Fargo concluded its third — and what may be its final — season tonight. I reviewed the finale here, and I have an interview with creator Noah Hawley about that final scene, the bowling alley, whether future seasons — if there are any — might take place in warmer weather, and more, all coming up just as soon as I eat my Popsicle…
The previous two seasons have ended with a fair amount of closure on what happens to everyone. This one at least leaves ambiguous who will come through the door and what that means for Varga. Why did you decide to go that particular route?
Some of it is in what you just said, which is that there’s a certain way that the first two years have ended that’s consistent, and I think you never want to take it for granted that it has to end the same way. I always joke that Fargo is a tragedy with a happy ending. But that ending in this case is up to you. It could be a happy ending if you’re an optimist, and it could be a darker ending if you’re a pessimist. There’s a degree to which I wanted to engage the audience in that question of does it end well or does it end poorly, and if you think it ends poorly, then maybe you’ll think about why you think it ends poorly. There’s a degree to which I feel like it’s okay to engage the audience actively in the story.
But do you feel that, in making so much of the season be about how the world doesn’t make sense anymore and rules don’t apply, maybe you’ve primed the audience to expect Varga’s version to come through the door?
Well, he’s winning so far on some levels and we see in that moment after Emmit has learned that he is free to go, that it appears that Varga has power over reality itself, so he’s not even willing to say his name out loud. I think there’s a degree to which Varga has proven to be the mastermind that he believes he is, but I also think that we’ve underlined that to some degree with Nikki and this woman from Podunk, No Place who almost got him, that there’s a sense of, “No, he’s mortal. We saw him sweat.” And Gloria is not to be underestimated, and she could win. I think it was very important in sculpting that last scene that after he says “Goodbye,” she looks for a moment like he won and then the smile comes back where she thinks “No, no, I’m going to get him.” You know, that if you’re presenting the audience with a choice, they have to really feel like both things are possible.
You’ve talked in the past about the disclaimer that comes with the movie, “This is a true story” and always when you do it, the “true” is the first word that fades away before all of the others. A lot of what Varga does this year is invent stories that he insists are true despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. How important was the idea of truth to this season, in particular, as compared to the other two?
Well I always knew that I was lying to the audience, by saying it was a true story when it wasn’t true, but that was never what it was about. But this year that was really what it was about, looking at that sentence — “This is a true story” — and even those two words, side by side — “true” and “story” — and what that could possibly mean. Could that ever be a factual statement? Because truth is subjective on some level and you get into the whole argument of objective truth and subjective truth. But yeah, it was about truth and belief and power, even to the end, when Varga said about this fake story about the Stussy serial killer that’s proven in a court of law and he confessed and there’s evidence, then he might as well argue with reality itself. But there’s violence to that, and I wanted to explore the mental violence that these crimes have on people and the fact that when you shatter people’s sense of what’s true and what’s real, it’s really violent to their sense of self and their sense of the world and their sense of safety. For Sy to come home and start crying and his wife says “What’s wrong?” And he says “The world is wrong, it looks like my world, but everything is different.” We see the violence of that, which is no shots had to be fired.
Mr. Wrench winds up as the only character to have appeared in all three seasons. How did you decide that you wanted him in this story, and to introduce him relatively late and still play as important a role as he did?
It was important to me, after our second year had been a literal prequel to the first year, to tell a story that really stood on it’s own two feet and did it for long enough where maybe in the audience you thought, “Well, it’s just it’s own thing and I’m just going to go for the ride.” I didn’t want it to become this “Fargo universe” thing where it’s sort of incestuous and everything is touched by everything else, because then it begins to feel little like magic realism. It’s hard to suspend your disbelief.
But I did feel like late in the season, if we could find a random and truthful way to bring in a character — I either have Molly or Gus or Mr. Wrench surviving, so it would have to be one of the three of them. I didn’t really want to bring another cop in, and bringing Gus back — I mean a random run-in with a postman is not necessarily that interesting, but it did feel, knowing where Nikki’s story was going as we sat her down on a prison bus and she happened to be next to a proven criminal who’s been arrested before, that could happen. Then of course within three minutes, the bus is flipped and now they’re literally chained together. That seems really interesting to me and also emotionally, the fact that Nikki’s at her lowest point and we’ve just killed Ray and maybe the audience is thinking “Oh, shit, is she out of the show now too? Is she off to jail and we’re moving on,” and the sad piano and everything’s going in slow motion and then she sits down and the beat kicks and we see him and hopefully it’s a huge uplifting moment of recognition and realization that we’re just getting started.