'Fargo' Season 3 Won't Premiere Until 2017: Noah Hawley Talks New Season, UFOs and Finale

Will any familiar faces return? And what was up with Hanzee and Mike Milligan's fates?
Chris Large/FX
Patrick Wilson of 'Fargo'

[Warning: This article contains spoilers for the entirety of Fargo season two...]

Fans of Fargo aren't going to have to wait longer for the next season of the FX series, but 2016 may be a sad year indeed.

In lieu of the standard series of postmortem interviews showrunners invariably do these days, Fargo mastermind Noah Hawley spoke on a Tuesday morning conference call with a cadre of reporters to break down the state of his ongoing anthology series.

While many of the questions were about specific details resolving the second season finale, the third season was nebulously discussed, with the big revelation being that we probably won't get any Fargo in 2016.

"It's a winter show, for better or worse, and this winter, there is not time to shoot another year before this winter is over," Hawley said. "It's also very important to me and my other producers, I think one of the strengths of the show is that we separate the writing from the production and we really take our time and we break the whole story and we write eight of the 10 hours at least and we end up up there knowing exactly what we're doing, exactly what the whole story is. We're going through the writing process now. I've written the first hour and we're about half-way through breaking the season and we'll be writing over the next few months with the idea that we'll go into production, much like our first year, we'll be shooting in November and hopefully back on the air in the Spring of 2017."

As he notes, this isn't a huge shock. The first season premiered in April 2014, with the second season in October 2015, so given a similar gestation process, the reasonable expectation was always Spring 2017, which won't impact the show's Emmy window in the slightest. So don't freak out, but feel free to pity your friendly neighborhood TV critic, who will now have an empty slot in his or her Top 10 for next year.

Mentions of the Sioux Falls Massacre in the first season led directly into the 1979-set second season, but Hawley suggests no such tie-in necessarily occurred with this season into the third. 

"We didn't tee up the story of season three within the body of season two. That said, it's very exciting to now think once more 'Well, what else can you do with Fargo? What other kind of movie can it be?' " Hawley said. "It proved in its first year that it can be a sort of similar-but-different story to the actual film and then in the second year it proved that it can be a much larger epic that somehow managed to turn 1979 into a crime story and then in the third year, the question becomes, 'Structurally and stylistically, what's left to say?' What do we do that feels, again, similar-but-different so that we're not really repeating ourselves."

As has been reported previously, the third season will be set in 2010, a few years after the events of the first season.

"I like the idea that we're now living in a very selfie-oriented culture where people photograph what they're eating and put it up for other people to see. It feels like a social dynamic that is very antithetical to the sort of Lutheran pragmatism of the region," he said.

Hawley added, "So much of our crime stories are based around the difficulty that people have expressing themselves and communicating. And in a lot of ways the tragedies that are at the heart of these crimes could all be averted if Jerry Lundegaard could've just asked his father-in-law for the money or if Lester could have just been honest about who he was and Kirsten as well. So I like the idea of setting these very pragmatic and humble people against a culture of narcissism and to see what that generates for us, story-wise."

Before you start thinking, 'Yay! More fun adventures with grown-up Molly,' don't.

"None of the main characters from our first year will be back for our third year," Hawley said, noting this would violate the relatively peaceful and resolved endings to each chapter of the saga.

"As much as I love those actors and characters, the dangers of bringing them back and putting them through their paces for another sort of crazy case is that then the artifice of the whole thing becomes too clear and suddenly it just feels like we're doing it because it's fun and we like them, but we've broken our own rules," he said.

But there's a caveat: "That's not to say that one of our stories might not intersect with characters we've seen before for a certain period of time."

Here are Hawley's explanations for some of the twists and turns of the season two finale, including the endings for Hanzee and Mike Milligan, plus those darned aliens.

On the revelation that Hanzee survives, mentors Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench and, with a different face, becomes a character killed off in the first season: "I think the idea with the Mr. Tripoli evolution was I liked the idea that Hanzee emerges from this story as a winner on some level and that this is really an origin story for him as much it's an origin story for Molly, who's six years old," Hawley said. "If we did our job right and people didn't just think it was clever just for clever's sake there could be a sort of double-realization, the first is that this character grows up to be a character from the first season, which I think is very exciting, and then simultaneously to realize that that character, who's now living in your mind as a new character from the first season is also, at the same time, dead, because I've seen him killed off. I think that's an interesting journey for a viewer to go on."

On the UFOs that played such a strange and at time important role in the season: "There are two things that I felt gave me permission to use it," Hawley said. "The first was that obviously the Coens had used a UFO as a conceit in Billy's movie The Man Who Wasn't There, so a lot of that imagery had been there. That movie, of course, took place in a much earlier time period. But also the fact that in 1979, two years after Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars, it was very much in the zeitgeist and after the kind of crazy political upheavals of the '70s where everyone realized the conspiracy really did go all the way to the top and that sort of sense of paranoia in American life was so heightened that you literally felt like you couldn't trust anything, even the skies. And I think those two things created the permission for me to kind of explore those elements."

Hawley compared the UFO to the Mike Yanagita plotline in the original movie, which he said "adds to the sort of truthiness in a true story that's not true." He noted that it "adds to that accept the mystery, truth is stranger than fiction element."

On the fate of Charlie Gerhardt, heir to the Gerhardt crime family and perhaps the season's most important character not to appear in the finale: "I think he served about four years in prison and got out as the sole surviving Gerhardt and had to make a life for himself. On a lot of levels, he's left behind as the last man standing of the Gerhardt family and I'm sure he took a long, hard look at himself and the fact that his nature, which was much more gentle, was in such conflict with his upbringing. If he's out there, I'd love to get a letter from him someday telling me how he turned out."

On the survival of Hanzee and Mike Milligan: For Hawley, it comes down to,  "What does victory look like, really? Without getting political, because that's not my goal, but what does one have to sacrifice to join the establishment, on some level? Hanzee went off and started his own, which gave him the most sense of autonomy and agency and ownership over his destiny. And Mike Milligan, he was part of this corporate hierarchy and the only way that he was ever going to rise through the ranks was to get rid of his Western wear and cut his hair and learn to play golf, in other words to really surrender his identity on every level, to become just another traveling salesman, on a level."

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