‘Fargo’ EP Noah Hawley On Open-Ended Finale, Potential Season 4 & ‘Cat’s Cradle’
SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Fargo Season 3 finale.
Anthony D’Alessandro writes: “Please don’t tell people this is the end,” says Fargo series creator Noah Hawley about the recent news that there may never be another season of the FX show. “Right now, I just can’t point to (a production start) date on the calendar.”
Hawley is a busy guy. He’s currently breaking story on the second season of FX/Marvel’s Legion, which goes into production in September and lasts through the first quarter of next year. Then there’s two movies in line for him to direct: Fox Searchlight’s Reese Witherspoon female astronaut movie Pale Blue Dot and the feature adaptation of Hawley’s plane crash novel Before The Fall. And we haven’t even started talking about his limited series adaptation of the Kurt Vonnegut novel Cat’s Cradle for FX.
“I always agreed with FX that the only reason to do another Fargo is if the creative is there,” says Hawley, who at the moment is drawing a blank in regards to what Season 4 would center around.
“It took 15 months to get Season 2 off the ground, and 18 months to get Season 3 on the air. I have to turn my attention to the second season of Legion and a film potentially the winter after next. We’re looking at three years from now,” the EP about a rough timeline for a Fargo Season 4.
Hawley told audiences at the ATX Television Festival to enjoy tonight’s final hour of Fargo, “Somebody To Love,” which he wrote and Keith Gordon directed. Let’s just say tonight’s Season 3 ender had as much high-octane action as the Season 3 finale of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, “Margate Sands,” in which Jack Huston’s half-faced Richard Harrow shoots up a whorehouse Tarantino-style to rescue his late best friend Jimmy Darmody’s orphaned son. On Fargo, we had Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Nikki Swango (and Russell Harvard’s Mr. Wrench) raining bullets on those who physically beat her up a few episodes ago: the henchmen of David Thewelis’ V.M. Varga.
At the onset of the episode, parking lot czar Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) finds the confidence to stand up to the bully Varga, but he’s knocked out by his men. While Swango and Wrench clean up in an abandoned building, they send Varga packing. She then sets her sights on killing her late beau Ray’s killer, his brother Emmit. She finds Emmit broken down at the side of the road. “Are you as low as you can go?” she asks Emmit with the gun pointed at him.
Nikki’s death wish for Emmit is interrupted by a police officer who stops by. Nikki and the officer end in a quick draw which takes both their lives. Jump five years, Emmit, bankrupted by Varga, has reconciled with his wife and seems to have family life and his personal wealth on the round — that is until Wrench shows up and shoots Stussy in the back of the head. Three months later, we see that former Eden Valley police chief Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) has moved up in the world as a Homeland Security Officer. And she’s captured the guy we’ve all been waiting to go down: Varga. She tells Varga that three agents will enter the room and take him away to Rikers Island. Varga says that’s not so: He’ll be set free by Burgle’s supervisor.
And so the Season 3 finale of Fargo ends in a complete standstill without a resolution, with a semi-half smile on Burgle’s face as the lights fade to black.
Hawley said it was always his intention to leave the ending open-ended for us to decide. Typically the tragedies in Fargo have happy endings: Marge gets in bed with her husband in the movie, Molly (Allison Tolman) gets to be police chief at the end of Season 1, and Patrick Wilson’s Lou Solverson takes his daughter (the younger Molly) fishing. But for Hawley, the cliffhanger ending tonight … (read more)
The actress who brought Nikki Swango to life explains how her quest for ‘vengeance’ went so wrong. Warning: Major spoilers for the Season 3 finale.
From the moment Mary Elizabeth Winstead appeared on screen in Fargo’s third season as Nikki Swango, bridge-playing parolee to Ewan McGregor’s down-and-out parole officer Ray Stussy, it has been impossible to look away. When, in episode two, she spontaneously decided to leave her bloody tampon in the desk drawer of Ray’s brother Emmit, also played by McGregor, she was seared in our memory forever.
The third—and possibly final—season of Noah Hawley’s Coen brothers-inspired anthology series may not have been as exhilarating as the first or as beautifully constructed as the second, but it did have its standout moments. And many of them belonged to Winstead, who emerged as the unexpected protagonist by the end, seeking vengeance for the untimely death of her beloved Ray and teaming up with Russell Harvard’s Mr. Wrench (the only character to appear in all three seasons of the show) in an attempt to take down David Thewlis’ terrifying V. M. Varga.
Months after braving the “Calgary cold” of Fargo’s shoot, Winstead is back home in Los Angeles, where she caught up with The Daily Beast ahead of Wednesday night’s finale. She says the experience of playing the indomitable Nikki Swango has “spoiled her” to the point that she’s taking her time to look for the next project. And she’s not quite ready to say goodbye.
