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‘Fargo’ Review: Carrie Coon and Ewan McGregor Bring Season 3 to an Emotional Peak in Penultimate Episode

"Fargo" delivered its richest episode of Season 3 in an hour built on one-on-one confrontations that let the performers shine.

Fargo Season 3 Episode 9 Ewan McGregor

Chris Large/FX

MVP (Most Valuable Performer)

Fargo Season 3 Episode 9 Carrie Coon Ewan McGregor

This week, there’s a case to be made for any one of the series regulars: Carrie Coon had two gut-punch scenes she handled with poignant reflection. Olivia Sandoval was a comedic spitfire and warm shoulder — the perfect foil to Gloria’s blues. David Thewlis sitting on a toilet, shoveling ice cream into his gullet will be an image that haunts us for a long, long time.

But we’ve got to go with McGregor here, and not for the reason you might think. His opening scene — the much-anticipated confession, alluded to at the end of last week’s episode — was great. Though any storytelling scene not on “The Leftovers” feels slightly inadequate in comparison, the wide framing called more attention to the lack of intimacy than McGregor missing any notes. It would’ve been nicer to be closer to him; to see Emmit wincing at the memory of his brother in agonizing close-up. But he was there with it the whole time, and the way in which he smoothly connected the jumbled thoughts of Emmit’s guilt-ridden brain was impressive. It was the rhythm and inflection of his performance that tied it up nicely.

READ MORE: ‘Fargo’: Noah Hawley Explains the Season 3 Connections to Past Seasons, ‘The Leftovers,’ and ‘The Big Lebowski’

And yet his best scenes were almost entirely silent. When Emmit gingerly walks into the jail cell for the first time, a flood of questions rush over the audience: “Is he really prepared to go to jail? Can he live out the rest of his life like this? The man wearing the cardigan?” And they’re all because of McGregor’s body language. You can feel his trepidation; fear reinforced by a separate factor later on, when he’s sitting with Gloria being told he can leave. She asks him who’s pulling the strings, and he considers telling her. But the overlaid image of Varga’s gnashing teeth — not unlike the wolf he’s come to represent — keeps Emmit’s mouth shut.

He walks out to the car, gets inside, and seals his fate. It’s a fantastic turn from McGregor, and one executed quickly and efficiently. If he gets an Emmy in a few months, there should be no question that he’s deserving.

Aces Quotes for Everyday Use

“You think there’s a special level of hell for people who kill their loved ones on Christmas Eve?”
– Emmit Stussey (Ewan McGregor), offering a great first date conversation starter

“Bingo!”
– Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), channeling the ghost of Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz)

“It’s a cardigan.”
– Emmit Stussey, proving there’s never a wrong time to correct an innocuous mistake

“That’s a puzzler.”
– Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval), for whenever you’re stumped by something, but not too worried about it

“The problem is not that there is evil in the world; the problem is that there is good. Because otherwise, who would care?”
– V.M. Varga (David Thewlis), offering succinct insight into the mind of a villain

“I’m not supposed to drink during ovulation, but if I have to look that thing in the eye one more time sober, I may jump out a window. So, Moscow Mule, and make it ornery?”
– Winnie Lopez, showing you the right way to talk to a bartender

An Important Quote to Think On

FARGO -- “Aporia” – Year 3, Episode 9 Olivia Sandoval as Winnie Lopez, Carrie Coon as Gloria Burgle.

“We think the world is one thing and then
it turns out to be something else.”
– Gloria Burgle

In Episode 7, there was a heartbreaking scene featuring Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) returning home to his wife. He’d just been accused of betraying his best friend and business partner by Emmit himself, and he just couldn’t take it anymore. “For God’s sake, honey, what’s wrong?” his wife said. “The world. The world is wrong. It looks like my world, but everything’s different.”

He and Gloria Burgle could agree on that. After a frustrating day where she thought she’d cracked the case after Emmit confessed, she was forced to set him free in spite of ample evidence and a signed confession. Throw in a betrayal of sorts by Emmit, who came to her to tell the truth only to stop short when presented with an opportunity to turn on Varga, Gloria felt like everything was turned upside down.

READ MORE: ‘Fargo’: David Thewlis on the Details and Delight of Playing a Bad Guy Who’s ‘Out and Out Foul’ 

The idea of “Minnesota Nice” sounds derogatory at first glance: Either way you take it, the implication is that Minnesotans are better than other people, or that they’re simple-minded homebodies ignorant to the big world outside their landlocked state. But “Fargo” has never treated them as such. It uses the idea that these people have found paradise and it’s under attack. They don’t act superior — quite the opposite, in fact — but they aren’t uninformed either. They found a way of life that works for them, that could work for us all, and they’re suddenly faced with a fight to protect it.

Sy may have invited it on himself, of sorts, considering he’s complicit in Emmit’s crimes. But even if he was willing to be a bit loose with the law, he had a limit and was shocked when it felt like his friend and mentor did not. He’s not any less of a man for thinking highly of his fellow humans, just like Gloria — despite how she’s treated by the new Chief — isn’t any less of a woman for being a bit smarter than her co-workers. One could argue anti-intellectualism is running amok in 2017, and its birth is being chronicled in “Fargo’s” 2011 world. Opinions and news; facts and alternate facts; truth and the truth — they’re all skewing together.

You’re raised to believe the world thing, and suddenly, it turns out to be something else. How we adjust determines our future, and how these characters adjust will determine theirs. Sy went down with the ship, drinking poisoned tea under far too suspicious circumstances. Here’s hoping Gloria can right the boat before it’s too late. Her paradise needs to be preserved, even if it will never look the same.

Grade: A

The “Fargo” Season 3 finale airs Wednesday, June 21 at 10 p.m. on FX. 

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