I like Fargo, it’s a Coen Brothers masterpiece. When I heard a TV show was coming out with Martin Freeman back when I was in high school I thought to myself, ‘Yeah, I’ll watch it.’ Now six years later Noah Hawley’s TV follow up to the classic film has become the most enduring anthology series on air. This is a great show that is able to get some great cast members with my personal favorite season being the second. Patrick Wilson, Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst, and Ted Danson made up the best cast that I think the anthology show has ever had, not to mention the most bizarre and intriguing story that has ever existed in the Fargo canon. I still heavily admire the first and third season, but season two has held a special place in my heart that not even the original movie could fill.
When I heard that Chris Rock was cast in season four of Fargo I got excited. That excitement went up with the additions of Jason Schwartzman, Jessie Buckley, and Ben Whishaw. Also the return of showrunner Noah Hawley was also welcomed. I also thought that the story of a group of criminals led by Chris Rock moving into the territory of a bunch of Italians seemed interesting as well. The season quickly became one of my most anticipated shows of the year. Well the first two episodes have dropped and I can say that while the show holds my interest, I’m not really that invested right now.
First the positives. This is the most stylistic that I have seen in Fargo. The show has always used text and transitions in interesting ways, but the camera angles and the way that they move the camera both during and between scenes makes the visuals both interesting and exciting. Also this first two episodes have some pretty funny punchlines. While dark humor has always been the point of the show, these episodes felt a little more broad but still funny nonetheless (they also have an awesome fart joke). When I realized the last names of the families were Cannon and Fadda which came out to cannon fodder I laughed my ass off. Also the acting is great. Chris Rock is good, Jason Schwartzman as the head (kind of) of the Italian crime family is probably the funniest, but Ben Whishaw and E’myri Crutchfield have the strongest performances. Most of the fundamental pieces of what makes a show are here and I think the shift to Kansas City is a welcome change of scenery. Overall, it’s still fun to watch.
As for the problem, the biggest is the storytelling is pretty weak right now. The first episode spends the first twenty minutes have Crutchfield’s character explain the backstory of the season via a history report. She talks about the history of crime families where there will be an established family, another one comes in, they trade children in an attempt to keep the peace, and then the new family betrays them and kills everyone. The show then goes on to establish this is happening again. At first this all seemed fine, the backstory is presented in a pretty compelling way and the story of history repeated itself is interesting. It also makes Ben Whishaw’s Rabbi Milligan so much more interesting as the kid who got traded twice and betrayed each family he left. My main issues with the storytelling is that it’s more about moving the inciting incidents forward and not really exploring character relationships. The first three seasons, I thought, did an excellent job exploring the motivations behind people’s actions through their relationships. The plot of season one is basically based on Martin Freeman’s hate for his wife. Jesse Plemmons in season two was manipulated by his wife for his desire of the American dream. And one of Ewan McGregor’s characters was driven to screw over his twin brother to give a good life to a woman he has fallen in love with. I’ve just given one example for each season, character relationships drive the stories in the previous season and they are what ultimately get you to care about what’s going on. In these episodes of Fargo it feels like they are more concerned about having the actions carry out the story without exploring much of the characters. This is really my only problem with Fargo season four so far, but it’s a pretty big problem. I need to care about these characters if I’m going to come back each week. I do think they can fix this as the show goes, and all the other pieces for a good season are here, but they need to figure out their characters fast.
Ultimately, I still had fun watching but I’m just not that interested in the season’s story right now. Because I’m already a fan of previous seasons I’ll keep watching, but if I wasn’t I really don’t know if I would have any desire to come back. For those more on the fence I would say wait till more episodes air. I feel like more and more shows are built to be binged despite them being released weekly, that could be the case here too. The show could course correct, but right now it’s hard to say for sure. It’s still some fun to watch, but there are many other fun to watch shows that are able to create characters you want to come back to. I am hopeful that the ultimate end product will succeed, but we’ll just have to wait and see.