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‘Fargo’ takes another twist with a look at racism in 1950

Long-awaited Sea­son 4 stars Chris Rock and the usual cast of ec­centrics. Preview.

- Kelly Lawler ELIZABETH MOR­RIS/FX Entertainment · Noah Hawley · Chris Rock · Rock · Kansas City · Missouri · Kansas · Pearl · Sicilian Mafia · Mayflower · Minnesota · United States of America · United States Marshals Service · FX · Coen brothers · Ewan McGregor · Crutchfield, North Carolina · Jason Schwartzman · Jessie Buckley · Kelsey Asbille · Jack Huston · Timothy Olyphant

It’s good to have “Fargo” back at long last.

The fourth sea­son of FX’s an­thol­ogy series, based on the 1996 Coen broth­ers film, has been a long time com­ing, even be­fore the COVID-19 pan­demic caused pro­duc­tion to shut down in March. Cre­ator, ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, writer and some­time di­rec­tor Noah Haw­ley last brought us his ver­sion of crime, calamity and the Mid­west in 2017, in a sea­son that starred Ewan McGre­gor as twin broth­ers. Given the long wait for Sea­son 4, it’s al­most fit­ting that the episodes them­selves are on the slow side.

Starring Chris Rock and set in Kansas City, Mis­souri, in 1950, Sea­son 4 of “Fargo” opens Sept. 27 (9 EDT/PDT, mov­ing to 10 EDT/PDT Oct. 4, ★★★☆). Fur­ther afield from the other sea­sons (ge­o­graph­i­cally and in time), this in­stall­ment tack­les racism and trib­al­ism, and asks ques­tions about how far any­one will go to help fam­ily, or to hurt them. With a strong point of view, im­pec­ca­ble scenery and sharp act­ing (as usual), it’s easy to for­give a slow start.

As in past sea­sons, the new “Fargo” fol­lows a group of peo­ple loosely linked by blood and crime. Through the per­spec­tive of Ethel­rida Pearl Smutny (E’myri Crutch­field) – an ex­traor­di­nar­ily clever Black 16-year-old on the pe­riph­ery of the ac­tion – the his­tory of or­ga­nized crime in early 20th-cen­tury Kansas City un­folds: First came the Jews, then the Ir­ish, then the Ital­ian, and at the out­set of the sea­son, a Black fam­ily, led by Rock’s Loy Can­non, is mak­ing a bid to take over the city.

Can­non is an even-keeled, re­spected el­der states­man, as crime bosses go, with a slash of gray in his hair and words of wis­dom for ev­ery youth he en­coun­ters. His foil is the hot-tem­pered Josto Fadda (Ja­son Schwartz­man), the old­est son of the Mafia boss and a peev­ish man who strug­gles to main­tain power in his own fam­ily. Cir­cling the feud­ing mob­sters are two en­tirely dif­fer­ent crim­i­nal el­e­ments: poi­son-happy Nurse Oraetta Mayflower (Jessie Buck­ley, adding the series’ fa­mil­iar Min­nesota ac­cent), and Ethel­rida’s bank-rob­bing Aunt Zel­mare (Karen Aldridge) and her fel­low prison es­capee Swa­nee (Kelsey As­bille).

The first two episodes slowly in­tro­duce its large cast of char­ac­ters and ex­plain the his­tory be­hind the crim­i­nal en­ter­prises that are the main thrust of the plot. In Episode 2, we meet De­tec­tive Odis Weff (Jack Hus­ton), a com­pul­sive, cor­rupt cop on the Fad­das’ pay­roll. But the sea­son doesn’t truly co­a­lesce un­til Episode 3, when Ti­mothy Olyphant ar­rives as bois­ter­ous U.S. Mar­shal Dick ‘Deafy’ Wick­ware (surely a de­light for any “Jus­ti­fied” fan), adding more of the crim­i­nals vs. cops dy­namic that makes “Fargo” tick.

Quirky cops, ab­surdly spelled names and Oraetta’s Min­nesota ac­cent aren’t the only holdovers from ear­lier “Fargo” sea­sons. The new sea­son also bal­ances hu­mor with thrills, as one armed rob­bery un­folds amid one rob­ber’s gas­troin­testi­nal dis­tress (which is mostly just dis­tress­ing for the viewer).

The Mis­souri land­scape has no

 ??  ?? Chris Rock stars as Loy Can­non in “Fargo” Sea­son 4.
Chris Rock stars as Loy Can­non in “Fargo” Sea­son 4.

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