What’s On: Things Heat up in Chilly ‘Fargo,’ and ABC Previews ‘Downward Dog’

Fargo - Michael Stuhlbarg
Michael Stuhlbarg as Sy Feltz.

Fargo (10/9c, FX): The collision of darkly twisted humor and outright horror is a specialty of Fargo, and this episode, which marks the midpoint of a stellar third season, takes its calculating characters to the limit, leaving us wondering where the story can possibly go next. Caught in the crossfire are battling brothers Emmit and Ray Stussy (Ewan McGregor doing double duty), whose conflict hits new heights (or lows) in a blackmail scheme gone typically awry. Emmit’s embattled lawyer, Sy (Michael Stuhlbarg), fears another memorably degrading encounter with Varga (David Thewlis) and his goons, and when he tries to handle family matters with Ray’s brazen girlfriend Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), worlds have a way of colliding in brutal and unpredictable ways. If only Gloria’s (Carrie Coon) clueless new chief would let her pursue this case before it’s too late.

The Handmaid’s Tale (streaming on Hulu): “Are you happy?” Not the easiest thing for Offred (Elisabeth Moss) to answer honestly when a visiting Mexican ambassador peppers the Handmaid with questions about her life in servitude. The visit also prompts flashbacks giving us insight into Serena Joy’s (Yvonne Strahovski) life before Gilead turned her into a Stepford wife. We’re a little more than halfway through Handmaid‘s first season, but this is it for the Hulu import Harlots, which ends its freshman year of sexual intrigue this week with Margaret (Samantha Morton) facing a terrible choice to save herself or doom another.

Brockmire (10/9c, IFC): If you haven’t made the acquaintance yet of Hank Azaria as washed-up baseball sportscaster Jim Brockmire, giving one of the year’s great comic performances in one of the year’s most consistently hilarious new series, this is your best chance. Leading up to the season finale at 10/9c, in which Brockmire is tempted to leave Morristown behind for another shot at the big leagues, IFC repeats the entire first season, starting at 6:30/5:30c. IFC reports this is the channel’s highest-rated new series in its history. Let’s hope it got on the radar of Emmy voters.

Comedy Commencements: Graduation is a recurring motif this year in season finales, and on ABC’s The Goldbergs (8/7c), Erica (Hayley Orrantia) is having thoughts about leaving the nest and the smothering love of Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey). On ABC’s Modern Family (9/8c), it’s a double ceremony for Manny (Rico Rodriguez) and Luke (Nolan Gould), and when Manny’s dashing dad, Javier (Benjamin Bratt), shows up to paint the town with his son, it’s up to Jay (Ed O’Neill) to right the mess the morning after.

Inside Wednesday TV: Two tribal councils on CBS’s Survivor (8/7c) narrow the playing field in advance of next week’s finale. … Spike TV’s documentary I Am Heath Ledger (9/8c) uses revealing home movies to profile the gone-too-soon movie star, along with interviews including co-stars, directors and family members. … The season finale of ABC’s Designated Survivor (10/9c) sounds like a potential cliffhanger, with President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) authorizing a manhunt while Agent Wells (Maggie Q) tries to stop the conspiracy from launching a final attack. If either is unsuccessful, at least they get a second season to make things right.