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Fargo - Season 3 Review - Siblings, Stamps, and Swango

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Without question, season 3 of Fargo had some hefty standards to live up to – but then, that’s nothing new for the series. When the anthology first began, it was an offshoot of a much-beloved film, and yet somehow the first season not only lived up to expectations but also exceeded them. The second season, then, was as good, if not better, than the first. So how did season 3 stack up?

It was a mixed bag, if I’m being honest. In retrospect, it feels to me like certain parts worked much better than the whole. There were some genuinely brilliant moments peppered throughout a season that, sadly, at times felt like a retread of tropes that we’d already seen explored. It feels a bit like creator Noah Hawley was well aware of this, often mentioning his fear that the series would inevitably grow tired due to the somewhat limited trajectory.

For one thing, there are only so many ways that Hawley can frame a unique ‘true crime’ story that has so many boxes to tick story-wise. For the most part, the writing team has done well at covering up the blueprints and making each year feel distinct, but more than ever elements of season 3 felt like rehashes of themes and ideas that we had seen explored more expertly in seasons 1 and 2.

On the bright side, the cast was, as always, incredible. Led by Ewan McGregor, in a dual role, Carrie Coon, David Thewlis, and, the real scene stealer, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the performances never left anything to be desired. The thing is, I found myself at times unengaged by even the most magnetic performers, such as Coon. While she was undoubtedly the heroine of the season, I honestly never cared much for her journey – I was more invested in siblings Ray and Emmit Stussy (McGregor) as well as femme fatale Nikki Swango (Winstead).

Often it’s a sign of strong writing when the audience can’t quite tell which side to root for: here, I felt like the story was sort of jumbled. While the cast was decidedly smaller than season 2, the story didn’t feel any more intimate because there were so many moving parts, and some characters – like Coon’s Gloria Burgle – felt like archetypes rather than unique characters with interesting or distinct motivations. The most interesting characters, Emmit and Ray, seemed to be shortchanged as the season went on. Their decades-long feud (over a stamp collection) eventually fizzled out and gave way to a larger arc that, honestly, wasn't as engaging once the brothers were removed from the picture.

If I’m being too harsh, it’s only because I truly love this show. At some point I’ll watch all three seasons again, and I have no doubt that I’ll enjoy season 3 – but, objectively, I don’t think it lives up to the brilliance of season 1 and 2.

I did love the reintroduction of Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard), which felt like a plausible connection back to season 1. Wrench was a standout in the first season, and he was equally fun here, if not a bit aimless. Regardless, it was great to see him standing alongside Nikki Swango during intense shootouts, not to mention getting the final kill of the season as he put a bullet through an unsuspecting Emmit’s head five years after the majority of the season’s action takes place.

I was also particularly fond of Emmit’s associate Sy (Michael Stuhlbarg), so I was sad to see him sidelined rather abruptly. Still, I found a decent sense of closure during the finale, which was simultaneously intense and contemplative. The ending, especially, was a great thrill. Gloria, now an agent for the Department of Homeland Security, comes face to face once again with V.M. Varga (Thewlis) – with him in custody. The two trade jabs, and he maintains that at any moment her superior will arrive and he’ll be set free – she disagrees. We end with the two quite literally just waiting out the clock. Does he walk free? Does she send him away for life?

Either way, it’s nice to know that Gloria will be fine, but I like to believe that Varga gets his justice, too, and will be spending the rest of his life behind bars.

If this is the end of the road for the series, I'm okay with that - the third season, despite its flaws, remained largely enjoyable, frequently fun, and occasionally brilliant. The direction, cinematography, and cast remained impressive throughout, and the dialogue is always full of enviable wit and charm. I love how, in a way, all three seasons sort of work as the story of Mr. Wrench: from his introduction in season 1, to his brief appearance VIA flashback in season 2, concluding with his escape and victory in season 3 (he ends the season not only as a millionaire, but also a free man).

What did you all think? Was season 3 as great as the instalments that preceded it? Are you hoping for more, or did this work as a fitting end to the anthology? Hit the comments to let us know, and feel free to follow me on Twitter for more of my SpoilerTV work.

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