'Fargo' Season 3 Is 'The Big Lebowski' Where Season 2 Was 'Miller's Crossing'

Is this the man who will define 'Fargo' Season 3?
Is this the man who will define 'Fargo' Season 3? Gramercy Pictures

Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley ( Legion too!) described his process recapturing the Coen brothers’ alchemical magic in his televised tribute to the 1996 masterpiece (the third season premieres April 19 on FX), at SXSW. But anyone who’s seen Hawley’s Fargo, particularly the second season, knows just how much the series is a pastiche of every Coen brothers film, united in the murderous vortex of Minnesota’s frozen tundra — what Joel Coen once called “Siberia with family restaurants.” And while Fargo Season 2 had the gangster drama Miller’s Crossing as its anchor referent, Hawley says Season 3 will pay tribute to the Coen’s cult classic comedy, The Big Lebowski.

“Part of the fun of Fargo is that there are a lot of references to Fargo and other Coen brothers movies, so sometimes you see something familiar,” Hawley said, “like a guy walking someone out to the woods to kill them and it’s Miller’s Crossing.”

But the goal is not just to reiterate what the Coens did, but to use their iconic imagery to play with the viewers’ expectation, setting them up to fall down new rabbit holes. “So there’s two things going on,” Hawley said. “One is the audience watching what’s in front of them and the other thing is people watching another movie entirely in their head. And it creates this really interesting rhyme that happens when suddenly you don’t give them what they’re expecting.”

Hawley took this to a new level in Fargo Season 2, which is absolutely loaded with references, to everything from No Country to Old Men to the UFOs of The Man Who Wasn’t There.

“In the second year I wanted to be a little more aggressive and push the boundaries a little bit,” Hawley said. “To enhance the story, always to enhance the story, never to just show off.”

Asked by an attractive iDigitalTimes reporter whether he’s exhausted the storytelling possibilities allusions can offer, Hawley explained that it’s more about instinct than hiding Easter eggs. “I don’t go searching. It’s more that in the moment it feels right.”

After joking that Fargo Season 3 would be “all Ladykillers” (often considered the Coen brothers’s worst movie), Hawley said that it’s The Dude (or El Duderino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing) and his loose-knit L.A. stoner antics that offered new material for Season 3. “For some reason Miller’s Crossing became a big magnet in Season 2. We were in the trees a lot more and just visually it felt right once we started. Season 3: there’s some Lebowski this year that’s interesting to me. You take something people know one way and you can really surprise them when you do it in a different way.”

But while The Dude takes everything easy — even negotiating with house-busting nihilists — Hawley knows just how risky it is playing with some of the most beloved movies of the past few decades. “ I never want to be precious or cute about it and that’s always my fear: have I gone too far?” Hawley said. “It’s that ‘I know it when I see it’ kind of test, so we’ll see how successful I am.”

And it’s not like he had the Coen brothers’s help along the way. “You can’t ask those guys, ‘well, how do you make a Coen brothers movie?’” Hawley said. “They don’t talk. They don’t engage. They don’t want to talk in interviews about it. They certainly don’t want to talk to me about it. So a lot of it was incumbent on me to study their work.”

We’ll see how well his latest study went when Fargo Season 3 premieres April 19.

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