Forget spring; it’s time for Fargo. The third season of this anthology series finds us back in Minnesota with a focus on the sibling rivalry between the Stussy brothers, Ray and Emmit, set in 2010. Despite their different ages, the two are played by the same actor, the decidedly not Midwestern Golden Globe nominee Ewan McGregor. Does that sound like a good idea? If you’re shaking your head please know: I am dubious also. But, let’s see where this goes. There are two particularly interesting female characters this season who might save the whole thing: Officer Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) and the complicated criminal with a past Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
Now, deep into the heart of the snow — the snow in East Berlin, 1988, that is. We open in the office of a German military officer who is interrogating a man whom he insists is Yuri Gurka and who killed his girlfriend that day. No matter what the man’s rational objections are, no matter what alibi he presents, no matter how hard he insists he is not the person they’re looking for the officer simply wants him to agree to the narrative they lay out. Oh right, this is what the Cold War was about. The officer’s last words are to ask for the truth, but what he means is that the man should accept his fate. And that, it seems will be the parable many of the characters in this season will face.
Now we pivot to Emmit Stussy, the Parking Lot King of Minnesota, who simply wants to track down some people to whom he owes money. Pay attention, because this will be important. He’s meeting with his business partner, Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg), and a guy who introduced them to their mysterious benefactors. Have you ever borrowed money from anyone who simply disappeared before they collected? Neither have these guys.
Smash cut to an anniversary party for Emmit and his wife, Stella (Linda Kash). They’ve been together forever, and he’s telling a story that probably everyone who knows them has heard, about their first date. His brother Ray is there with his new girlfriend, Nikki. When he gets Emmit alone to ask for money, it becomes clear there is some animosity between the brothers that Ray blames on a stamp their father left them (no, seriously), but that actually comes down to general jealousies over money — Emmit has a lot of it, and Ray doesn’t. This is where we learn that Ray is a parole officer, the kind of guy who is upset about his lack of success but still on the right side of things and that Nikki is a career criminal parolee who he is not supposed to be dating. But fuck the rules, they’re engaged anyway, and Ray wants some money to buy her a nice ring. Oh, and despite their looks, Ray is the younger brother.
When Nikki pushes, but not too hard, about Ray getting they money from his brother you get the sense she’s not so bad. When she insists he walk back to open her car door, you get the sense she’s in charge of this relationship. When she talks him into signing a form that will let her leave the state so she can gamble, it’s clear she’s the smart one. This grifter is on a long con, which makes her character about a million times more interesting than dual McGregors.
Then there’s Gloria, the small town cop who has the same problem I do with getting robots to notice her presence. She can’t get the sensor on the door of her grandfather’s store to open for her as she stops by to pick up her son. I can’t get airport sinks to turn on so I can wash my hands. Already I identify too much with this character. Over her son’s birthday dinner that night, she reveals that her local police office, of which she’s the Chief, is merging into the county force. Her ex is now gay and in a serious relationship with a man, but no one is sure how it works, except the grandpa and that goes exactly how you expect.
After a quick through a day in a life of a parole officer, which seems to be awash in a sea of pee tests, Ray uses the knowledge he’s got of parole violations to talk Maurice LeFay (Scoot McNairy) into stealing the remaining stamp from their father’s collection back from his brother Emmit. Luckily for the plot of this show, he picked a drunk stoner who isn’t terribly smart. Maurice promptly smokes himself out, forgets where he’s going, and robs the wrong place. Sadly things get violent and he kills the person he finds in that wrong house, who happens to be Gloria’s father. That’s one way to get a tenacious bulldog on your trail. How many episodes until she pulls the first string of a clue, do you think?
As for the Parking Lot King, Emmit, he and Sy finally found their benefactor — or rather, one of its representatives, a V.M. Varga. The bad news is they may not pay the loan back (not even with interest), because the company would prefer they act as a front and launder some money. The worse news is that the company thing they’ve invested in the Parking Lot King and this is never going to end. So that’s the big crime Gloria’s going to end up falling into solving while she tries to figure out who killed her father and why.
The set up is all here. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to wait and watch the dominos fall.