If you’re a fan of “Fargo” you’ll recognize everything you love about it this season: The over the top accents, the folksiness, the dark humor, the idea of “Minnesota nice” colliding with very bad things. But these characteristics are also what make others turn the channel. Its narrative quirks can be alienating as violence is often paired with humor and the dialogue between characters values politeness over clarity. “Fargo” is not an easy show but it’s a good one (at times even a great one) that you should dive into.
This season focuses on two brothers, Emmit and Ray Stussy, both played by Ewan McGregor. Emmit, “the Parking Lot King of Minnesota” is successful and wealthy while Ray is less so. A parole officer who is younger than Emmit but looks older, Ray believes Emmit tricked him out of an inheritance. Emmit says Ray chose their father’s corvette over a valuable stamp collection. Ray disagrees. And then he decides to do something about it.
Since this is the world of “Fargo” what he decides to do is to blackmail one of his parolees into stealing what’s left of the stamp collection. In exchange, Ray will cover up the guy’s failed drug test.
Emmit has more problems than Ray’s plotting to rob him. Having borrowed $1 million from a shady organization to save his business and now in a position to pay it back, he finds out that he has confused “singularity with continuity” which he learns from the organization’s representative V.M. Vargas (David Thewlis), a man with a lot of teeth and a way with words.
Words are what “Fargo” loves the most. The show is a celebration of language and there is a lot to like about that choice. McGregor, as Emmit/Ray and Michael Stuhlbarg as Sy, his lawyer and confidant, have fun with the script. Their characters are very watchable even when what they are saying is frustratingly polite. No one in this odd world ever demands clear answers or explanations. It’s the “Minnesota nice” theme always in play, where characters hold onto courtesy even when faced with terrible events.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Carrie Coon bring equally strong performances. Winstead is Nikki Swango, Ray’s girlfriend, parolee and very competitive bridge player. In episode one, Nikki comes up with a solution to a problem that will eventually connect Ray to Eden Valley Police Chief Gloria Burgle’s (Carrie Coon) world as she investigates a crime that is close to home. Coon skillfully brings both charm and boldness to an even tempered character who would seemingly have neither of those traits. Both women are great to watch and to listen to as they, like everyone on the series, takes pleasure in the words that showrunner, writer and director Noah Hawley gives their characters.
“Fargo” is sure to take you to unexpected, strange places this season as the story moves toward a finale. If the twists and turns make you want to throw in the towel, hang on to the conversations. The characters might endlessly talk around a point but they’ll entertain you every step of the way.
“Fargo” is on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EDT on FX.
-- Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing’” and the recently released “The American Television Critic.” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.