Set between 2010 and 2011, the third season darts between three Minnesota towns: St Cloud, Eden Valley and Eden Prairie with the antics of Ray and Emmit Stussey (both Ewan McGregor). But also Nikko Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who, with Ray, after trying to rob Emmit, become entangled in a double homicide case regarding an old man with a bad history. And it happens that the stepdaughter of the deceased is policewoman Gloria Bungle (Carrie Coon). In the meantime, Emmit tries his best to sever links with a dodgy business he borrowed money from, but that company has other ideas, as depicted by their representative V. M. Varga (David Thewlis).
Despite being set in the modern day, the 2010s no less, this season of Fargo felt all too 1980s. It was the clothes and the hair that made me have notions of this nature. Much ado with Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Mercy Street). From Miss Winstead’s classy jackets, sometimes leather, to Sy Feltz’s (Michael Stuhlbarg) inspirational moustache and The Stussey establishment unapologetically oozed entitlement and self-importance to the point that it smelled like Wall Street where money-making mongrels reeked of douchebagery. Though, Ray’s curls must be commended. Always well-groomed, even when threatened by the awkwardly good David Thewlis.
And every rendition of Fargo is filled to the hoots with talent. Season one had Martin Freeman (Sherlock) and Billy Bob Thornton tearing up the shop whilst season two followed Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Patrick Wilson and Jean Smart (24). Season three is equally brilliant in terms of its casting choices. First off casting Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting) twice is a bold move that paid off. Carrie Coon (The Leftovers) as the Deputy Solverson (Alison Tolman) stand-in from season one or even McDormand’s Gunderson from the film was really great. David Thewlis is a melting pot of talent too. From Wonder Woman to Harry Potter to Macbeth, everything he touches turns to gold.
But for me, throughout the season, it was Mary Elizabeth Winstead who deserves most of the praise. She knows how to work the camera and goes all out in every scene, often out-performing Ewan McGregor. ‘Who Rules the Land of Denial?’ was a Winstead episode for sure. First watching Winstead ten years ago in Tarantino’s Deathproof and then in Wright’s Scott Pilgrim, she has really come far. But it was in PBS’ American Civil War-set-period drama Mercy Street that really showed her high skill. And when she was cast in Fargo, I knew we were in for a ride. After this season, I think it’s Emmy nominations all round, as creator Noah Hawley has hit an epic six with Winstead.
Whilst many shows these days, especially in the States, can’t maintain quality with each season, Fargo manages to maintain a high standard. Season one is by far my favourite season. But season three and the show as a whole has one of the best casts of any television show in the last twenty years. Many works these days have fallen into the trap of casting big actors and ultimately wasting them. One example includes new movie Baby Driver, which ends with Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained) and Kevin Spacey (Usual Suspects) being wasted with little to no character development over a thread of pretty pyrotechnic party tricks for no payoff and falls flat.
Fargo is one of the only shows that has made me care for its characters within moments of a season starting. By episode three, I had begun to care for the Stusseys and Nikko. I had grown to love to hate Vagra. Typically, Thewlis plays the bad guy and he does it well. Some are born to play heroes and some to play villains. And then you have David Thewlis who plays the worst kind of character and you can’t help but love to hate him because it’s David Thewlis. Other examples of that include Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan in The Walking Dead, and Idris Elba playing Stringer Bell in The Wire. Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones also succeeded in this.
FX may be lesser known than the likes of AMC or HBO. But they have shown their ability to compete with the big networks, as made example with Fargo and Feud. With excellent performances and beautiful photography as always, Fargo continues to be my go-to show for undisputed excellence in a time where television programmes are being axed even before they’ve left the parking lot.