(Warning: Spoilers ahead for Wednesday’s Season 3 finale of “Fargo”)
“Fargo” wrapped up Season 3 with a highway showdown, an ill-fated trip to the fridge and ultimately, a head-scratching cliffhanger involving a clock on the wall.
In Wednesday’s episode of the heralded FX drama series, Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) came incredibly close to enacting her revenge as she took out V.M. Varga’s (David Thewlis) men and then tracked down Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) on a deserted road. Just as she seemed on the verge of taking his life as penance for killing Ray, fate intervened in the form of a highway patrol officer, who shot Nikki dead at the very moment that she took the cop’s life.
Although Emmit emerges from the scene unscathed and phenomenally wealthy, fate ultimately catches up with him as well when Wes Wrench (Russell Harvard) delivers a bullet to his head in the kitchen. The action ends with Varga and Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) in a test of wills at the police station, with viewers unsure of whether the teeth-obsessed villain will indeed be rescued in a matter of minutes as he claims.
“Fargo” creator Noah Hawley told TheWrap that he knows Nikki’s death at the hands of a random officer might be unfulfilling for fans who were hoping she would pull off her master plan. “This guy we’ve never met has just suddenly changed our story, and people might not like it necessarily, but I don’t think they will expect it,” he said.
As for Emmit’s demise, Hawley explained, “I think that in the end, he got the cosmic justice. It just was administered by someone we might not have expected early on.”
The “Fargo” showrunner also discussed the big cliffhanger, what’s going on with Ray Wise’s seemingly otherworldly character and whether the series will come back for a fourth season.
TheWrap: How would you describe the tone of the finale?
Noah Hawley: It really felt like it ended big, and considering that we started in a claustrophobic, stuffy interview room — and with a season that felt a little domestic, maybe a little more inferior — it showed how far the story had come and how the scale had really escalated. I think that’s important when you’re trying to create these American myths.
Why was this the right way to end Nikki’s story?
I always define “Fargo” as a tragedy with a happy ending — that sense of tragedy has its own requirements. And so in looking at most characters, I’m always thinking about what is the tragic nature of this character’s journey. Not that tragedy has to end in death — Mike Milligan’s tragedy [in Season 2] is that he ended up in that office for the rest of his life. I did have a sense with Nikki that as much as we want the white hat to gun down the black hat in town square at noon, the reality tends not to work out that way. That there they are, in this isolated stretch of roads, and the odds that a car will drive by, they’re not high, but they’re not low. And the odds that that car will be a cop car, lower but not impossible. There’s a sense to which real life intruded.
She was trying to have the movie showdown, and real life intruded — something random happened and changed the course of both of their lives. So there’s a degree to which that adds to the tragedy, the fact that there she was, about to administer cosmic justice, and some random guy came along — she ends up dead in a most bizarre and seemingly meaningless way.
It seems like Emmit prevails, and then suddenly he doesn’t
With Emmit, I always had this sense that I was playing with the idea that every time he did the right thing, he was punished, and every time he did the wrong thing, he was rewarded. And obviously, a shotgun is fired and a handgun is fired seemingly through him, and what does this guy think the universe is trying to tell him? He came out of it with $20 million in his pocket, so maybe he’s invulnerable after all.
At the very end, you see a lot of photos on his fridge, but there’s no photo of Ray, and you think, “Well, he’s kind of a good guy, but he’s kind of a bad guy at the same time.” And what did he learn? That our morality is only as good as our memory. I think that in the end, he got the cosmic justice. It just was administered by someone we might not have expected early on.
What was behind the decision to bring back Wrench from Season 1?
This story takes place only a couple of years after the first season, and so it felt like a crossover was possible. And at the same time, our entire second season was a prequel to our first season, so I really wanted this story to stand on its own, and not make it feel like we were in this situation where the show leaned on itself as a crutch. But I like that for seven hours, you think that, “Oh, it’s just its own thing — it’s not connected in any way.”
And then when things are at their lowest, and you’re felling very sad — Ray’s dead, and Nikki’s going to prison, and all the people that you like are being punished, and “F— this show” — she sits down and the drums kick in, and you see Mr. Wrench. And three-and-a-half minutes later, the bus flips, and you think, “Oh, no, this is only the beginning.” And I think the catalyst of that character in that moment was designed to be very impactful.
It felt like the lead character of the show changed a number of times over the course of this season.
I’m always attracted to the ensemble because of the opportunities it gives me to shift point of view and to create empathy. I feel like, what is a story if not to create empathy for people who aren’t you? When you’re telling a story, and violence is coming, I never want that violence to feel good, necessarily. And so the clearest way to make violence feel meaningful and real to people is if you care about everyone in that scene where violence occurs.
I do feel like I’m making you care about everybody. We know that they’re on a collision course — we don’t know exactly who’s going to collide with whom, but it’s a little more complicated than the showdown at the end of “Shane.”
What’s going on with Ray Wise’s character? He could almost be the Angel of Death
There’s a certain degree with Joel and Ethan [Coen’s] films, where there’s often something cosmic going on — you’ll have characters like Anton Chigurh [from “No Country for Old Men”] or the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse [from “Raising Arizona”] or the dybbuk in the opening of “A Serious Man,” where something elevated or supernatural could be occurring. My feeling is that opens the door for me to play with those elements as well. Even V.M. Varga has a certain elemental quality, this mephistophelean character. And [there’s] this idea of Ray Wise’s character as a representative of cosmic justice because I did want to look this year at human justice, which doesn’t work out. You have a Stussy-killing serial killer sent to jail for a crime he didn’t commit, and the real killer who confesses is let go.
So human justice has failed, but I think we all want to feel there’s some sense of cosmic justice, as when he says in the bar, “We all know Jesus wins in the end.” That idea that there’s something larger, and Ray Wise says, “Have you been here before?” And she says, “The bowling alley?” And he says, “Is that what you see?” There’s a degree to which something heightened could be going on. And at the same time, we’re telling people this is a true story, and last year, there was a UFO, so what are we really saying? Like, are these things literally happening — I like that the audience has to grapple with that as well.
How did your goals for Season 3 compare with what you were hoping to achieve with the first two?
I think there’s an expansion that’s been happening each year with what the show can be. My goal is to always find a new approach to a fixed paradigm. It always has to be a crime story, and it always has to be a morality play, and how many different ways are there to do that before you run out of ways to do that? I’ve found three of them so far — I’ve made 30 hours of “Fargo.” And the question is, are there 10 more hours?
The answer is, I’m not sure yet because I don’t have the story. And the great thing about FX is that they’re not demanding that I find that story to hit an airdate. I’m open to it, and they would love it, and I would love it — I just don’t have it yet. And I have to make another show for them [“Legion”], and there’s some film projects I’m working on. I wouldn’t say I’m done with it emotionally, so we’ll see what happens.
So the finale’s last scene could be the last moment for the series? What should fans make of that scene?
It could be! Are you an optimist or a pessimist? [And] do you think there will be another season or not? It’s really up to you — well, actually it’s up to me. But yeah, it’s a cliffhanger.