Fargo

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The fourth season of fargo stars. Chris rock as lloyd cannon a ruthless kansas city crime boss battling an italian american gang power in the nineteen fifties in order to keep the peace while doing business lawyer and his rival swat their youngest sons as hostages. The sears is both an immigrant tail and a migrant tale view through the familiar lens of a gritty mobster saga though true to the brother sensibilities creator no holly injects it with darkly oddball humor and characters. I'm glen weldon. And i wish harris and today we're talking about fargo on pop culture. Happy hour from npr. So don't go away. this message comes from. Npr sponsor. Ancestry this year. Gather round the family tree with ancestry. Give your loved ones ancestry. Gift membership to let them unwrap their history and discover the fascinating people in their past or surprise them with ancestry. Dna so they can uncover their origins ancestries. Holiday sale is the perfect time to give a gift that connects them to family in new ways. So even if you can't all be under one roof this year come together over your family story. Go to ancestry. Dot com slash. Npr welcome back so the fourth season of fargo or fourth year as creator. No a holly prefers to call each new installment premiered on fx in september. Now if you're familiar with the series you'll know that it is part of the coen brothers. Cinematic universe it's very loosely connected to their nineteen ninety-six movie of the same name and each season takes place in a different era with a new cast of ayla stars in character actors. This time around. Holly moves the action to kansas city and early nineteen fifties. Chris rock plays a black mob syndicate named loy cannon. He challenges the reigning. Italian american gang led by jason schwartzman's justo fata now from these warring factions. We've got jessie buckley playing a nefarious nurse. Timothy allah font playing determine sheriff on the hunt for a couple of outlaws and lots of monologues about what it means to be an american. There is so much going on here. glenn what did you make this season so far. Well i mean just generally speaking. I'm all in for noah hawley as a rule though. If you put a gun to my head which is a thing that happens a lot on the show. I would have to say that. I prefer his other fx series legion. And not just because. It's a superhero riff which it is. But because it's even weirder even more stylized even more idiosyncratic it's also not for nothing funnier when fargo isn't firing on all cylinders when it's not at the peak of its powers it can't help but feel like a coen brothers pastiche and that's unavoidable. I get it. It's in the dna the show. But i think his voice is stronger on legion also legions about mental health and addiction were fargo is about as you mentioned violence capital v. in america capital and i just kind of gravitate toward one more than the other. Now we should note that production of the season was halted by coping nineteen and it started up again later. I've seen some speculation that that might explain why this season feels disjointed. But i think the real issue here is just how overstuffed. These episodes are with storylines and characters. I mean i'm looking at this. Cast list and i stopped counting at twenty five. Which for television. That is a russian novel. I mean that's a lot. They were also supposed to originally just be ten episodes but he realized midway through the season that had too much material so he got fx to agree to do an eleventh episode. I could've told him that was going to happen. Fifteen minutes into the premier season for because it's just so many things going on here and because there are so many very i don't know eight quirky outsized bigger than life characters and just performances which are to be fair. A hell of a lot of fun to watch. You could almost convince yourself that this is a character driven show or even a character study but this has never been that this is a potboiler. It is a purely plot driven machine in which yes as you mentioned characters. Occasionally get to deliver monologues. This season about what. America is but every time that happens i keep thinking about all the storylines. We haven't caught up within a long time like what's going on with the nurse. What's going on with the prison. Escapees and i usua- what the hell's going on with the ghost coming. What is the ghost when we go back to the ghost. Am i forgetting about a ghost I'm always having a good time watching the show. I wanna make that clear. It doesn't look or feel like anything else on television. Even in the prestige era and there is a joy to just kinda laying back and surrendering to these plot mechanics. And the way they intersect for example when a poisoned apple pie gets introduced. You just sit back and wait for the chekhov's pie to pay off when it does. It's really satisfying. But not because you care about these characters right because in a very real sense you don't have enough time with any one character degenerate much for them. In my case. I just admire the craftsmanship of the storytelling but it is a purely intellectual response. So