If the third time’s the charm, what happens when the third time arrives and you remain uncharmed? When the “time” in question is the third season of FX’s critical darling Fargo, and the uncharmed “you” is me, a grouchy TV critic, the answer is: wait a while and try for the fourth. After a hiatus of three years, Noah Hawley’s anthology series returns this week and tries to meet the times—but there’s a reason saying fourth time’s a charm isn’t a thing.
Six long years ago, the first season of Fargo premiered,chronicling absurd and snowballing ultra-violence in the snowy climes of the upper Midwest, where galoots and bone-chilling criminals did dark deeds no one who saw them would ever forget. The heart of the show, like that of the Coen brothers movie that inspired it, was a decent female police officer wonderfully played by Allison Tolman, riffing on Frances McDormand’s indelible Marge Gunderson. But the finale pushes her to the side, because like so many of the prestige dramas that came before it (although fewer that have come after), Fargo was primarily concerned with the live-wire connection between men and violence.