Hawley revealed that and a few other details about his plans for the third season during a postmortem conference call for the second season of the FX drama.
“The reality is you won’t see it in 2016,” Hawley said. “It’s a winter show for better or worse. There is not time to shoot another year before this winter is over.”
Hawley also wants to ensure as much of the third season is written before shooting begins. “It’s also very important to me and the other producers that we separate the writing from production. We take our time and break the whole story, write eight of the 10 hours at least and we end up knowing exactly what we’re doing and exactly what the whole story is. We’re going through the writing process now. I’ve written the first hour, we’re about halfway through breaking the season. We’ll be writing over the next few months with the idea we’ll go into production, much like our first year, in November and be back on the air in spring of 2017.”
Despite the show’s success, FX has shown patience with the unique demands of its anthology format. There was a year and a half gap between the premieres of Season 1 and 2. “One of the great joys of working with FX is the idea that we’re making these 10 hour movies and there’s going to be some kind of event quality to them,” Hawley said. “We can take our time and get them right and put them on the air, whether that’s 12 months or 15 months or 18 months after the last one. I think that really makes it an event. I think the minute you’re hitting the same airdate every year you’re just making a television show.”
The third season will be set in 2010, four years after Season 1, but will not include any of the first season regulars as primary players in the action. “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,” Hawley allowed.
As fans of the first season noted, the second season ends with Zahn McClarnon’s now-fugitive Hanzee assuming the new identity of Moses Tripoli. Mr. Tripoli was the mob boss who employed Sam Hess, the bully who pestered Martin Freeman’s Lester Nygaard in Season 1 that helped set off that chain of bloody events. Mr. Tripoli also had two henchmen, Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers — one who is hearing impaired just like one of the boys playing in the field the last time we see Hanzee at the end of Season 2.
Hawley said the writers decided to add this twist “as we were breaking the second half of the season.”
“There’s always a kind of gut check with these things,” he said. “Are we being clever just to be clever or is there a really compelling character reason to add a twist like that in the end? The idea is that we will connect each story to the other stories in the canon, including the film. I think the idea with the Mr. Tripoli evolution was I like the idea that Hanzee emerges from this story as a winner, on some level, and this is really an origin story for him as much as it is an origin story for [Allison Tolman’s] Molly, who’s six years old [in Season 2].”
As for what happened to Allan Dobrescu’s Charlie, the last surviving member of the Gerhardt family whose fate is not resolved onscreen, Hawley said “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. 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.”
That said, Hawley said Season 3 is “more contemporary story and that’s exciting.”
“Our first year was set in 2006, but we didn’t really deal with what it’s like to be in that region in a more contemporary world,” he said. “I like the idea that we’re now living in a very selfie-oriented culture — 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 Lutheran pragmatism of the region. So much of our crime stories are based around the difficulty people have expressing themselves and communicating.”
Hawley warned against looking for clues to the focus of Season 3 within the second season. (And that reference to events in Rapid City won’t come into play, but may form the seed of a future season.)
“We didn’t really do what we did in our first year,” Hawley said. “We didn’t tee up the story of Season 3 within the body of Season 2. That said, I think it’s very exciting to now think once more, ‘What else can you do with “Fargo”?’
“In the third year the question becomes, structurally and stylistically: What’s left to say? What do we do that feels similar, but different so we’re not repeating ourselves? We’re always looking for connections and things that fit into the larger body of work we’re building, hopefully without ever seeming twee or precious or too clever by far.”
Following the success of “Fargo,” which won three Emmys for its first season and recently earned three Golden Globe nominations for its second, Hawley has been in high demand. He recently signed an overall production deal with FX which includes overseeing the upcoming Marvel sci-fi series “Legion” and a miniseries adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle.” He expects “Legion” to go into production in March for a 2016 premiere, and plans to begin working on the script for “Cat’s Cradle” in his “spare time.”