Fargo Season 3 Ewan McGregor Ray

Fargo Premiere Recap: 'I Won't Lie, It Didn't Go Smooth' — Grade It!

Zip those parkas up tight, folks: FX’s crime anthology Fargo is back for another season of Midwestern murder and mayhem… all served very well chilled.

We meet Season 3’s central duo — brothers Ray and Emmit Stussy, both played by Ewan McGregor — at a lavish party for Ray and his wife Stella’s 25th wedding anniversary. Emmit is like the Don Corleone of Minnesota: a dashing, ultra-successful real estate tycoon ducking out of his own party to take closed-door business meetings. Ray, on the other hand, is a balding, paunchy parole officer who’s forced to humble himself and ask his brother for a loan to buy his girlfriend Nikki an engagement ring. He justifies the request by reminding Emmit: “I figure you still owe me from what happened when we were kids.”

Fargo Season 3 Sy EmmitEmmit and his number-crunching consigliere Sy Feltz don’t see it that way, though, with Sy listing off all the ways they’ve already helped Ray out financially. “It’s not the best time,” Emmit says finally. Not satisfied, Ray demands Emmit give him his “stamp” back. It seems that when their father died, Ray and Emmit were given the choice of inheriting their dad’s stamp collection or his Corvette. Ray took the sports car… and now he’s regretting that shortsighted choice. Ray walks out empty-handed, and as he leaves the party, we get a good look at his inheritance — the now beat-up Corvette, with a license plate that says “ACE HOLE” — and it’s aged about as well as Ray has.

Still in need of cash, Ray turns to a parolee of his: spaced-out stoner Maurice, who Ray finds half-asleep in a dive bar. Ray presents Maurice with a delicate proposition: “I got a place that needs some robbin’.” If Maurice breaks into Emmit’s house and steals Ray’s stamp back for him, Ray promises to forget all about the drug test Maurice just flunked. Simple enough, right? Well, don’t forget, this is Fargo, where even the simplest crimes go off the rails in a hurry.

Fargo Season 3 Premiere Carrie Coon GloriaBut before we get there, let’s meet police chief Gloria Burgle, aka the Marge Gunderson/Molly Solverson of Season 3. She’s an aw-shucks single mom living with her teen son Nathan and her crotchety old stepdad Ennis. It’s Nathan’s birthday, and Ennis presents him with a Norman Rockwell-y figurine he crafted for the occasion. Oh, and Nathan’s dad has found a new love by the name of… Dale, and Ennis isn’t exactly progressive on that subject. But Gloria explains to Nathan that even grumpy Ennis isn’t all bad: “Deep down, we’ve all got something positive inside us.” (How very Marge of her!)

So while Gloria and Nathan head out for a birthday symphony and Ray and Nikki hit up a local bridge tournament, Maurice is on a mission to find Emmit’s house and steal the vaunted stamp. Only he drops a burning joint in his lap while driving, and in the mad scramble that follows, he accidentally flings the note with Emmit’s address out the window into the Minnesota night. He trudges through a snow bank to find it, but soon gives up: “Screw it, I remember it.”

Maurice is convinced the “town was something biblical,” and thinks he’s found it when he spots a sign for Eden Valley. (Emmit actually lives in Eden Prairie, though.) Knowing that Emmit’s last name is “Stussy,” Maurice tears a page out of the phone book and makes a beeline for the Stussy address that’s listed. And in that home resides… Gloria’s stepdad Ennis Stussy! (No relation.) We see the old guy hobble to the freezer for a swig of vodka before an ominous car pulls up outside.

Nathan remembers he forgot the figurine his granddad made for him, so Gloria makes a U-turn and returns home to find the house trashed. Ennis is sitting in the kitchen, his wrists duct-taped to a chair, the freezer door left swinging open. He’s dead. She searches the house, and Maurice has already cleared out… but under the floorboards, she discovers a secret compartment with a box in it. Inside the box, she finds a stack of sci-fi novels, and the cover of one matches the pose of the figurine Ennis gave Nathan, only with an alien and an astronaut. We couldn’t say it any better than Gloria does: “What the heck?”

Fargo Season 3 Premiere Mary Elizabeth Winstead NikkiAfter finishing third in a thrillingly filmed bridge tournament — yes, you read that right — Ray and Nikki are enjoying a celebratory bath together when Maurice barges in: “I got ’em, Ray. I did. But I won’t lie: It didn’t go smooth.” He says the guy didn’t cooperate, and hands Ray a book of ordinary stamps. Ray wants to know what Maurice did, exactly, but Maurice pulls a gun on him first, demanding five grand for his trouble. Nikki stands up nude in an effort to distract Maurice, but she manages to distract Ray, too, and Maurice escapes, gun in hand, demanding his money by tomorrow.

