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Aw Geez: Comparing 'Fargo' seasons 1, 2 and 3

FARGO -- Pictured: Ewan McGregor as Ray Stussy. CR: Matthias Clamer/FX1 / 4
FARGO -- Pictured: Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Nikki Swango. CR: Matthias Clamer/FX2 / 4
FARGO -- Pictured: Carrie Coon as Gloria Burgle. CR: Matthias Clamer/FX3 / 4
FARGO -- Pictured: Ewan McGregor as Emmit Stussy. CR: Matthias Clamer/FX4 / 4

FARGO—Season 3 of the FX series "Fargo" rolls out Wednesday night, and while the latest installment of not-so-nice Minnesota murders brings us a new setting (Eden Valley and St. Cloud circa 2010) and storyline, trailers suggest similarities to previous characters and scenes. There's a good cop with a close family bond, a bad guy with a mysterious past and a colorful cast all set on a collision course.


Season 1

Molly Solverson—Set in 2006, Molly earns her stripes by outperforming her police peers, thanks to support from her father...

Season 2

Lou Solverson—Set in 1979, Lou is on the case while young Molly stays home with her sick mom.

Season 3

Gloria Burgle—The newly divorced police chief brings her son on a ride-along that turns into an investigation of a suspicious scene.

If there is a common thread with this character, who serves as the show's moral compass, it is that in each season they all have strong family bonds. In Season 1, we saw that with Molly and her father Lou, and in Season 2 Lou with Betsey, Molly and his father-in-law Hank.

And with Gloria (from what I have seen; I am two episodes in and won't try to spoil things here), she has that element as well with her young son, Nathan.

There seems to be two polar forces at work on the show: The Good Cop on one end and the Mysterious Bad Guy on the other. And they don't even always meet. Molly never met Malvo, and Lou only had a few run-ins with Hanzee in Season 2 (most notable being the chase scene after the massacre in Sioux Falls).


Season 1

Lorne Malvo—A vicious hitman who goes deep undercover to get his man—and anyone who gets in the way.

Season 2

Hanzee Dent—The Gerhardt family henchmen shows no loyalty, eventually turning on his employers and a number of others.

Season 3

V.M. Vargas—The enigmatic stranger imposes himself on the business interests of Emmit Stussy.

I think of these characters as the agents of chaos. And if there is a commonality here, it is that there is very little known about this character in each season. Heck, we don't even know if Lorne Malvo's name is actually "Lorne Malvo." We got some history about Hanzee, but his motives on turning on the Gerhardt crime family remain a mystery to me. All we know is that he met his end in Season 1 when Malvo went postal on the Fargo Crime Syndicate.

In Season 3, we have VM Vargas, who seems to fit this profile. From what I have seen, there is very little to say about him beyond he is charming, has a love for language and his teeth look like they belong in "The Big Book of British Smiles" the dentist on "The Simpsons" uses to scare children into good dental hygiene.


Season 1

Lester Nygaard—The bullied insurance salesman gets in over his head when he suggests to Malvo that someone should kill his bully, Sam Hess.

Season 2

Peggy Blumquist—A dreaming beautician with Hollywood aspirations accidentally runs over a member of the Gerhardt family and keeps her husband and law enforcement in the the dark.

Season 3

Ray and Emmit Stussy—An old beef heats up between the bickering brothers, fueled by their partners.

Ah, yes. Our bumbling protagonists, the people who seem to get the big ball of violent chaos in motion—often by dumb chance. From Lester's inability to tell Malvo no when offered to have Sam Hess killed, to Peggy's plowing poor Rye Gerhardt with her car and not even stopping though the guy's body is half hanging out her windshield, this is the character that gets in way over their head, though they never seem to figure that out.

And in Season 3, we have both the Stussy brothers in this position. Emmit through questionable business dealings and Ray through a half-baked idea to get back what he believes is rightfully his, even though it really isn't.


Season 1

Gina Hess—In an effort to collect on her late husband Sam's life insurance policy, the widow seduces Lester.

Season 2

Simone Gerhardt—In retaliation for her father's abuse, the young woman cozies up to the man who has come to kill him.

Season 3

Nikki Swango—The bridge player helps her her parole officer/boyfriend Ray reclaim what is his.

In my opinion, there is less in common with this character in each season than similar. Gina Hess played a somewhat small role. Simone was a larger player in that she actually got members of her family killed with her relationship with Milligan, and paid the highest price in that "Miller's Crossing"—inspired scene where Bear takes her out.

Swango is a main player in the third season. She is a force that helps push Ray into some bad decisions, but it is to protect the guy and his interests, at least in her mind.


Season 1

Fargo Crime Syndicate - After an attempt to take out Malvo, the tables are turned and the hitman cleans house.

Season 2

Gerhardt Family - The small family empire just outside of town tries to fend off a hostile takeover from the Kansas City mob, but is wiped out.

Season 3


For a show and film called "Fargo," there is a strange lack of the actual city of Fargo in both. It certainly had a more prominent role in Season 2, but it always seems like it's there in the background—in a menacing sort of way.

Two episodes in with season three, I have not seen a connection to Fargo yet. But I am sure it will eventually come up. As we saw in the first two seasons, just because one crime organization is taken out, doesn't mean another one is not there waiting in the wings to take over.


Season 1

A wintry whiteout gives way to a more deadly rain of fish.

Season 2

A UFO descends on the scene of a large shootout.

Season 3

Who knows, but the season is set around Christmas time, so anything could happen.

The fish thing still baffles me. I know it was explained as a result of a tornado, but it was still odd. Almost David Lynchian odd. Like I could see that happening on "Twin Peaks."

I know fans are split on the UFO thing from Season 2, but I was OK with it. For some reason, it didn't feel out of place or all that odd, given that this show has a lot of strange, surreal elements to it.

I am not sure what we will get in the third season with this element. Thus far, the tone is more in line with the film than the first two seasons. It is darker and has more of a film noir vibe than the bombastic feel of last season and the Midwest quirk of the first season.