Below is an edited and condensed version of our conversation, including major spoilers from Fargo’s season three finale.
Wow, Nikki Swango went through a lot of shit on Fargo this season. How are you feeling now that this whole thing is coming to an end?
It’s kind of bittersweet, the whole thing. It was such a profound experience for me playing her; it was such an incredible arc of a character, so much fun. I think I was pushed in so many directions that I hadn’t been pushed in before, so I don’t really want to say goodbye to Nikki Swango. It’s a little bit sad that it’s officially, officially ending.
How much did you know about the character when you signed on and what made you want to play her?
I really didn’t know anything about her when I signed on. I was totally on board even before reading anything or knowing anything, because when Noah [Hawley] called and asked if I was available, I jumped at the opportunity. Honestly, I assumed I would be playing a police officer or maybe a housewife or some sort of really nice, sweet, polite, fresh-faced kind of character. I didn’t expect Nikki at all. And I had talked to Noah a little bit before he gave me the script, and I still didn’t really get that much of a sense of who she was until I read it. I was very surprised, but pleasantly surprised, I think … (read more)
‘Fargo’ Creator on Finale Cliffhanger, ‘Tragic’ Deaths and Whether There Will Be Season 4
(Warning: Spoilers ahead for Wednesday’s Season 3 finale of “Fargo”)
Ryan Gajewski writes: “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 … (read more)
Actor David Thewlis on the ‘Fargo’ Season Finale, V.M. Varga and Greed
Finn Cohen writes: “Fargo,” Noah Hawley’s crime anthology series on FX, introduced memorable villains in its first two seasons. But in the third, which aired its final episode Wednesday, a different beast emerged. David Thewlis’s turn as V.M. Varga, a bulimic loan shark with decaying teeth and far-right political leanings, has been a hilariously chilling aspect of this season’s exploration of “alternative facts” and magical realism. Reached by telephone in London the day after the British elections, Mr. Thewlis discussed bingeing, purging and politics. Following are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Did you have to decompress, or metaphorically take a shower when filming was done?
I shaved my head. In the last scene, which is a jump of 5 years, we discussed how we’d make Gloria [played by Carrie Coon] and myself look older. That was the last thing we shot of the whole season. I had this idea that we’d thin his hair out and chop into my hair, without going over the top with aging makeup, just to make me look like I’d aged 5 years with the hair. So at the end of that night, I said, “Just shave the lot of it.” As a way of getting rid of Varga. But I kept me teeth.
Was the toothpick in the script, or was that something that you brought to it?
Noah had already come to me with the idea that Varga was purging, bulimic — hence the teeth. When we were doing the camera test, Noah asked someone if they could hand me a toothpick, and instructed me to dig away until the gums were bleeding. I always thought, “Oh, he’s pre-plotting this, and somehow this toothpick’s going to become a weapon in some way before the end of it, or a tool of torture.”
That’s an interesting point: The most violent thing Varga does physically is spray Emmit in the eyes with breath spray.
As an actor, I was a bit like, “How can I not kill anyone? I’m in ‘Fargo,’ I’m the bad guy.” Well, I suppose I poisoned Cy. I felt that I should at least get to stab someone brutally or do something absolutely grotesque. But by the end, I like that in a way he’s sort of clean of that. You never do see him commit any grand violence, but we see that he’s absolutely nihilistic in terms of what he’s prepared to do.
In the fourth episode, when we see Varga as the wolf, that’s apt. But there are quite a few moments, especially when he escapes the elevator by leaving the trench coat, where he seemed reptilian, like a lizard leaving its tail behind.
I sort of felt him more reptilian myself, actually, and the way I was portraying him was more snakelike. I actually read something online about someone comparing the regurgitation of snakes to what I do, in terms of the purging, the vomiting. I often do that with characters, going back to my bloody drama-school days, in terms of equating them with creatures. And it’s very much there as a theme of all the seasons of “Fargo” as well: the predator and the prey.
It’s shocking when you realize that he’s bulimic. And in the ninth episode, when he’s on the toilet eating ice cream, that type of vulnerability was surprising amid his confidence.
The first time you see this eating disorder, I wasn’t sure if it was a sign of his lack of control or a sign of his supreme control, in that he will gorge himself as an expression of his greed, but he’s in control of it because he won’t take it on board. Or is it a vulnerability? And I thought in Episode 9, where he’s gorging on the ice cream, then you do see it as vulnerability. He’s basically comfort eating. Because for the first time he’s threatened. For the first time, you see him losing control. And I think the way that was shot was much more desperate. Even though it was actually my favorite scene because I just love ice cream [laughs]. Doing several takes of me eating ice cream was fantastic.
How many pints did you go through?
To be honest, not as many as I wanted … (read more)