Fargo Brings Us Back For Another Season of Blood And Snow
A Welcome Return in a TV Year Already Full Of Departures
Among the many more important disruptions Covid has caused, one of the less consequential ones have been the scheduling of the next seasons of so many of the great series of the last several years. As 2022 began, several series that deserve to be considered among the greatest of all time were already scheduled to air their final season. This is Us is in the midst of its end run and Better Call Saul’s final season (divided, as its parent series Breaking Bad was, into two parts) will air this year. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Stranger Things, two of the biggest streaming phenomena of the 2010s both announced that they will be ending after five seasons, though since neither has finished airing their fourth, when that will happen remains a question. And two of the bigger critical comedies in recent years — FX’s Better Things and Atlanta — are set to depart the airwaves this year as well; the former starting next week; the latter after its fourth season which will premiere this fall after the third has premiered at the end of March.
With all of these departures being announced on the heels of each other in the last week, perhaps one of the biggest joys from the announcement of the return of a series that I honestly thought was not going to when its fourth season finished airing as the end of 2020. But some time this year, those devoted fans of Midwest noir will be rewarded as Fargo returns for Season 5.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m overjoyed the anthology series that I considered the fourth best TV series of the last decade is returning for a fifth season. It’s just that watching the scene that aired after the credits of Season 4, I honestly thought that Noah Hawley, the genius who has created one of the true masterpieces of television, had wrapped up his saga in a bow. I will not spoil it for those of you who have yet to see Season 4 (and given that so many thought it was somehow inferior to the previous three, there’s a good chance that many people still haven’t seen it). Suffice to say that I thought the last minute of Fargo did what I am told is a major trend of FX other major franchise American Horror Story and had linked all the previous seasons into one giant saga lasting nearly sixty years and showing every possible aspect of crime and law enforcement imaginable. Throw in the fact that it seemed that the announcers for FX had referred to the last episode of Season 4 as the ‘series finale’ and I think viewers could have been forgiven for thinking Hawley was done with his storytelling.
But Hawley has always been one of the most brilliant talents of television. He has said on multiple occasions that before he begins every season he tries to come up with a single image or idea and write that season from that point on.
In Season 1, he pondered what would happen if a normal man and a savage man had a random meeting, the savage decided to resolve the normal mans problems and how would the normal man react. From that he creator the characters of Lorne Malvo and Lester Nygaard, unforgettably played by Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman and went from there. In Season 2, he had the idea of an ordinary housewife running into a man in an accident, driving home, and serving her husband dinner while the victim was still in the windshield of her car. From there he created Hank and Peggy Blomquist, played by real life husband and wife Jesse Plemmons and Kristen Dunst (in two of their greatest roles, recent Oscar nomination notwithstanding) and went even further. In Season 3, he came up with the idea of two brothers receiving an inheritance, the younger one a car and the older one a stamp. The younger one convinced the older one to swap and would build an empire from it, while the older ones entire life would downhill. Enter Ewan McGregor as both Stussy brothers. I don’t know for certain what image inspired Season 4, but based on what I saw it’s something along the lines of: What if, in order to end a bloody crime war, the leaders of two crime families exchanged one of their children? And even though it would end in blood, that trend kept going on? Enter Chris Rock, Jason Schwartzman and so many other great actors.
Up until this point Hawley and his writers have kept Fargo in the not too distant past, going from the 1950s to the Great Recession of 2008. While the details of Season 5 remain vague (perhaps even to Hawley at this point) he has revealed it will take place near the present ‘2019’ involve a kidnapping and ‘when is your wife not really your wife?” I know nothing more than that, and honestly I don’t wish to know anything more. The joy in watching Fargo over its four seasons and six year run has been watching how events start from the seeds of Hawley’s ideas and then spiral out of the control of those who have unleashed the evil often without meaning too. Both the idea of both the butterfly effect and the domino theory end up with enormous repercussion in Hawley’s Fargo and the only thing you know for certain at the beginning of every season is that there will be an enormous amount of blood spilled by the end; some by the good guys, most by the bad guys, but it is credit to the writers that at that point you’ve grown to care for both sides equally.
What has become especially maddening during the incredible run of Fargo (and is in part due to the incredible array of talent in Limited Series in particular these past five years) is that it has been maddeningly under-recognized by the Emmys. It managed to win Best Limited Series in 2014 but the entire cast and writers were shut out by Sherlock (ironically Benedict Cumberbatch defeated Martin Freeman for Best Actor and Freeman would triumph for supporting for Sherlock and defeat Colin Hanks for Fargo). It appeared to be the early favorite by the end of 2015, but in 2016 the incredible The People V. O.J. Simpson premiered and deservedly dominated the Emmys. In 2017 Fargo, along with almost every other brilliant Limited Series was destroyed (admittedly deservedly) by Big Little Lies. Despite in my opinion (and many others) being just as brilliant in Season 4, the series was essentially ignored by the Emmys (and with the exception of the newly found HCA) for nominations in every major category. (To be clear, most of the Limited Series were as good or superior, but it’s really hard to justify most of the cast being ignored for, among others, the original Broadway cast of Hamilton for nominations.) Honestly Jessie Buckley’s surprise Oscar nomination doesn’t make up for her being snubbed by the Emmys for her incredibly portrayal of what amounts to a 1950s Karen.
I don’t think Hawley does his work for awards. He’s gotten his share of them over the years (Golden Globes and Critics Choice in particular). And he never officially said one way or the other that Season 4 would be the final season of Fargo. I genuinely believe inspiration wormed its way into his head and he found another new story to tell. Am I grateful to see the new season and find out how it fits into the mythology he has spent the better part of eight years weaving? Of course. Would I love to see him and whatever wonderful actors he invites into the saga to get the awards they deserve? You betcha.