Okay, I’m biased. I’ll cop to that first, before I get into the meat of my argument, because I am nothing if not an ethical provider of entertainment and pop culture content. The third season of Fargo won me over before it even started, back when FX announced there would be bridge-playing recent parolee named Nikki Swango on the show. Nikki Swango. What a terrific name. It’s so great that it stands out in a show that is loaded with terrific names. A butcher shop employee named Noreen Vanderslice, cops named Burgle and Solverson, a criminal named Lorne Malvo, which isn’t a funny take on his occupation as much as it is just a lot of fun to say. The list goes on and on. But nothing tops Nikki Swango. Not on this show, not on other shows, maybe not ever. So that’s where we’re starting from here.
But even an unbiased, non-lunatic viewer probably has to admit that Nikki Swango has been the best part of Fargo this season, right? In fact, you could argue that Nikki Swango has been even more than than that, too. She’s practically saved the whole season.
This season of Fargo has been good, as a whole, at least leading into the finale. The highs have been very high, even for a show that has two seasons of borderline shocking success under its belt. (Think back to your initial reaction when you heard there was going to be a Fargo television show with no Coen brothers involvement, then take stock of where we are today. This is a surprise on the level of “a USA hacker show titled Mr. Robot won many prestigious awards.” Television is wild.) Gloria Burgle’s California trip was one of the best episodes of the year so far, for any show, and the thing with a supernatural Ray Wise holding a kitty cat in a bowling alley is on the short list for best scene. The season appears to be getting better and better as it screams toward a conclusion.
But, that said, there have been some valid criticisms. The first few episodes were a little slow developing. A lot of the action hit similar beats as previous seasons. The characters seemed to fall into the same framework as characters we’ve already seen. Varga, the loquacious mystery villain, was kind of a Malvo/Milligan hybrid. Gloria, the savvy cop with the incompetent male supervisor, was kind of like Molly Solverson. Nikki Swango and Ray Stussy, the ambitious woman with eyes on something bigger and her sadsack lover, were kind of like Peggy and Ed Blumquist, right down to the early-season murder of a low-level criminal. Although, if nothing else, Nikki and Ray get style points for hopping on television’s hot new trend: death via air conditioner.