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Fargo Season 4 First Reviews: 'Average' Fargo Is Still Better Than Most TV, Critics Say

The Coen brothers–inspired series returns with a packed cast led by Chris Rock and a slower-moving story — not that critics mind.

by | September 15, 2020 | Comments

Fargo creator Noah Hawley brought a unique TV universe to life over the course of the show’s first three seasons.  The anthology series, which was inspired by the Coen brothers movie of the same name, has set out to explore the good, the evil, and all the quirky tidbits in between. It gave us a cavalcade of memorable characters — from Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) and her father Lou (Patrick Wilson) to Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) and Floyd Gerhardt (Jean Smart), and much, much more — and ventured into the disturbing and surprising facets of the Midwest criminal underworld.

The new story finds the show embedded in a 1950s war between Irish and Black gangs, dipping into references to Coen brothers classics like Miller’s Crossing and Barton Fink. The ensemble cast includes Chris Rock as Loy Cannon, Jessie Buckley as Oraetta Mayflower, Timothy Olyphant as Dick “Deafy” Wickware, Glynn Turman as Doctor Senator, Jason Schwartzman as Josto Fadda, and Ben Whishaw as Rabbi Milligan, and gives a varied heft to the new installment, which is a period piece that feels specific to the era while it explores themes of race, gender, and the out-of-reach concept of “The American Dream” that will surely resonate with today’s audiences.

Season 4 of the hit FX series returns on Sunday, September 27. How will these new episodes compare to the show’s previous seasons on the Tomatometer? Season 1 is currently Certified Fresh at 97%, season 2 holds a whopping 100%, and season 3 is Certified Fresh as well, with a 93% score on the Tomatometer. Here’s what the critics are saying about season 4 of Fargo.


HOW IS CHRIS ROCK’S PERFORMANCE?

FARGO - Chris Rock

(Photo by Matthias Clamer/FX)

The stand-up comic is still a bit stilted in scenes requiring more casual conversation, but as the pressure builds and fury mounts, Rock turns Loy into a potent force. — Ben Travers, Indiewire

Perhaps the biggest part of what keeps this season of Fargo from achieving the heights of its early seasons is Chris Rock’s Loy Cannon. It’s not a surprise that Chris Rock, one of the most talented comedians ever, is capable of giving a solid dramatic performance. But it is odd that he’s so serious to the point that it doesn’t seem like he’s having any fun — especially since part of what makes him such an incredible comedic performer is the sense that he’s always enjoying himself — and when so many of the actors around him, particularly Timothy Olyphant and Jason Schwartzman, are clearly having a ball. — Liam Mathews, TV Guide


HOW IS THE REST OF THE CAST?

Jessie Buckley in Fargo, season 4

(Photo by Elizabeth Morris/FX)

Jason Schwartzman is also someone who doesn’t often play the heavy (with the obvious exception of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, of course) and he really steps up here as Josto Fadda. Though when it comes to chameleons, no one has Ben Whishaw beat as Rabbi Milligan, a soldier out of place in the Fadda family, one who’s perhaps one of the most fully defined male characters of the series. Meanwhile, new-to-Americans Gommorah star Salvatore Esposito makes a big but broad impression as the ruthless, Italian-speaking brother of Josto, while Glynn Turman is here to remind us all why he’s a legend of stage and screen. — Liz Shannon Miller, Collider

Jessie Buckley’s nurse character, Oraetta Mayflower, is a fascinating creature, a well-spoken professional who throws around $5 words and is hiding something diabolical behind them. There’s an unrepentant outlaw named Swanee Capps who has a foul mouth and a cowboy hat and a heap of quickly developing problems. Salvatore Esposito’s Gaetano Fadda is a huge ball of chaotic dangerous energy, bringing an almost silent-film-era level of physicality to the screen, all bulging eyes and overly expressive movements and just the general vibe that he might literally or metaphorically explode at any moment. I love him. I can’t wait for the rest of you to meet him. — Brian Grubb, UPROXX


THE WRITING NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

E’myri Crutchfield in Fargo, season 4

(Photo by Matthias Clamer/FX)

This season, Hawley aims for a macrocosmic perspective on the American experience: Immigrants and their children, slaves and their descendants. Whatever his honorable intentions, that all comes off as the TV writing equivalent of a kid driving dad’s car without realizing cars have brakes. All the details are wrong in every direction, either over the top or unbelievably absent. — Darren Franich, EW

Fargo has lost its footing in Season 4, succumbing to stylization and caricature and gratuitous over-plotting, and effectively wasting a tremendous cast. We’re left with a weak story and a few banal monologues about race, money, and Life In America. But the nice thing about an anthology series is that once a season is over, it’s really over. Snow melts, seasons change, and this show has earned some generosity … or at least the gift of a short memory. — Shane Ryan, Paste Magazine


WITH SO MANY CHARACTERS, THE DEVELOPMENT IS LACKING

Fargo season 4 cast led by Chris Rock

(Photo by Elizabeth Morris/FX)

By the season’s halfway point, there are so many characters and plot threads running that the show gets a little unwieldy, but the way that Fargo established itself as its own entity separate from the movie was thanks to Hawley’s ambition. Better for him to be reaching for something new than just falling back on what worked in the past.— Josh Bell, CBR

Many of these characters are dialed up to 11, with the performers going all-in, some of them practically screaming their lines. Most of these characters don’t work, either. Crutchfield’s performance as the teen girl is strong, but the character feels completely out of place. And Olyphant is leaning way too hard on his character’s aloofness. He looks like he’s having fun, though, so that’s something. — Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm


FINAL THOUGHTS?

I’m such an appreciator of the show’s eccentric style and rhythms that I’m overjoyed to have Fargo back; even when it isn’t peak Fargo and despite being weighted down by ambitions that aren’t fully realized thus far, there are sweeping swathes of greatness here. — Daniel Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter

But an average season of “Fargo” is better than the best season of many other series. If it’s less worth the long wait, “Fargo” is at least very welcome to the party now that it’s finally arrived. — Kelly Lawler, USA Today

Like America itself, Fargo is a dizzying, delightful swirl of influences. And this move away from the series’ familiar Minnesota home turf is mostly a rollicking success. After all, there’s plenty of snow — and blood — to be found in a Kansas City winter, too. — Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone

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