December 11, 2017

DVD Review: FARGO - YEAR 3

Starring Ewan McGregor, Carrie Coon, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, David Thewlis, Goran Bogdan, Michael Stuhlbarg, Shea Whigham, Scoot McNairy, Mark Forward, Andy Yu, Olivia Sandoval, Mary McDonnell. Various directors. (2017, 520 min).

It's still rather amazing that a classic as unique as the original Fargo inspired a television show at all, let-alone one that managed to strike the same balance between labyrinthine thriller, oddball character study and black comedy. That the show remains as endearingly quirky after three seasons is even more remarkable.

Storywise, Year 3 isn't quite as consistently compelling as Year 2. After a couple of intriguing set-up episodes, things meander a bit at times, such as an entire early episode dedicated to the shady past of a recently-deceased character. Aside from a very brief metaphorical moment later on, it has no baring on the rest of the story. Granted, one thing that makes the Fargo universe amusing is the various vignettes that aren't necessarily important to the story, but are interesting nonetheless. However, an entire episode is a bit much.

Ewan gets stuck with the check.
That's a small quip, though, since the rest of Fargo remains as moody, weird and darkly funny as ever. Year 3, like the previous two, tells a completely new story, set at a different time (2010-11) and featuring a different cast of wonderfully weird characters. Ewan McGregor, in a dual role, plays the feuding Stussy brothers (Ray and Emmitt), both of whom eventually get in over their heads when their best-laid plans spiral wildly out of control. Carrie Coon is Gloria Bergle, an Eden Valley police chief who begins to piece together connections between the Stussys and a couple of brutal murders (one of the victims, her father-in-law, also happens to be named Stussy). Mary Elizabeth Winstead is Ray's ex-con girlfriend who instigates much of the bad blood between Ray and his wealthier brother (making her sort-of a well-meaning femme fatale).

Santa leaves behind a little nightmare fuel.
The whole cast is great - and McGregor has never been better - but the best performance is by David Thewlis as V.M Varga, a mysterious, cold-blooded figure who once helped Emmitt (the "Parking Lot King") save his business, but has insinuated himself into company to become a "partner" and use it as a front for money laundering. Not only is he ruthless, Varga is also quite repulsive. From his disheveled appearance, spacey demeanor and grotesque habits - like bulimic binging & purging and picking at his own rotting teeth until his gums bleed - his very presence in most scenes is truly unnerving.

Though there are plenty of wild plot turns, these terrific characters effectively carry the story through some of the rough, slow spots, making this third season of 10 episodes well worth binging over a night or two. None of it may actually take place in or around Fargo this time, but really, the title is more of a brand name now, evoking a quirky brand of storytelling that's hard to resist.

"INSIDE LOOK" (These are all 1-2 minute promos): "First Look"; Ray and Nikki"; Emmit Stussy and Sy Feltz"; "One Actor, Two Characters"; "Gloria Burgle"; Varga"; "Anatomy of a Scene"; "The Digital Age"; "Connectivity and References" (Easter eggs); Locations"; "Noah Hawley"

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