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– by David Kozlowski

The joy of each new season of Fargo is piecing together just what in the hell is actually going on, while all of the key players stumble to their starting positions. Getting your bearings in this show is equal parts fun and frustrating, as the plot has no real intention of revealing itself, and yet there’s so much crazy going on that it doesn’t much matter anyway. Fargo is all about the journey, and since the destination will undoubtedly be vicious and brutal, it’s best to enjoy the fun parts of the ride while you can.

We know from the preview trailers that Fargo Season 3 is set in Minnesota during the winter of 2010. So naturally, we open inside an East German police station at the end of the Cold War, smack in the middle of a murder interrogation. Creator Noah Hawley sets the tone right away: don’t trust your eyes, question everything you hear, because no one in this world tells the truth (if they could even recognize it when they saw it). Where this particular story thread goes is anyone’s guess, we don’t stick around long.

Time jump twenty-two years to Christmastime in Eden Valley, Minnesota; another quaint midwestern town buried beneath a thick layer of clean, white snow. We meet Emmit and Ray, the Stussy brothers, both played by actor Ewan McGregor; the former a slick and successful businessman, the latter a disheveled parole officer — each of them working the system to get ahead, and neither exhibiting much intellect in the process. 

Ray covets his brother’s success but has little appreciation for how he came by it. You see, Emmit and Ray are locked in a dispute over their family’s estate and the money and mundane possessions that one thinks the other owes. It’s precisely the kind of idiotic yet brilliant MacGuffin this series loves to (mataphorically) fondle and grope, which will surely lead to even greater foolishness, misery, and the odd hacked-off limb. Ray puts a plan into motion that would be sheer stupidity on any other show, yet on Fargo is elevated to epic levels of criminal buffoonery involving online psycho-therapy, duct tape, a bubble bath, and an air conditioner dropped from an all-too-precarious height. 

We’re also introduced to the local police chief, Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon), who becomes unwittingly embroiled in Ray’s crackpot scheme, through matters of chance and happenstance that could really only happen here. And finally, we meet the lovely Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a slinky ex-con in the lecherous care and embrace of parole officer Ray — within ten seconds it’s clear who’s running this relationship; we even get a few choruses of Heart’s “Crazy On You” via the cassette player of Ray’s vintage ’80s Corvette, just to drive home the point (my money’s on “Barracuda” next week). Subtle ain’t this show’s forte.

I hesitate to reveal anything else about this first episode; there’s so much cruel, weird stuff to discover, including a wonderfully bizarre Bridge Tournament shot like early Scorsese. Suffice to say that Fargo is as quirky as ever, content to move at its own pace, and oh-so-delighted to expose the crawley underside of the North Star State, which we hope and pray doesn’t really exist. 

Grade: A-

Is this first episode of Fargo Season 3 everything you hoped and feared it would be? Let us know in the comments down below!

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David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.