SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Fargo Season 3 finale.
“Please don’t tell people this is the end,” says Fargo series creator Noah Hawley about the recent news that there may never be another season of the FX show. “Right now, I just can’t point to (a production start) date on the calendar.”
Hawley is a busy guy. He’s currently breaking story on the second season of FX/Marvel’s Legion, which goes into production in September and lasts through the first quarter of next year. Then there’s two movies in line for him to direct: Fox Searchlight’s Reese Witherspoon female astronaut movie Pale Blue Dot and the feature adaptation of Hawley’s plane crash novel Before The Fall. And we haven’t even started talking about his limited series adaptation of the Kurt Vonnegut novel Cat’s Cradle for FX.
“I always agreed with FX that the only reason to do another Fargo is if the creative is there,” says Hawley, who at the moment is drawing a blank in regards to what Season 4 would center around.
“It took 15 months to get Season 2 off the ground, and 18 months to get Season 3 on the air. I have to turn my attention to the second season of Legion and a film potentially the winter after next. We’re looking at three years from now,” the EP about a rough timeline for a Fargo Season 4.
Hawley told audiences at the ATX Television Festival to enjoy tonight’s final hour of Fargo, “Somebody To Love,” which he wrote and Keith Gordon directed. Let’s just say tonight’s Season 3 ender had as much high-octane action as the Season 3 finale of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, “Margate Sands,” in which Jack Huston’s half-faced Richard Harrow shoots up a whorehouse Tarantino-style to rescue his late best friend Jimmy Darmody’s orphaned son. On Fargo, we had Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Nikki Swango (and Russell Harvard’s Mr. Wrench) raining bullets on those who physically beat her up a few episodes ago: the henchmen of David Thewelis’ V.M. Varga.
At the onset of the episode, parking lot czar Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) finds the confidence to stand up to the bully Varga, but he’s knocked out by his men. While Swango and Wrench clean up in an abandoned building, they send Varga packing. She then sets her sights on killing her late beau Ray’s killer, his brother Emmit. She finds Emmit broken down at the side of the road. “Are you as low as you can go?” she asks Emmit with the gun pointed at him.
Nikki’s death wish for Emmit is interrupted by a police officer who stops by. Nikki and the officer end in a quick draw which takes both their lives. Jump five years, Emmit, bankrupted by Varga, has reconciled with his wife and seems to have family life and his personal wealth on the round — that is until Wrench shows up and shoots Stussy in the back of the head. Three months later, we see that former Eden Valley police chief Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) has moved up in the world as a Homeland Security Officer. And she’s captured the guy we’ve all been waiting to go down: Varga. She tells Varga that three agents will enter the room and take him away to Rikers Island. Varga says that’s not so: He’ll be set free by Burgle’s supervisor.
And so the Season 3 finale of Fargo ends in a complete standstill without a resolution, with a semi-half smile on Burgle’s face as the lights fade to black.
Hawley said it was always his intention to leave the ending open-ended for us to decide. Typically the tragedies in Fargo have happy endings: Marge gets in bed with her husband in the movie, Molly (Allison Tolman) gets to be police chief at the end of Season 1, and Patrick Wilson’s Lou Solverson takes his daughter (the younger Molly) fishing. But for Hawley, the cliffhanger ending tonight stems from “Our living in a complicated moment in time,” he says, referring to the President Donald Trump era.
“If I present you with a choice, you have to decide how that door is going to open and if it’s going to end well. It still has a happy ending if you’re an optimist. It just becomes a more active process. It’s an allegory to the conversation we’re having at this moment. How will we treat each other? Is it American carnage?” adds the EP.
But poor Nikki. Did she really have to die? “There was a degree of playing that by ear,” explains Hawley. “I wanted to save her, but I also didn’t want it to feel like a movie twist. At the end of the day, Fargo is a tragedy.”
In regards to Emmit, he’s a standard Fargo archetype; the guy in the middle, a la Martin Freeman’s Lester or William H. Macy’s Jerry, who always has to choose between right and wrong. The accidental murder of Emmit’s criminal-like brother Ray (also portrayed by McGregor) early on urged viewers to have an ironic respect for Emmit. We only sympathize with him further as the underdog as he remains under Varga’s thumb. But with Nikki dead, Hawley relied on Mr. Wrench, a deaf henchman from Season 1, “as the final arbiter of justice. He’s not in their story, he’s an outsider, and he can dispense the cosmic justice that Nikki tried and failed.”
“There aren’t any real heroes and villains, especially if I can make you empathize with these people,” Hawley says of his storytelling technique. “It complicates the violence that’s going to come, and I don’t want people cheering for the violence.”
If tonight’s finale reflects our current fractured political society, Hawley will hopefully explore these issues further in a limited-series adaptation of Vonnegut’s 1963 satirical sci-fi novel Cat’s Cradle. The novel tells the story of a young writer’s quest to research the history of the atomic bomb, thus leading him through a bizarre political soap opera and apocalyptic showdown on the shores of a seedy Caribbean banana republic. Hawley says, “We’re negotiating an extra year on FX’s option of the book.”
At one point, Hawley was running among three writers rooms: Legion, Fargo and Cat’s Cradle. “The idea is to make seven to eight hours. I don’t have a timeline when Cat’s Cradle will happen because I need the scripts first. I worked with two writers over a couple of weeks to figure out how many hours we’re going to do. I need to put a filmmaker’s hat on and figure out what’s the most cinematic version is for this story,” says the EP. Hawley will go into production on one or both of his movies before Cat’s Cradle; Pale Blue Dot being the likely candidate due to Witherspoon’s schedule.
Until then, it’s all about Legion.
“It’s not easy to go back into that show; from the more grounded, more literal Fargo to the ‘everything-you-can-think-you-can-do’ Legion,” Hawley says.
“It’s hard to come up with the complexity of themes and how everything comes together and how it pays off,” says Hawley about building a perfect Fargo season. “You can’t mass produce this stuff.”