you watch several episodes a week, rather than one a week like I did for this review, you might feel differently.
If you have to get attacked on a prison bus, this is a good person to sit next to!
Fargo’s first two seasons are among my favourite things I’ve watched in some time, possible ever, so to see Season 3 drop to “very good” is a shame, but it’s still very good! Great characters, dialogue, plot… it still has it all, really, just slower and with a few repeated story points. Still worth (roughly) ten hours of your life, that’s for sure!