Nikki has something else in mind for him, though. She calculates how long it’ll take Maurice to get outside while loosening the screws on her wall-unit air conditioner. When Ray spots him on the sidewalk outside, he gives the A/C a sharp kick, and bam! It flattens Maurice on the sidewalk. Nikki makes a faux-panicked call to 911 and orders Ray to take the back stairs and burn the stamps. “You’re so sexy,” he marvels. One episode in, and two dead bodies… not too shabby, Fargo.

Oh Yah, Just a Couple More Things There:

Fargo Season 3 Premiere V.M. Varga* Emmit and Sy also met with a mysterious man named V.M. Varga, whose firm lent Emmit a cool million dollars. But he’s not seeking repayment: It was an investment “so we can better disguise our activities.” So they’re laundering cash, using Emmit’s real estate business as a front? Much more to come on this front, I’m guessing.

* Like last year, Season 3 kicked off with a seemingly unrelated prologue, with a man pleading his innocence to a German officer in 1988 East Berlin. The man insists he didn’t strangle his wife, but the officer tells him: “For you to be right, the state would have to be wrong.” Feels like a non sequitur… but is it possible the accused man turns out to be a young V.M. Varga?

* It’s a shame we lost Maurice so early in the season, because I really enjoyed Scoot McNairy’s performance as the dim-witted crook. (“Where does the President of the United States buy his clothes?”) Maybe we’ll get some flashbacks of him, at least?

* I don’t trust Nikki. Ray seems to be truly head-over-heels in love with her, but she’s giving off a vibe like she’d stab him in the back without a second thought if it benefited her in some way.

* Fargo always throws in a few Easter eggs related to other Coen brothers movies, and I caught a couple nods to The Big Lebowski in the premiere. Just like Maurice, Jeff Bridges’ The Dude dropped a burning joint in his lap while driving. And David Thewlis, who plays V.M. Varga here, was in Lebowski as the giggling video artist Knox Harrington. If you spot any others, flag ’em in the comments for me.

Give the Fargo Season 3 premiere a grade in our poll, then hit the comments with your post-premiere thoughts.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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26 Comments
  1. Simon says:

    Yeah so FXCanada messed up and showed the first 15 mins instead of the last 15 mins. Didn’t see the final scene. Shame we lost Scoot McNairy he’s always great. I’m hooked already. Hopefully I’ll love it as much as I loved S1 and S2.

  2. Cobra says:

    Brilliant start to the season. I can’t wait to see how this all starts playing out over the coming weeks.

  3. Padraig Tipton says:

    The reviewer wasn’t paying attention to the part he described as “So while Gloria and Nathan head out for a birthday symphony…”

    Nathan’s dad was going to take him to a symphony during the upcoming weekend. At this point, Gloria was simply driving Nathan home.

  4. Scott says:

    It may be nothing but noticed that the name of the rep. that Sy and Emmit got the loan from was Ermin Trout(spelling phonetically).
    In “Better Call Saul” on another network, the name of one of the main characters is Mike Ehrmintraute. Coincidence or what?

    • Walkie says:

      I think he was saying Ermintraub but I could be wrong.

    • Judy Campbell says:

      Big “Saul” fan too. Noticed the use of Mike’s last name & surprised me because it is a very unusual name. Maybe Coen Bros are “Saul” fans too.?

    • Cobra says:

      Definitely noticed that as well, and thought it can’t be a coincidence. Not a very common name.
      Also, in Season 1, the guy who played Bill Oswalt was Bob Odinkirk, who plays Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul.

  5. Lori says:

    Is it Ray or Emmit’s 25th anniversary party?

  6. MLO says:

    Not really a fan of Ewan McGregor’s but I pvr’d it and will give it a shot.

  7. liame says:

    Bored out of my frakin mind. One and done.

  8. Bill Johnson says:

    I like music but thought there were being to cute with all the songs

  9. Rick says:

    It doesn’t make any sense to suggest that the young German citizen in the opening scene in East Berlin will turn out to be V.M. Varga. Mr. Varga has a British accent!

  10. Rick says:

    It doesn’t make any sense to suggest that the German man in the opening scene will turn out to be V.M. Varga. Mr. Varga clearly has a British accent!

  11. Judy Campbell says:

    A “stamp” had a role in the original movie “Fargo”. Norm Gunderson’s mallard was selected to be on the 1 Cent stamp.

  12. Christine says:

    Easter eggs? Why did the name Ehrmemtraut come up? Major character in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Cue the theme from Twilight Zone.

  13. Scoot says:

    Noticed a couple “eggs”…
    the aerial view of the dead Ennis shows the large pattern of boot scuffs on the floor just like in the first scene of No Country after Anton Shugur strangled the deputy…the “don’t know him, don’t vouch for him” line during the scene with Emmitt and his lawyer talking about trying to contact the lender was taken from the Fargo movie…Shep Proudfoot said that line to W.H.M.

  14. dkwiatko says:

    The air conditioner dropping shot was a direct reference to the bowling ball dream shot in Lebowksi!