Like just about everything else in 2020, season four of Fargo was very nearly upended by the coronavirus.
Shooting on the acclaimed FX drama (returning to SBS on Thursday) was suspended when the US went into a total COVID-19-enforced shutdown, meaning the show’s final two episodes were completed just before the show premiered in the US in late September.
But, according to the show’s creator Noah Hawley, the enforced pause may have been a creative blessing in disguise.
“One of the things about television is how fast you make it. And what has been helpful, honestly, in the last few months that we’ve been shut down is that we’ve had more time with the material editorially,” Hawley says from Los Angeles, where he’s participating in a Zoom panel discussion alongside cast-members Chris Rock, Jason Schwartzman and Jessie Buckley.
“You usually race from idea to script to screen, and I like that process and I'm good at that process, but this show has a lot of moving pieces. It has a lot of nuance to it, and I think it’s really benefited from the additional time that we’ve given it.”
Season four, which comes to our screens more than three years after season three, is a long way from the physical location of Fargo, and there’s not one snowstorm in sight. (The spot-on midwestern accent by Irish actress Jessie Buckley is perhaps the only real nod to any previous series.)
This time around, the action takes place in Kansas City in 1950 and centres on warring gangs – one Black (fronted by Loy Cannon in a terrific performance from Rock) and one Italian (headed by a hot-headed mobster Josto Fadda, played with perfect hilarity by Schwartzman).
Elsewhere in the story, there’s politely odd psychotic nurse Oraetta Mayflower (a brilliant Jessie Buckley); a Black high schooler Ethelrida Pearl Smutny (E’myri Crutchfield), growing up in a funeral home with her white dad and Black mum; Ethelrida's escaped criminal aunt Zelmare Roulette (Karen Aldridge) and her girlfriend Swanee Capps (Kelsey Asbille); Mormon sheriff “Deafy” Wickware (Timothy Olyphant); and Odis Weff (Jack Huston), an OCD-plagued local policeman.
Indeed, Hawley is never not ambitious; in season four, he has attempted to capture racial, religious and cultural assimilation into 20th century America, turning his focus to the ultimate outsider and pushing Fargo into a conversation about race more than ever before.
“There’s a long overdue conversation taking place [in the US], and this show would have been on point at any point when it was released, because this conversation has been going on through all our history,” Hawley says.
“It just so happens that the conversation is at the forefront right now and what I wanted to explore thematically with this season, which is what it means to be an American and what it means to be on the outside of that experience and who gets to get inside of that experience. It’s never been more relevant.”
And though Hawley says he always feels like each series marks the end of the road for the critically acclaimed series, the showrunner hasn’t entirely ruled out suiting up for another incarnation of the show.
“Each season feels like the definitive Fargo as I go through it,” Hawley claims.
“And, you know, it takes a while, because it's not just one idea you need. It’s a hundred ideas; it’s a dozen characters. So that tends to percolate and take a while, but I'm certainly not ruling it out. I would like to say that there’s a master plan, but there is no master plan.”
An all new Fargo story will premiere with two weeks of double episodes, beginning 8.30pm Thursday 8 October on SBS. Episodes will continue weekly at 9:30 pm from Thursday 22 October. New episodes will be available on SBS On Demand each week on the same day as broadcast.
Relive the first three standalone seasons of Fargo from September 17 on SBS On Demand.