An enticing mob story with the texture of a graphic novel, Fargo (Season 4) is dissimilar from the previous three seasons. As much a commentary on social and political justice as a drama about one gang competing to destroy another, this new season is like no other.
Fargo’s entire sweep of 1950’s organized crime in Kansas City is brutal and not for the faint-hearted. With the rise of Jewish, Irish and Italian syndicates — whoever was “next off the boat”— three families (Jewish, Irish and Italian) kill each other off in a constant struggle for dominance. Family members ruthlessly maneuver for attention and loyalty. And we see how institutions in power have an incentive to see these immigrants fight each other instead of joining forces to fight institutional injustice. A“Nurse Ratched” character (Jessie Buckley) who straddles the boundaries of all the feuding factions provides additional tension.
An ambitious and more cerebral African American mobster, Loy Cannon (Chris Rock) trades his son for the son of the rival Italian mob, run by Josto Fadda (Jason Schwartzman). Loy hopes the trade will bring about cooperation instead of conflict. Fadda has his own internal familial troubles, with his ruthless brother, recently arrived “from the old country” and itching for a fight. The two mob leaders, for the most part, are evenly matched with accomplices wrecking their best-laid plans. But in the end, Loy outsmarts Fadda.
Split screens feature the cast of eccentric characters in simultaneous scenes of carnage and betrayal. These include: a deranged and homicidal nurse (Jessie Buckley), a doleful foot soldier (Ben Whishaw) who deeply identifies with Loy Cannon’s young son, a zealously religious lawman (Timothy Olyphant) and a studious schoolgirl (E’myri Crutchfield) with ambitions to do more than a Black girl in 1950 is allowed. She assumes that hard work, a first-rate mind, and following the conventions of society will reward her…even in a Jim Crow de facto legal system.
What is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this crime story is that Loy Cannon feels it’s just his job,–being a mob boss– and his real life is the relationships he has with his wife, children and closest friends (some of whom die). Outstanding performances by Chris Rock and Jason Schwartzman playing against type make this season of Fargo a distinctive stand-out. This is “Sopranos” on steroids with no false sentimentality nor shrink-wrapped platitudes about law and order. Served on a plate with red-hot coals of injustice and a very crooked playing field, Season 4 of Fargo does not disappoint.
Availability: HBO Max.