Wednesday, 29 August 2018

TV83: Fargo, Season 3




Like the first two seasons of Fargo, Season 3 is brilliant television. Clearly, Noah Hawley is a genius. And the acting: David Thewlis is phenomenal, Ewan McGregor is as good as I’ve ever seen him, Carrie Coon and Michael Stuhlbarg are terrific as always and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, whom I haven’t seen before, immediately impressed me. The writing is clever and creative, with one powerful scene after another. The direction is solid throughout, and the cinematography and score are exactly right. Classy stuff. Except. Except here’s the thing: I’m never going to recommend that anyone ever watch Fargo, Season 3.

In this third season of darkly funny ‘true stories’ in Minnesota, we have two brothers (both played by McGregor) feuding (at first mildly) about how one of them (Emmit) got wealthy after receiving an inheritance from his father, while the other (Ray) ended up with the nice car but has struggled ever since and works as a probation officer, which is how he met his partner, Nikki (Winstead), who has plans to help Ray even things up a little. The feuding gets out of hand, due to some unfortunate accidents, and murder and mayhem ensue. 

Meanwhile, Emmit and his associate, Sy (Stuhlbarg), who own a lot of parking lots, find themselves in big trouble because they borrowed a million dollars from the wrong man, the mysterious and shady V.M. Varga (Thewlis), who suddenly becomes their business partner. Murder and mayhem ensue. 

The person at the heart of investigating all this murder and mayhem is Gloria Burgle (Coon), the Chief of Police in Eden Valley, where the first murder takes place. She is the only clear-headed person in the show (with the possible exception of fellow police officer, Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval)), but is up against a restructuring process that has left her with a boss (played by Shea Whigham) who has no use for Gloria’s abilities. 

Oh, and did I mention there is a supernatural component to this season, as represented by Ray Wise, appropriately known best for his work on Twin Peaks (which this season occasionally feels like)? 

Compelling brilliantly-structured serial TV. So why can’t I recommend it? Well, I am in the process of launching a new blog in which I will focus my reviews/recommendations entirely on a film’s or TV show’s moral compass. Fargo, Season 3 lacks such a moral compass. It uses violence (restrained as it may be) and slightly absurd characters purely to entertain. In no way does it help viewers become better people or help the world become a better place. It has no heart. It is cold. It scores near the bottom on my moral compass index. So while Fargo, Season 3, viewed objectively without a moral compass, deserves a solid ****, it gets no more than *** from me. Along with the two previous seasons of Fargo, which suffer from a similar lack of a moral compass (I refused to even write a review of Season 2), I refuse to recommend Fargo, Season 3.

I should note that the Coen brothers, who are executive producers on Fargo, have a history of making great films (including Fargo) that score low on my moral compass index. Too bad.

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