This article is also available to read on The Yorker.
Fargo is an award-winning drama inspired by the 1996 film of the same name. The show, now on its third series, was created by Noah Hawley and currently stars Ewan McGregor, Carrie Coon and David Thewlis. It airs on Channel 4 at 10pm every Wednesday.
This is a continuing review. Follow the link to read the review of Episode 1.
If there’s one word I would use to describe the more recent episode of Fargo, it would be ‘nothing-y’. Not technically a word, I know, but it sums it up pretty well. I reached the end and was struck by the overwhelming feeling that nothing had happened in the last hour. Nothing moved forward in either of the murder cases. The only memorable moment has to do with a picture of a donkey and a desk drawer, and it’s the most grim thing so far. I knew it was coming and I was hoping they wouldn’t show it, but heads up, they do. If you’ve already seen it, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Little else stands out.
The characters aren’t yet as exciting as they have the potential to be. The feud between the McGregor twins developed, but I didn’t feel much about it. I’m not sure whether it’s to do with how recognisable Ewan McGregor is, even with that awful hair – he’s not quite disappearing into the roles yet. And after the apparently different pilot and setup, it’s now worryingly easy to compare characters between the last two series; Ray and Nikki’s dynamic is like Ed and Peggy Blumquist, Gloria is unmistakably Lou Solverson (which I still don’t mind because we need more characters like them) and Thewlis’ V.M. Varga combines Mike Milligan, Hanzee and even Malvo from series 1.
But something about Varga is sticking more than the others. It’s always fun to watch David Thewlis, and he’s perfectly cast – whatever they’ve done with his teeth makes him look extra sneery, and his voice has that characteristic drawl. However, the writers have also decided that part of his character is elaborate vocabulary which, while it works in theory – lauding his superior British education over laypeople and looking down his nose at them – it doesn’t always flow very well. There’s a particular moment in this episode where he’s trying to get into a car park and is conversing with the attendant, who doesn’t understand a word he is saying and barely responds to him. The disconnect between the two feels stilted, rather than being utilised for comic potential.
The other thing about Varga and his men is that they’re in the business world. They’re mysterious, all-powerful people who overwhelm Emmit Stussy, and so far there’s no way of pushing back that the audience can get behind. Many viewers, such as myself, may not know much about business and assets or whatever, and the hindrance of setting a story within a business means either having to bore audiences with explanations or not making it clear enough what’s going on. Either way, it’s a risk when the show has never ventured there before.
I’m hoping that the setup that this episode mostly consisted of was worth it; next week we may get an action-packed and tension-filled episode that speeds by and leaves us wanting more. Who knows? We’ll just have to wait and see…
Fargo Series 3 Episode 2 is available to catch up on All4. Image source: P3.no