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FARGO Will Have Its Most Intimate and Emotional Season Yet (Review)

FARGO Will Have Its Most Intimate and Emotional Season Yet (Review)

This is a spoiler-free review based on the first two episodes of the new season of Fargo from FX. Okay then? So don’t you go worrying about having the show ruined for you.

Going into year three of Fargo on FX, we expected greatness after two stellar seasons, but that also meant it had a lot to live up to. We know the show will give us lots of hilarious black comedy, delightful accents, and plenty of murder, all performed by an all-star cast; what we don’t know though is whether the plot will meet the show’s own lofty standards, and if we will care about the characters as much as we have in the past.

FARGO -- Year 3 -- Pictured: Carrie Coon as Gloria Burgle. CR: Chris Large/FX

Based on the first two episodes, the answer to both of those questions is “yes,” but more importantly, this season’s more intimate story–set in 2010 in Minnesota and revolving around two very different brothers with a difficult past, and a police officer with a personal connection to the enveloping darkness of this world–might make it the most emotional yet.

In addition to Ewan McGregor, who is playing two major roles, brothers Emmit and Ray Stussy (which you can read a lot more about from our set visit story on him/them here), this year’s main cast is much smaller than prior years, especially compared to last year’s sprawling story.

FARGO -- Pictured: Ewan McGregor as Emmit Stussy. CR: Matthias Clamer/FX

Carrie Coon fills the ever important role of this season’s main investigator, police officer Gloria Burgle, a woman who is already struggling with major personal and professional issues when both of those worlds come together in an unfathomable way. Fargo has always given us officers of the law who are solving absurd cases while dealing with personal problems (which include automatic doors not working for her), but never before have the two been so intertwined as they are for Coon’s Burgle this season. The Leftovers star, who knows a little something about having to hold it together while the weight of the world crashes on her like an avalanche, is more than up to the task. With just a look she manages to convey complete heartbreak without sacrificing the steely resolve needed to do her difficult job.

FARGO -- Pictured: Carrie Coon as Gloria Burgle. CR: Matthias Clamer/FX

It’s not easy stepping into the position of the female police officer on Fargo, a role made iconic by both Frances McDormand in the movie and Allison Tolman in season one, but Coon is fantastic here, especially since Gloria has more bite to her personality than the normally super-polite people of the Fargo universe. She makes us like and empathize with Gloria even when Gloria’s not at her best, and that makes her far more relatable and therefore sympathetic.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Ray’s chi-concerned, free-spirited, strong-willed girlfriend, parolee Nikki Swango, whose devotion to Ray is far more authentic than we would have guessed based on the trailers. In fairness, we were dubious since he is also her parole officer. Not to mention this is what she looks like.

FARGO -- Pictured: Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Nikki Swango. CR: Matthias Clamer/FX

And this is Ray.

FARGO -- Year 3 -- Pictured: Ewan McGregor as Ray Stussy. CR: Chris Large/FX

Talking about dating up.

The competitive-Bridge-playing Nikki is complex, a supportive and loving version of Lady Macbeth crossed with a person who probably only shops at all natural stores, and Winstead’s portrayal of her is supremely enjoyable, as she’s having lots of fun with the character. (Note: Nikki is from Chicago, hence the different accent.)

David Thewlis plays the main criminal of the season, the thin and mysterious suit-wearing V.M. Varga, who might already be my favorite Fargo baddie ever. Yes, yes, I know that’s quite the statement, but it’s not hyperbole. He’s unlike any past bad guys, and he is absolutely hilarious. His introduction to the story had me laughing out loud.

FARGO -- Pictured: David Thewlis as V.M. Vargas. CR: Matthias Clamer/FX

Through the first two episodes who he is or what he is after isn’t totally clear, just like he wants, but that just makes Varga even more interesting. Because while his attire, accent, and worldly outlook make him feel less dangerous than past Fargo villains, in other ways he’s the most imposing one yet, in part because he seems to have a much bigger and more authentic-feeling goal in mind, and he’ll do anything needed to achieve it. That’s a dangerous combination, even if Thewlis is so funny as he does it.

But it’s not just the smaller cast that makes the show feel intimate, it’s the relationship between Emmit and Ray that makes the story feel personal and more emotional already. The two brothers–Emmit who is hugely successful, and Ray who is viewed more as a loser–have an unresolved issue from their past involving their inheritances and the swapping of very valuable stamps for a car.

FARGO -- Pictured: Ewan McGregor as Emmit Stussy. CR: Matthias Clamer/FX

It’s not just a major plot point, it creates a very sad, very human situation, where two brothers, who seem like they are both good guys at their core (I found Emmit to be way more likable than I expected, though with the unpredictability of Fargo who knows how I’ll feel about anyone by the end of episode three), could possibly get past their problems (and want to) if they didn’t each have someone in their ear driving them further apart–Nikki for Ray, and the “not as confident as he pretends to be” slimy lawyer for Emmit, Sy Feltz, played wonderfully by Michael Stuhlbarg.

FARGO -- Year 3 -- Pictured (l-r): Michael Stuhlbarg as Sy Feltz, Ewan McGregor as Emmit Stussy. CR: Chris Large/FX

For all of the absurdity of what takes place in their lives here–the kind of major, potentially life-ruining problems that always happen to characters on the show–the sadness of their own broken relationship grounds the story immediately, giving Ray and Emmit’s plights an emotional weight that usually takes far more of the season to truly develop.

Obviously death and murder are a big part of what happens early on, and while it’s nearly impossible to ever predict where Noah Hawley is taking the story specifically, it’s headed towards complete, out-of-control mayhem. That element is such a staple of the show it doesn’t feel new or original, and it’s not even a real criticism (our only real issue is that the second episode wasn’t as good as the stellar premiere, but that’s because it felt like a transition episode, which any show has to have to create worthy payoffs later), but never before have I found myself this early in the season caring so much about the people caught up in it, especially Gloria and the Stussy brothers.

FARGO -- Year 3 -- Pictured: Ewan McGregor as Ray Stussy. CR: Chris Large/FX

Great, compelling, interesting characters played by great actors, murder and absurdity, those are the things we know we’ll get from Fargo, but it’s the emotional investment in it, present right from the onset, that has us excited for the rest of this season.

But what are you most looking forward to this year? Aww geez it sure would be great if you’d tell us whatcha think in the comments below now.

Images: FX

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