The Next Fargo Could Shake the Whole World of Minnesota Nice. Geez, Marge, What in Blazes Is Going On?

Well, don't this just beat all: The third season of FX's Fargo may attack the very way of life on which the movie and the hit TV series have been based.

Noah Hawley, the writer who did the near-impossible and turned Joel and Ethan Coen's weirdly wonderful 1996 movie into two different yet equally compelling TV seasons, says that next time around, "There may be a threat to Minnesota Nice itself."

Someone please notify Garrison Keillor.


The third Fargo season is scheduled for early 2017 on FX, and the first sketchy details have just been released.

Ewan McGregor will star and co-star, playing the dual role of two brothers, Emmit and Ray Stussy.

Emmit is the Parking Lot King of Minnesota, a man who is above average in all things. Ray is an embittered parole officer, resentful of Emmit and naturally blaming him for all of Ray's disappointments.

"You want to start by setting up a situation that intrigues viewers," says Hawley. "In the first season, it was two men meeting by chance, Lester Nygaard obviously decent and Lorne Malvo obviously not. In the second season, it was a woman driving home with someone stuck through her windshield.

"You want it to make people wonder what could happen next."


Those who never saw where that windshield led Peggy Blumquist (Kirsten Dunst) (above), or would like to savor it again, can binge-watch all 10 episodes of season two on Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. ET/PT.

The third season will unfold closer to the present than the first two, and Hawley says that could play a key role in where the story goes and how it affects the strange and stylized yet familiar world where Fargo stories transpire.

"It's all set in a region that Ethan and Joel Coen call 'Siberia with family restaurants'," says Hawley. "There's a cruelty to the terrain that created what we know as Minnesota Nice. It's a culture where everyone is polite and seems to get along. But you never talk about your feelings because they're private. You never ask about anyone else's feelings because that would be rude.

"Today in our larger culture, people photograph their food and talk constantly about everything. So we may find out this season what happens to the real sense of this community when that wider culture comes into it.

"There's a lot of violence and threat in Fargo. This season that threat may be to Minnesota Nice itself."

Thrilled as FX has been with Fargo, Hawley says he's still taking it on a season-to-season basis and the network understands.

"The bar for Fargo is so high that if I don't think we can clear it, I wouldn't do it," he says. "With most networks, when they have a hit show, they want it to run forever. But if I said to [FX President] John Landgraf that I want to leave it where it is, I think he'd be disappointed and would accept it."

The casual observer might wonder if Hawley's biggest challenge with Fargo is finding the time to do it. He had a novel published this week, "Before the Fall," and it looks to be one of the summer's hottest sellers. Next he'll write the movie screenplay.

He will also be directing the upcoming film Man Alive and he has a multi-project deal with FX that includes the Marvel-based series Legion and a limited-series adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle."

He allows that this multitasking may have been a factor in scheduling the third Fargo for 2017 rather than trying to push it for 2016. But he also says the singular nature of each season means that it benefits from incubation time.

"One thing TV writing teaches you is that you can't wait for the muse," he says. "But Fargo has to have the right idea, with room for strong characters and enough points to develop.

"Then they can all fit into the bigger issues that Fargo can also be about, like the death of the family business and the rise of corporate America."

The show is obviously touching some chords, since it has received more than a hundred major awards nominations for its first two seasons. Among other things, that's not a bad selling point when Fargo does most of the rest of its season three casting around the end of the summer.


Hawley says that's still largely an "instinctive" process, like pulling Jeffrey Donovan (above) from the breezy USA series Burn Notice to play the nasty Dodd Gerhart in season two.

In any case, Hawley says it's easier now to get the actors he wants. "Yes," he says. "Short answer, yes."

What remains tricky is satisfying fans, finding the right way to wrap up stories for multiple characters with whom the audience has felt an intense connection.

"We want the endings to be unpredictable, but, when you think about them, inevitable," he says. "We also don't want to work everything out too neatly, because we want a real-life feel and that's how real life works.

"You don't just want to kill every bad guy. The idea that [ambitious mobster] Mike Milligan [Bokeem Woodbine] ends up with a desk job is, for him, a fate worse than death.

"It's a tightrope. Tragedy with a happy ending."

Hawley is clearly enjoying life as the creator and overseer of those endings, though he also cautions that while he may be a hot ticket at the moment, he's not omnipotent.

Asked about the scene toward the end of Fargo's second season in which a spaceship seems to cast a blinding light over the characters in the midst of a lethal shootout, Hawley shrugs.

"Look," he says. "I can't control the aliens."