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Fargo's clumsy unintentional 'criminals' return for another season

Season 4, starring Chris Rock, is another interesting take on the cat-and-mouse relationship between the accidental criminals who escalate with each poor decision, and the unassuming police who seek to solve their crimes
Thu, Jan 21, 2021

The anthology series centred on the portrayal of seemingly ordinary people leading mundane lives before quickly finding themselves in extraordinary circumstances involving crime, returns for a fourth instalment. This time the setting is Kansas City in the 1950s and it stars Chris Rock as the shrewd Loy Cannon, a leader of an emerging crime family.

Since debuting in 2014, Fargo has steadily been one of the most exciting shows on television. Finding its premise from the 1996 Coen Brothers' film of the same name, it took liberties to augment the story with new narratives and chart its own course, while still paying homage to the source material.

The show Fargo is an anthology, making each season a standalone with a completely different setting, era, storyline and ensemble. However, there's a common thread, indicating that while the events depicted in each season happen in different time-settings, they also happen in the same universe and some of the characters are connected in one way or another.

Fargo, the film which the show draws inspiration from, is about an ordinary, clumsy man named Jerry Lundegaard. Jerry works as a car salesperson when one day, under tremendous work stress, he devises a shaky plan to have his wife kidnapped by two hitmen, with the hopes of extorting a large ransom from his well-off father-in-law.

The plan goes awry and what ensues afterwards is a series of self-created mayhem that knows no bounds. Adding to his misfortune is the nerdy police chief, Marge Gunderson, who is incidentally heavily pregnant while investigating the whole incident, and eventually closes in on Jerry.

Set in 2006

The first season of Fargo, the show, is the one whose events follow the original film's storyline the closest, albeit not entirely.

We're introduced to Lester Nygaard, who is modelled after the original film's Jerry Lundegaard, and is thus a similarly clumsy and timid character. The difference is that Lester actually murders his wife in the show, after meeting the dangerously deceptive and cold hitman, Lorne Malvo.

What follows is a series of murders that are investigated by Molly Solverson, the curious police officer whose father, now a diner owner, is also a former police officer, Lou Solverson.

Set in 1979

Season 2 focuses on a murder that takes place at a local Waffle Hut. The investigating officer on the case is none other than a younger Lou, whose daughter Molly – the investigating police officer in season 1 – is still a child at this stage.

Another plotline involves the Gerhardt crime family, who are fighting to stay independent, rejecting assimilation into the Kansas City Mafia. An interesting figure in this conflict is Native American Ohanzee 'Hanzee' Dent, who was raised by the Gerhardt family but then betrays and turns on them. In his travels, he meets a man who advises him to take up a new identity – complete with plastic surgery – to start over as his own boss.

He assumes a new name, someone who turns out to have been a character in season 1. The most interesting character in this season, however, is the scene stealing black man, Mike Milligan, who is a Kansas City mob enforcer.

Set in 2010

In season 3, we are introduced to a couple – Ray Stussy, who is a probation officer and Nikki Swango – who, in an effort to escape poverty, plan to rob Ray's brother. Their plan fails and leads to devastating consequences, as well as the death of a mysterious figure.

Later on, when things come to a head, a figure from season 1 makes an appearance.

Set in 1950

Fargo's most retrospective season, promising yet another exploration of criminal mastery at the behest of those who appear to be normal folk. Season 4 is helmed by a Chris Rock performance as the crafty Loy, an emerging crime family leader trying to establish his family as a worthy challenger to the dominance of the Italian mafia Milligan family.

Loy's son Satchel Cannon forms part of a deal the two families broker, which involves trading their eldest sons to each other. This is done with the hopes that raising each other's sons will help quell tension between the two families – as such, Satchel is raised by the Italian family of the Milligans. Where did we come across the name Milligan again? That's right, in season 2.

In Fargo the film, criminals aren't organised nor professionally astute in their escapades. They are simply motivated by greed. The police aren't cool or suave either, instead they are genial and quirky, but passionate about their work.

Fargo the show expands on this premise, juxtaposing the normalcy of its criminal leads with self-created circumstances that leave them beleaguered, compelling them to resort to what starts off as petty crimes before turning into full-blown acts of violence.

The police officers are well-meaning and try to solve the murders in all sincerity, which ties in the themes of morality and responsibility that is the subtext of Fargo the show

  • New episodes of Fargo are out every Tuesday at 10.30pm on M-Net (you can also watch them on Showmax and DStv Catch Up). Catch previous seasons of Fargo on Showmax.