i mean. I think i might actually like this a little bit more than you do. Glenn i will say i almost gave up on it after the second episode. The second episode. There's just so much happening. And there are so many characters. And i'm already very bad with names and faces like michelle was really bad with names. Yes yes in the first episode. They do give you like You know title cards for various characters on their introduced. But that's not really helpful if you're watching a weekly show and not necessarily binging it so i have a hard time. A lot of these. Like henchmen like side characters. Who aren't jason schwartzman. Or chris rock or glenn term and i don't know who these characters are and so i had to follow it now. One of the things that i appreciate about what is trying to do is it is time is familiar story about the american dream blah blah blah. But i feel like there are moments and scenes. That really stood out for me. I came into this very skeptical about chris rock and whether or not he could play this like menacing mob. Boss i have to say most of it is this bias. I have ever since. I saw him in an episode on empire where he's supposed to play a drug lord whose like feared by everyone and he was chris. Rock was not given me fear he was giving me. I'm reading these cards. You can see me reading this line and my voice is disconnected from my body. So i came into it with fat i actually think him and jason schwartzman who is another person. You don't necessarily expect to see playing a mob boss. I think they are doing really interesting things with their roles. They're not menacing. they're not supposed to be menacing there instead. Calculating in jason schwartzman's case his carriage fata is very kind of bumbling and awkward and weird. He kind of gives me roman vibes from succession. Like he's right of squirmy and just awkward and overcompensating. Totally overcompensating and chris rock. He wants to do better for his family. He has all of these ideas. There's a scene early on where he talks about. He actually goes to meet with the bank and the white bank owner and talk about this idea for a credit card. And he's forward thinking he's kind of like the stringer bell of this where he's like. Yeah i'm in this sort of dirty crime business. But i also wanna think ahead and try and like go a different route and take like more business like approach to these things. I liked all of that. I will say that yes. It's trying to tackle so many things at once that it doesn't quite land and neither of you are. I have seen the entire series yet because they made nine episodes available to critics ahead of time. But i kind of wonder we're all this is going to wind up in where it's going to land and it's just there's a lot it's just it's just a lot. It is excess. There is a lot. And i think for me what i was grappling with is the Em four-star distinction between flat characters around characters or. Maybe i should say that the way. It just sounded coming out of my mouth. The forster distinction between flat characters characters. I mean you do need both in fiction and flat characters are your secondary tertiary characters. They serve the plot there a built around a single idea. A single trait a single characteristic. And every time you see them they execute it. They do the same thing. They don't surprise you. they're not built a surprise. You but you want your main characters to be rounded gotta have nuance onset got have fastest. They're gonna grow and they to be capable of making a choice that surprises you. I'm looking around this thing. I see nothing but flat characters. Which is what happens a lot of times when you're doing pastiche satire or farce. I mean jason schwartzman. I agree is great. But you go to jason schwartzman when you want max fisher. The mob boss right. That's going to that guy for. And i agree chris rock. He's surprised me here because he's digging in and he's serving you anger but there's no human what he's doing no nuance and i really liked. The performance of jessie buckley as nurse mayflower. She is not recognizable from when she was in. I'm thinking of ending things. That's a completely different. This actress is huge range. But she's doing a very specific thing every time we see her. It's a hell of a lot of fun to watch but that character is only got that one note to play. The only exception i see possibly is the character of ethel rita. The younger laid by crutchfield. But that character is so kind of impassive. She's not showing us much. I suspect we're going to see something from her. But we're not seeing it yet because we are getting such thin slices of characters. Yeah i think with ethel. Her storyline is also very frustrating because she narrates the very first episode and then she kind of gets pushed to the background for the next couple of episodes when they focus on all the men and the gang warfare. I think to me she is passive. But i also think the relationship. She has with her mom and her aunt. And we haven't even mentioned yet that the two outlaws and i think this is where i kind of really liked the show and the way in which the women get to have fun in some ways but to one of the outlaws. Her