Review: FX's dazzling 'Fargo' is most definitely worth a return visit
Here we go: Just don’t ask where we’re going.
In part, the question for this highly anticipated third installment of FX’s Fargo (Wednesday, 10 ET/PT, **** out of four) is unanswerable because only two episodes were made available for preview. But in larger part, it's impossible to answer because this dazzling, dizzyingly creative series from Noah Hawley never shows all of its cards at once. If you’ve watched the first two seasons (and if you haven’t, put them in your must-see streaming queue), you know that Hawley delights in littering his story with small, seemingly unconnected events that collide and combine in startlingly unexpected ways.
So when the opening episode, written and directed by Hawley, inexplicably kicks off in East Berlin in 1988, there are only two things an initiate needs to know. One is that the scene will, in all probability, eventually make sense. The other is that, like pretty much every scene in Fargo — even the ones that you never quite make sense of — it’s a wonder to behold.
Never fear; we’re soon off to familiar Fargo stomping grounds: small-town Minnesota. It’s now 2010, which allows the show to explore new issues caused by technological developments and the economic downturn.
Still, the fundamental divides in Fargo’s moral universe remain the same. At the extremes, you have a few very good people and a few truly evil ones. And in the middle, you have the people who cause all the problems, whose moral paths are decided by what, and whom, they happen to come across.
That certainly is true of brothers Emmit and Ray Stussy — both played by Ewan McGregor — who have been at odds over their inheritance ever since their dad died. Emmit is the happily married, seemingly successful “Parking Lot King of Minnesota,” while the overweight, balding Ray is a parole officer who is secretly dating a very "simpatico" parolee, Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
Ray needs money to buy Nikki an engagement ring, which is one source of trouble. Emmit, meanwhile, has money problems of his own: He borrowed to keep his business afloat, and the man who comes to collect, V.M. Varga (David Thewlis), wants more in return than Emmit realized.
A crime will occur, which will lead to another one, which will bring us to local cop Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon). And once again, as a woman in a male-dominated profession, she will deal with idiots.
The marvel in the first two outings is Hawley’s ability to write and film conversations that have a deep undercurrent of malice without anything malicious being said. And if it’s true that no actual person has ever really blamed a problem on “unfathomable pinheadery” — well, some of us will from now on.
This is a series chock full of great characters, male and female, that exudes wit, intelligence and a palpable desire to entertain. It’s possible, of course, that this latest Fargo will sag in the middle or fall apart at the end. But neither of the other two seasons did, so here's betting this one won’t either.
So just go with it.