Fargo (Season 4) (FX, Sundays 9 p.m.) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, October 25th, 2020  

Fargo (Season 4)

FX, Sundays 9 p.m.

Sep 27, 2020 Web Exclusive
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Fargo fans should rest easy. Yes, Chris Rock has big (snow?) shoes to fill in season four of the wintery, bloody, folksy Midwestern crime series spun off from the Coen brothers’ landmark film. Season 3 of showrunner Noah Hawley’s small screen Fargo starred, after all, a versatile Ewan McGregor in dual performances as dueling brothers. And let’s not forget the riveting low-key heroics of Allison Tolman’s Season 1 deputy sheriff, among the series’ numerous other award contenders. Rock, meanwhile, was forgettably wooden in aughts flops like Head of State and Bad Company, each paling in comparison to his legendary standup. However, he absolutely shines in an understated leading role on Fargo’s fourth season. In fact, the slight statured and famously rueful funny man looks downright menacing here. In one memorable scene his 1950 mob boss slices open his own palm for a literal blood bond with a rival gangster. Rock’s stone face and world-weary dialogue readings not only redeem prior acting missteps, but also snugly fit Fargo’s most socially conscious season yet.  

And while Rock is the biggest name on the call sheet, he’s not exactly the star of the show. E'myri Crutchfield plays this season’s biracial teenaged protagonist mired in a bigoted school system. Corporal punishment leaves her repeatedly limping back from the principal’s office to a narrow minded teacher intimidated by the outspoken youngster’s superior intellect. Her gripping book report serves as a voiceover during the opening montage about Kansas’ violent mob history, a fresh setting for Fargo’s fourth TV iteration. Before long, she narrates the confrontation between the established Italian local mafia and rising local Black gangsters. The racism Crutchfield’s character contends with at school, not to mention a prejudiced banker who patronizingly dismisses Rock’s invention of the credit card, all give this new season compelling relevance in the wake of Black Lives Matter’s 2020 galvanization. 

Aside from the nourishing social commentary, Fargo’s fourth go around is also gleefully fun. Veteran character actor Jason Schwartzman clearly loves playing a lippy Italian crook. And while the Kansas setting makes for a further south departure from Fargo’s original setting, Jessie Buckley (on a blazing hot streak after HBO’s smash Chernobyl and Charlie Kaufman’s recent critical darling I’m Thinking of Ending Things) provides the series’ signature “oh yeahs” as a homey Midwesterner whose seeming naivety takes jarring turns. 

Impressive as the actors are, Hawley more than holds his own behind the camera. In the season debut he directs Kansas’ Tommy gun rife carnage with enough cinematic panache to surely make the likes of De Palma or even Scorsese vigorously nod with approval. Some critics have griped about the showrunner’s scripts this season, confusing its elaborate ambition for convolution or hollow pretension. Other reviewers dismissed Rock and Schwartzman’s performances, but they’re wrong. By throwing caution to the frostbiting wind, rather than trudging over former glories, Hawley and co. give TV’s great snow swept saga quirkier characters that cover greater thematic ground. Is it a departure? And is that what makes it great? On both counts: oh yeaaah, you betcha. (www.fxnetworks.com/shows/fargo)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10



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