This article is also available to read on The Yorker.
The anticipation surrounding the new series of Fargo has been huge; after two series on the trot meeting acclaim from critics and audiences, the pressure is on to pull off a hat trick. An impressive cast has once again compiled, including BAFTA-nominated character actor David Thewlis and hot-off-the-Trainspotting 2-set Ewan McGregor, who is playing twins. With series creator Noah Hawley writing and directing the first episode, there’s a lot to look forward to. For me, at least, the hype has been worth it.
From the first episode of the first series, there’s always been something distinctly cinematic about Fargo, an evidence of care and precision even in moments of chaos. Combine that with recognisable faces with odd, individual versions of a Minnesota accent and you’re presented with a fictional world that’s heightened enough that it’s playful, but not so much that you can’t become immersed. Nothing’s changed about that in this series-three starter, and despite the faces and specific locations being different, there’s a comfortable familiarity to the format which draws in long-time viewers from the start.
I say that; actually, it’s from a few minutes in. The opening scene takes place in 1988 East Berlin, a tense interrogation which I can’t quite remember the end of because it’s never picked up in the rest of the episode. We’ll have to keep an eye out for when it crops back up again, just as series 2’s first scene of actors freezing on a film set eventually tied back in when Reagan came to town. It was also slightly relevant in mentioning the actor/president to set up the period of the series, but given that series 3 is set in 2010 and not 1988 I don’t think that’ll be the case this time.
The slightly longer season opener takes its time. It’s not as explosive as season 2’s, where we see the catalytic crime take place over a tension-filled few minutes, but instead we see the lead-up and aftermath of one crime and the full events of another which has one particularly memorable moment, all in the second half of the episode. It’s reassuring; another series, another situation. Taking the formula to a new stage rather than keeping it in one place because it worked. I for one am keen to see how all the threads interweave this time.
The characters have certainly got potential. McGregor’s twins are polar opposites, with a history between them which is already being brilliantly dramatically exploited. It appears that both twins will be heavily involved in the series’ developments, one being part of a crime and the other being drawn towards crime by Thewlis’ crooked-toothed investor. Even the character who appears to be most straight-forward, Carrie Coon’s Chief Gloria Burgle, already gives off the same quality as Patrick Wilson’s Lou Solverson in series 2: unflappable law-abiding cop with genuineness that would seem false or boring if played by a lesser actor.
It definitely feels like an extended opening act for an extended film in ten parts. I’m hooked enough to see what happens in part two; check back next week for the next episode’s verdict!
Fargo Series 3 Episode 1 aired in the UK on Wednesday 31st May and is now available to watch on All4. Image source: Nerdits.com