What References, Depictions, and Themes Should We Anticipate in Fargo’s Season 3?

While this blog’s last Fargo article gave you a list of ways to get hyped for the forthcoming third season, it didn’t go very deep into what we’ve seen in Fargo so far and what we can expect in the third season.

The following is some of what I expect to see in this upcoming third season. Of course, I do not know for certain what to expect. I have not seen it yet. But this is some of what I hope to see, based on what we’ve seen before.

Innovative and realistic depictions of Minnesotans

Minnesota is known for many things, but rarely is it known for being a setting for violence, tales of organized crime, and conspiracies of murder. This is arguably because of misunderstandings and stereotypes in the media. As noted in my previous blog post on the matter, there are plenty of violent moments in Minnesota’s history but Fargo seems to be one of the few mainstream fictional works interested in this ugly history.

Fargo‘s second season also contains one of my favorite descriptions of the typical Minnesotan male. It occurs when protagonist Lou Solverson first comes face-to-face with Mike Milligan, one of the many violent main characters in the story. Lou learns that Mike met Hank, his father-in-law, earlier that day, and refers to Lou (and Minnesotans in general) as friendly.

Ted Danson as Hank Larsson in the second season. 

Milligan disagrees with this assessment, offering one of my favorite summations of so-called Minnesota nice:

“Pretty unfriendly actually. But it’s the way you’re unfriendly. You’re so polite about it. Like you’re doing me a favor.”

Perhaps the media will never really get Minnesota right, largely because it just isn’t depicted enough. But Fargo does so much better than most of its predecessors. Let’s anticipate more of such in its upcoming season. 

Minnesota geography with a deeper meaning

One of the main locations in Fargo‘s second season is Luverne, Minnesota. To many, this may just be a random town. Most viewers probably don’t know whether it’s a real place.

But Luverne isn’t just a violent place in fiction; the real town has a violent history of its own. In 1918, in a wave of anti-immigrant hysteria, the men of Luverne gathered together to tar and feather John Meints, a German-American man who they had deemed traitorous. Not settling for the tarring and feathering, they drove him to the South Dakota border and abandoned him there, threatening to kill him if he returned.

The victim here.

Is it a coincidence that the second season of Fargo centered around a Luverne man who crossed the South Dakota border to escape threats on his life and subsequently met his own death? Unlikely. And it’s likely the third season will contain more such homages.

Fictionalized Minnesota geography

While Luverne and Fargo and Bemidji and Brainerd are real places, Fargo does have a tendency to play fast-and-loose with the actual geography of the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. To begin with, none of FX’s Fargo has been filmed in Minnesota or the Dakotas, filming instead in Canada.

Another notable example of creative Fargo geography comes not from the show but from the original 1996 film. The Brainerd of Fargo is guarded by a menacing, frightening Paul Bunyan. This statue does not exist in real life, having been created exclusively for the film. This has also created confusion for many people, particularly regarding the difference between Bemidji (the setting of much of Fargo‘s first season) and Brainerd (the setting of much of the film).

The Bemidji Paul and Babe.

Bemidji has an actual Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statue. Brainerd lacks the Paul statue of the film. However, you will find a Paul Bunyan themepark and a watertower named Paul Bunyan’s Flashlight, plus a seated Bunyan at the Brainerd Welcome Center.

Paul Bunyan’s flashlight

We can expect more of this in the third season, as it once again was not filmed in Minnesota or the Dakotas but is set there. In particular, this season is partially set (but was not filmed) in the ugly city of St. Cloud, a city notable for its racist anti-immigrant zeal.

Tomorrow and to Fargo and Tomorrow: allusions to Shakespeare and more

One of my favorite elements in the second season of Fargo is the way in which the bumbling Blumquists (Peggy and Ed, played by Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons) serve as Minnesotan Macbeths.

Lady Macbeth of Minnesota and the Butcher of Luverne

The immediate comparisons are obvious. Ed aspires toward ruling his kingdom, although in his case its owning a butcher shop rather than Scotland. Peggy is his accomplice in murder and more, although notably with much less focus than the crimes committed by Lord and Lady Macbeth.

But part of what really makes the connection stronger for me is the idea that the UFOs in Fargo‘s second season are comparable to the witches in Macbeth. They repeatedly appear to affect the plot, without ever directly interceding. Even their most deus ex machina moment, in which Lou’s life is arguably saved because a UFO appears during a shootout, only affects the plot in a very minor way. He still could have grabbed his gun and saved his life without a UFO’s appearance.

The comparisons don’t stop here, of course. Waiting for Godot and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and many other classic and contemporary works have been referenced in Fargo so far. This new season will certainly continue the trend.

Allusions to the Coen Brothers

Now for my least favorite element of Fargo so far. I’m a member of the faction that vastly prefers Fargo’s second season to its first. Part of the reason is that the first season often feels like Coen Brothers fan fiction. In particular, the character Lorne Malvo (depicted by Billy Bob Thornton) has many moments in which he is nothing more than a poor man’s Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men.

The plot of the first season feels like someone just took the characters and story from Fargo (the film) and stretched them out into ten episodes. Molly Solverson is the B-list Marge Gunderson. Martin Freeman’s insurance-selling Jerry Nygaard is just William H. Macy’s car-selling Jerry Lundergaard with more screentime. The Easter eggs go on and on – and have been documented thoroughly by the internet – with very little substance beyond “hey, look at this!”

Even the second season falters once or twice when paying homage to the Coens. Its weakest moment might be when they lift a monologue and flash-forward moment from Raising Arizona and drop it into the finale.

If the third season contains Easter eggs to the Coen Brothers, I hope they stand on their own. Fargo has too much brilliance to stoop to the level of ‘member berries.

A character (but not necessarily an actor) from the first two seasons

One thing we know for certain is that the third season of Fargo has one recurring character from one of its first two seasons. What we do not know is who or which season, or if the character will even be played by the same character.

Rumor and speculation would have Russell Harvard’s Mr. Wrench (left) return in this new season. 

Speculation has largely suggested it’s Mr. Wrench, the deaf hitman played by Russell Harvard in Season One. Other possibilities include Mike Milligan or one of the Solversons.


“I’m the victim here” and “For what? A little bit of money?”

There are two recurring lines that have appeared in each incarnation of Fargo so far. In all three variants of Fargo, you haven all three, you have central characters who fail to take responsibility for their own crimes: Jerry Lundegaard, Lester Nygaard, and the Blumquists. In the second season, Rachel Keller’s Simone says it to Bear, attempting to save her own life.

The other line is perhaps the moral of the Fargo parable. Marge Gunderson first uttered it to Gaear Grimsrud after the climax in the film, with Molly Solverson and Hank Larsson repeating it in the subsequent seasons.

“And for what? For a little bit of money? There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well.”

– Marge Gunderson

We can rest assured that someone will say it in this forthcoming season. Or, I assume they will.

The possibility for endless theorizing and analysis

One beautiful thing about Fargo is the endless analysis it warrants. While we don’t know what we will see in this upcoming season, one can rest assured that it will contain plenty to enjoy and analyze for years to come.

Enjoy the above? Check out Twelve Ways to Get Hyped for Fargo’s Third Season or some Fan Theories from D. F. Lovett.

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