The snowy, windswept vistas of the rural Midwest, the hilariously grating accents, the genial atmosphere of "Minnesota nice" that helpfully masks the greedy intentions of petty criminals… the specificity of setting is just one of the things that makes Fargo such a success. So is Eden Valley a real town in Minnesota? Viewers may be asking themselves that question when they tune into the Season 3 premiere of Fargo this Wednesday and witness the shenanigans that the characters get up to within the city limits.
Given that every episode (like the film the show is based on) starts with a "based on a true story" disclaimer — even though it's totally not — you'd be forgiven for being skeptical about the veracity of anything you see on screen. But as a matter of fact, Eden Valley is a real town… and it was chosen for a very specific reason, according to showrunner Noah Hawley (who also created Legion for FX).
"I had a very tangible need for a town that had a very similar name to another town," Hawley tells reporters in a conference call ahead of the season premiere, referencing the fact that there's going to be a "mix-up" that occurs between them — one that serves as a crucial plot point.
"They need to be close enough together that you can see driving to the wrong one by accident," he elaborates. "So you just look at the map and you say, 'Oh, there's Eden Prairie and there's Eden Valley, about 30 or 40 minutes between them.' And you can see if you were a guy who was maybe not in his right mind and who'd lost a piece of paper, how you might drive to one and not the other."
Actually, a quick look at Google Maps reveals that Eden Valley and Eden Prairie are in fact a good 90-minute drive apart; but Hawley's point stands. However, other than the first half of their names, the two cities couldn't be more different. While Eden Prairie is a suburb of the Minneapolis metropolitan area with 62,600 residents as of the 2015 census estimates, Eden Valley is a small rural town right in the middle of the state, with a population of just under 1,000.
The similarity between the two city names isn't the only confusing aspect of Season 3, either. The two Stussy brothers, Emmit and Ray, look so similar — despite the fact that they aren't twins — that they're both played by Ewan McGregor. Mixed-up towns, doppelgänger siblings… it would appear that mistaken identity will be a recurring theme of Fargo Season 3. Find out when the premiere, "The Law Of Vacant Places," airs this Wednesday at 10:00 p.m. ET.