The world seemed to conspire against there ever being another “Fargo” mini-series.
The first three – spread over four years – drew waves of praise. There were 53 Emmy nominations, a Peabody Award … and lots of Hollywood admirers. “I thought it was easily the best thing on television,” Chris Rock told the Television Critics Association.
But there was a three-year delay, while writer-producer Noah Hawley was busy making “Legion.” He finally started a fourth “Fargo,” to debut this April 19, with Rock (shown here) starring. Actors gushed, critics praised … and then, with three episodes left to shoot, there was the COVID shutdown.
“It was definitely frustrating … because you feel like you’re on a roll,” Rock told the TCA this month. Still, “you’re also exhausted” and the break let him recharge.
Now – five months later than expected – “Fargo” is here and as quirky as ever. Originally planning one episode for Sunday (Sept. 27), it switched to two supersized ones; nine more will follow.
There are no rules for “Fargo” stories. They aren’t tied to a place (including Fargo) or an era.
This time, Hawley told the TCA in January, he started with a concept. “For me, the history of America is the history of the entrepreneur. It’s the history of someone who starts with nothing.”
So he set it in Kansas City, flashing back as different ethnic groups – Irish, Jewish, Black – vied for control. Then he settled into 1950, with Rock leading the Black upstarts.
And he came up with an odd notion: Each leader has one son living with the other side, in a futile effort to preserve peace. “It’s a conceit that I invented, … but I believe it’s plausible,” he said in January.
It also creates odd combinations. This may be the first show to have a Rabbi Milligan.
Then again, it also has a Doctor Senator, who is neither a doctor nor a senator. And a token Minnesotan, Oraetta Mayflower, a scheming nurse who talks in that broad accent “Fargo” fans savor.
The first “Fargo” mini-series gave that accent to Allison Tolman, an actress from Texas; this one chose Jessie Buckley … who’s from Ireland. “I love doing accents …. I don’t think I’ve ever used my own accent,” she said this month. “For me, an accent is like music.”
That fits, because she started as a singer. Buckley entered a British reality show, with the winner playing the female lead in an “Oliver” remake; she was runner-up, landed other stage roles, drew praise starring as a singer in the indie movie “Wild Rose” … and suddenly was getting serious roles in “Chernobyl” and “Woman in White” and more.
Now she’s one of many outsiders stepping into “Fargo” roles. “The character I play is kind of an outsider anyway,” Ben Whishaw said of Rabbi Milligan. So :I could relate to that.”
He’s a gifted Shakespearean who had drawn praise in artful projects. “No one had ever seen me in anything,” he said, until he became Q in the James Bond films.
Now he’s part of an odd contingent. “The characters are as mad as each other,” Buckley said.
They wear the look of 1950 Kansas City. “When we walk out there onto the set, there’s always a smile in everyone’s eye, that we are in these clothes,” Jason Schwartzman said in January.
Then the smiles faded. “Fargo” was the first major show to announce a COVID delay … and one of the first to resume shooting. “We knew we were kind of the tip of the sphere,” producer Warren Littlefield said this month. “There weren’t a lot of shows across the planet that had gone back into production.”
But it worked. Despite conspiring fates, “Fargo” is back.
– “Fargo,” FX. Two episodes Sept. 27 – 9 and 10:22 p.m., rerunning at 11:45 p.m. and 1:07 a.m.
– Those two rerun (11 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.) on Monday, Tuesday and Saturday. The other nine episodes are at 10 p.m. Sundays. Also, shows go to Hulu the day after airing on FX.