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TV Review - A stellar cast and deft writing get the third season of 'Fargo' off to a great start

April 17, 2017 Updated: April 18, 2017 at 4:45 pm
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FARGO -- Year 3 -- Pictured: Ewan McGregor as Ray Stussy. CR: Chris Large/FX


Cast: Ewan McGregor (“Trainspotting,” “Star Wars”), Carrie Coon (“The Leftovers,” “Gone Girl”), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“10 Cloverfield Lane,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”), David Thewlis (“Harry Potter,” “The Theory of Everything”), Michael Stuhlbarg (“Boardwalk Empire”), Shea Whigham (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Scoot McNairy (“Halt and Catch Fire”) 

Airdate: The third season of “Fargo” premieres Wednesday, April 19 on FX

Season three synopsis: Set in 2010, the third installment of “Fargo” centers on Emmit Stussy and his slightly younger brother “Ray,” played Ewan McGregor in both roles. Emmit is a self-made real estate mogul with a seemingly ideal life. His slightly younger brother Ray hasn’t had nearly as much luck. Ray is a balding, pot-bellied parole officer with a chip on his shoulder. The only bright spot in Ray’s life is his relationship with his girlfriend Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), one of his parolees.

Highs: If you like cold environments, dark humor and people who talk in funny accents you’ll enjoy this latest iteration of “Fargo.” The cast and timeline may be different from previous seasons but some things have remained the same. This series has retained its personality despite new characters and a new setting.

The season opens in East Berlin in 1988. At first I thought I had accidentally started watching an episode of “The Americans” but there are some hints later on as to what exactly the connection is between 1988 Berlin and 2010 Minnesota. But don’t expect to learn all this season’s secrets right away, the first couple episodes of “Fargo” will keep you guessing.

The cast is first rate and completely game for the unusual storylines. Ewan McGregor is brilliant in his two roles, playing two uniquely different people equally well. Ray has a lot more screen time initially and in typical “Fargo” fashion he’s a strangely likable loser. Mary Elizabeth Winstead shines, especially when we get to witness her character’s more devious side. We don’t see a ton of Carrie Coon or David Thewlis at first but they both stand out for completely different reasons. Coon’s character is kind hearted but tough and Thewlis is mysteriously creepy in the few minutes he’s onscreen.

It wouldn’t be a season of “Fargo” if some hair-brained scheme didn’t get screwed up somehow and viewers will see that unfold in episode one. Things get lost, instructions are misunderstood and the wrong people pay the price for all the confusion. The premiere carefully sets up what looks to be an intriguing season.

This series is known for its idiosyncratic nature and there are plenty of examples of that. The writing is incredibly sharp, colorful and unique. Portraying people to appear buffoonish without making characters seem inept is a tricky thing to do. The dialogue is impressive but there are also several little visual clues that are sure to catch your eye. This is a series that requires your undivided attention.

Lows: While this latest “Fargo” season may be set in the near present, the series aesthetic still maintains a 70s and 80s feel. Almost everything in first episode looks like it came from an earlier decade. Clothing, hairstyles, vehicles and even old TV sets make an appearance and seem out of place. Aside from a scene where Ray and Nikki sit in a bathtub together checking their Facebook pages on smartphones, nothing from the premiere looks like its from 2010. What’s the point? 

Grade (A): Season three maintains “Fargo’s” unconventional feel but in a way that’s even more engaging than previous seasons. Despite all the criminality there’s something a little more light and humorous to this season, which I was drawn too. “Fargo” is off to an excellent start. 

Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.

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