‘Fargo’ season 4 reviews: Chris Rock leads an ‘exemplary’ cast in visually ‘decadent’ new installment

After a three-year plus hiatus from the eccentricities of Midwestern crime, FX’s critically-acclaimed anthology series “Fargo” returns for its fourth season on September 27. Originally slated for an April premiere––which would’ve made the series eligible for 2020 Emmy consideration––production stalled due to COVID-19 and just last month ramped back up to finish the eleven-episode season.

Each season of “Fargo” takes its inspiration from Joel Coen and Ethan Coen’s 1996 film of the same name, and episodes very frequently reference their entire filmography. The fourth go-round centers on a 1950s contest between rival gangs in Kansas City: a Black crime syndicate headed by Chris Rock’s Loy Cannon and an Italian mafia family led by Jason Schwartzman’s Josto Fadda. On the peripheries of this conflict sit the brilliant daughter of funeral parlor owners (E’myri Crutchfield), and a malevolent nurse Oraetta Mayflower (Jessie Buckley). Emmy-winners Ben Whishaw (“A Very English Scandal”) and Glynn Turman (“In Treatment”) and Emmy-nominee Timothy Olyphant (“Justified”) round out the cast.

SEE Chris Rock guest hosts ‘Saturday Night Live’ premiere on October 3 with Megan Thee Stallion

Critics received nine of the 11 episodes for review and, as of this writing, the fourth installment of “Fargo” has earned a 66 score on Metacritic based on 26 reviews, signaling generally favorable reception, and 82% on Rotten Tomatoes. Though still positive, those numbers trail the first three seasons, which nabbed 85, 96, and 89 scores on Metacritic and 97%, a perfect 100%, and 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively.

Despite the dip from the rapturous acclaim of earlier seasons, these solid reviews bode well for “Fargo” at the winter awards. “Fargo” has never done well at the SAG Awards, only earning a single bid for Billy Bob Thornton, but the Golden Globes have been consistently impressed with the show: the HPFA has given it 11 nominations and three wins for Thornton and Best Miniseries for its first season and Ewan McGregor for its third.

Its best showing, by far, always comes at the Emmys, where the anthology series has nabbed 52 nominations and won six, including one for Best Miniseries (2014). Above the line, “Fargo” has earned nominations for 11 of its cast plus four nominations apiece for writing and directing. With that track record in mind, look out for acting bids by Rock, standout Buckley, Whishaw, and potentially Crutchfield, with likely nominations for Hawley as writer and director––and perhaps even a writing nomination for an episode co-written by Emmy-nominee Stefani Robinson (“What We Do in the Shadows,” “Atlanta”).

See excerpts from some of the critics reviews below, and join the discussion on “Fargo” in our forums with your fellow TV fanatics.

Ben Travers (IndieWire): “Another exemplary cast elevates wordless gestures and already witty lines into exciting entertainment, with Jessie Buckley and Glynn Turman being the overall breakouts, but this version of ‘Fargo’ feels bleaker than any that preceded it — which, in 2020, feels exactly right.”

Kelly Lawler (USA Today): “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.”

Sonia Saraiya (Vanity Fair): “‘Fargo’ is full of riches—decadent set pieces and fascinating visual choices—but they ornament a sparse narrative. The show’s many monologues are powerfully delivered, but are so extraneous it feels as if the show is ponderously spinning its wheels every time a new one starts.”

Mike Hale (New York Times): “Given how thorough the mix of crime story and social allegory is, Hawley and his crew have done an impressive job of weaving; it rarely feels as if we’re being preached to, even though we are… But it’s not the same ‘Fargo.’ It’s a more ordinary show, a more mundanely plotted and ‘watchable’ show… with less of the strangeness and arch surrealism that didn’t always work but generally kept you engaged with the stories. Its oddities felt original in earlier seasons; here, they tend toward caricature.”

Darren Franich (Entertainment Weekly): “On ‘Fargo,’ criminals seem to make money by standing around talking about all the killing they’ll soon get around too. That relentless swagger asphyxiates any other dramatic possibility. None of the characters have interior lives, believable family dynamics, or even notable hobbies, unless you count ‘murdering in unique ways.’”

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