‘Fargo’ pointing in right direction for season 3

Ewan McGregor plays dual roles in new storyline

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Pay no mind to what the calendar says. Television is about to be hit with a blast of cold, wintry chill.

Yes, “Fargo” is finally back and that’s a reason to rejoice, don’t yah know?

Inspired by, but not beholden to, the 1996 Coen brothers film, “Fargo” earned raves and awards for its first season in 2014. Arguably, it was the best thing on TV. Then, unlike some anthology series (Hint: HBO’s “True Detective”), it rose to new heights in season two.

After a hiatus that lasted for more than a year, creator Noah Hawley’s snow-capped crime saga returns with new actors and new stories tied to desperate Midwestern folks who tend to hatch pathetic schemes that go horribly awry.

But some things don’t change: “At its core,” says Hawley, “the show has always been about the idea of what people will do for money.”

Season three focuses on combative brothers Emmit and Ray Stussy, both wonderfully played by Ewan McGregor. They’ve been locked in a lifelong sibling rivalry — a competition that will lead them down a very dangerous path.

We’ve seen two episodes that FX made available for review and we’re happy to report that we’re hooked. And now, without getting into spoiler-alert territory, we’ll pass along four things you need to know about season three:

1. A sense of place: This year the darkly comedic mayhem unfolds in two Minnesota locales — St. Cloud and tiny Eden Valley (with a population of just over 1,000). It’s set in the year 2010, making it the most contemporary installment of the series. season one was set in 2006 and season two in 1979.

2. Up close and personal: Hawley describes this year’s saga as “more intimate.” The cast is smaller and, at least early on, the scope isn’t as expansive as it was in season two, which erupted into an all-out war between crime syndicates.

Also, there aren’t the obvious character connections that there were between seasons one and two.

“This year, I wanted the story to stand on its own two feet,” Hawley says.

3. Pulling double duty: Playing brothers Ray and Emmitt proved to be an epic challenge for McGregor, mainly because the men are so different. Emmit, the eldest of the two, is a golden boy — the handsome and wealthy “Parking Lot King of Minnesota.” Ray is a balding, potbellied and down-on-his-luck parole officer.

McGregor was required to gain weight to play Ray, which he says was kind of a bummer because he was in such great shape after running religiously and exercising while filming “T2 Trainspotting.”

So how did he hide that weight when he needed to be Emmit?

“I wore Spanx.”

4. Paging Marge Gunderson: Following in the footsteps of Frances McDormand and Allison Tolman, actress Carrie Coon joins the franchise’s canon of female law-enforcement officials.

She plays Gloria Burgle, the earnest Eden Valley police chief and newly divorced mother of a 10-year-old son. Coon compares the character to Marge Gunderson, the cop played by McDormand in the 1996 film.