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TV Review: Fargo (Season 3)


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As well as being the best thing on television, Fargo must also be one of the politically correct shows around today.

The Daily Mail hasn't given it much notice, but you can imagine the way in which it would sneer at the show's women, who are not necessarily the most prominent characters, but are certainly the forces of justice in what often seems like a lawless land.

In this third series, the Minnesotan parking lot empire of businessman Emmett Stussy (Ewan McGregor) is subject to a hostile takeover by the mysterious V.M. Varga (David Thewlis), a shifty everyman character whose appearance portends imminent disaster.

Only a few stand in the way of the vicious Varga - the first is Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who encourages her boyfriend Ray, Emmett's less successful twin brother, to stand up to his sibling.

The second is Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon), a dedicated local police officer, investigating the murders linked to Stussy's company, despite the demands of her male superiors to drop the case.

Swango and Burgle never meet, and are on either sides of the law - the former being an ex-convict, who seems at her most comfortable with a shotgun in her hand, and the latter a dutiful cop struggling to come to terms with her husband's decision to leave her for a younger man.

Yet, both are determined and level-headed even in the most fraught situations. This sharply contrasts with the show's men, who are often stupid, hysterical, or both.

In a further testament to its political correctness, Fargo features a disabled actor in a prominent role, a continuation of the tradition which saw a deaf character in the first series and one afflicted with cerebral palsy in the second.

Once again, there is a deaf actor, who comes along to help Swango deliver justice in the final episodes. The show isn't about disabilities, and doesn't make a big deal of the characters who have them, but admirably includes them in the mix, just as you'd find in real life.

While writing up this review, I discovered the Daily Mail had indeed heard of the show, dedicating a whole article to its wonder at Ewan McGregor's ability not only to play identical twins, but also to master the tricky Minnesota accent and associated mannerisms.

Those of us who already knew what a talented actor McGregor is were delighted, when it was announced he would appear in Fargo, a show that not only manages to pull great names, such as Billy Bob Thornton, Kirsten Dunst, Martin Freeman and Ted Danson, but also uses their talents to create unforgettable characters.

But the undisputed star of this season is Thewlis, who plays the enigmatic English businessman with a creepy leer and an extremely disgusting dental hygiene problem.

And if the casting is excellent, then the storytelling is even better. Granted, at first glance, a drama about a North American car parking company doesn't sound like it will make electrifying television, but as ever Fargo manages to turn homespun Minnesotan problems into bleakly comic and often brutal drama - like a snow-flecked Wild West, with beheadings, prison breaks, and a cameo from God.

Based on the 1996 Coen Brothers film of the same name, the show, created by Noah Hawley, has now enjoyed three highly successful seasons, with a fourth no doubt on the way.

With each new set of episodes, it makes the bold move of refreshing both the characters and the setting. For instance, while the last series was set in 1980, this third run is set in 2010, although it rarely feels like it, with scant appearances of computers or mobile phones.

The only other indication of the modern setting is the automatic doors and bathroom hand-dryers, all of which fail to activate at the presence of Carrie Coon's cop, in a metaphor for her low self-esteem. The struggle of women in a man’s world has never been so entertaining, or so wittily told.

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