Fargo is back for a third installment. I spoke with Noah Hawley about the new cast of characters, and I have a review of the premiere coming up just as soon as they shut down a whole JCPenney so the President can try on a suit…
“And we are not here to tell stories. We are here to tell the truth. Understand?” –Colonel Horst Lagerfeld
As Hawley notes in our interview, he likes to begin each premiere with a scene laying out some of that season’s key themes. It’s terribly early to be making assumptions about the season as a whole, but what might we gleam, thematically, from our unexpected trip to East Berlin in 1988, and for the unfortunate case of Communist bureaucracy that has gotten poor Jakob Ungerleider confused with the murderer Yuri Gurka?
Well, to begin with, this is a season of mirrored pairs and mistaken identities. At the core of that are the two Stussy brothers: elder brother Emmit, who, as the “parking lot king of Minnesota,” is rich and happy and well-coiffed; and balding, ruined younger brother Ray, whose life has seemingly been a never-ending string of disappointments from the day he talked Emmit into taking their father’s rare stamp collection (not realizing its enormous value) so that he could have dad’s sweet Corvette. But there’s also Emmit Stussy and Ennis Stussy, stepfather to Eden Valley chief of police (sort of) Gloria Burgle, who gets murdered by Ray’s parolee Maurice because his name and hometown are similar to Emmit’s, from whom he was supposed to steal the last rare stamp for Ray. And there’s the partnership of Ray and his parolee girlfriend Nikki Swango, who sits across the table from him as part of a well-oiled bridge-playing machine.
From there, we have Colonel Lagerfeld’s line above about stories versus the truth, which is also at the heart of the Stussy brothers’ estrangement: Ray has spent years telling himself a story in which he was swindled out of his inheritance, while Emmit insists the truth is that Ray begged him for the ‘Vette, and his current miserable circumstances are his own fault. And we have the various stories that Ray and Nikki tell each other about their relationship, their future career and sponsorships in bridge, and more, when we can see that he’s breaking the rules and risking his job by dating a parolee, and that Nikki’s sponsorship dreams seem about as realistic as Peggy Blumquist’s fantasies of achieving happiness through self-actualization.
And there’s also the matter of the bureaucratic nightmare that Jakob finds himself in, all because he had the bad luck to rent an apartment that at one point was occupied by the killer Yuri Gurka, and is unable to sway Colonel Lagerfeld despite obvious evidence that he is the wrong man. We don’t know much about Gloria Burgle at this stage, but she seems — like Molly and Lou Solverson before her — to be a sensible and decent police officer, yet she’s stuck in a bureaucratic circle herself as she prepares for her small-town department to be absorbed by the larger county force, which for the moment makes her a chief in title but perhaps not in power. For that matter, Emmit’s new plight with the criminal organization fronted by V.M. Varga feels as catastrophic and inescapable as Jakob’s, even though in this case Emmit and his sidekick Sy Feltz got themselves into this mess by seeking out a loan through extra-legal channels.