name is zilmer roulette and she has a partner slash lover named swanee caps bank robber escapees and they have a really interesting couple of scenes with ethel where they kind of talk about and again. We've already said this. But there's a lot of life we're gonna talk about crime and talk about america and what it means but that really interesting scene where they talk about the difference between being a criminal and being an outlaw and i liked the way they play with that in the way kind of sparks ethel's desire to not be as passive as she is in the first episode and showed there won't spoil it for those who might not be completely caught up but she does kind of take action in a way that i think will propel her story forward hopefully and will make it a little bit more interesting. I wanna talk a little bit about just the way this relates to the fargo universe in general. Now i have to say that i. This is the first time i'm watching. I've seen the movie. Of course. But i have not watched the series and so i'm curious to hear your thoughts. I know you said the legion is something you prefer. But you know when it's firing at all cylinders for you. What does that look like. Based on the past seasons of fargo. What he does is. He usually puts a who is entirely sympathetic. Empathetic in the center of the peace like usually law person who is kind of pursuing justice and as kind of a marge gunderson from the film. Stand in this time. The law giver. We get the main guy. Anyways played by timothy doesn't trump till episode three. You know he goes against what i was saying. He's kind of a rounded character because he's got sides to him some of which are very very ugly one of the things that i really like about this series as it's developed is that there are connections between seasons or years and has connections to the original film but they come to slant they come at oblique angles. And i suspect and we can't talk about this. Because i don't think these episodes of aired yet but i think there is a very clear connection between this season and season two of the show. Yeah yeah we haven't even talked about ben wishaw who plays the irish and i guess what they call him but his his nickname is rabbi. Irishman also brings us to the central conceit of this which is that as we mentioned earlier. The two families swapped sons and took them as hostages just so that they could keep things peaceful and of course this is fargo so things go awry. But the irishman play. Ben wichita is a character who was one of those kids who was traded when his family was part of the like the the war against the italians and so he has like a sort of backstory. There i actually thought he had a little bit more of a rounding as you talk about than some of the other characters do just because he kind of waffles. Back and forth between loyalties and whatnot. And sometimes you don't know necessarily how he's gonna react to it when he's going to do but i also think i just kind of have a a love for ben wishaw anytime. He's in something. I'm just taken by him. Oh i completely share that. Absolutely and he is playing at much closer to the vest. Then a lotta these other are doing and the guy who plays jason schwartzman's brother he's played by salvatore and he is going big he does not have a scene where he is not bugging out his eyes in a very. Unblinking way to be threatening but ben which of course has been with on he. He can do that in certain movies. But certainly that's not his His wheelhouse and at the end of the day though because of that switching of the sons. And how you see how that happens across generations. i am not convinced. This show has as much to say about race as it seems to think it does. It feels like it's pushing these characters into slots as i mentioned before to affect the story beats in stead of having the story grow out of choices these characters make but that's an rn for the long haul. Watch to the end. Even if that end is one episode. Longer than i thought it was going to. I mean to that point about raise. I have to completely agree with you on that. I think that the way in which this show almost always or this season almost always deals with race is through big sweeping monologues. And some of them work glenn term in who is is a great character actor in plays laws. Like right hand man. He has a couple of those scenes where he's talking about. There's one monologue where he talks about being In the war in rubber two and coming back in the double vivere victory and how you know black people were not given what they were promised for fighting for the war and oh man that was probably my favorite scene hands down but then chris rock also has another very obvious one where he's talking about. Oh well you know. We're not just fighting for territory. We're fighting four hundred years of oppression. And i was like i mean yes but do we really need to do. We need to sign the so much. I wish there was just a little bit more nuance but overall the race part aside i really do enjoy a lot of it so i find it very entertaining. Da well we want to know what you think about season for fargo. You can find us at facebook dot com slash p. c. h. and on twitter at p. c. h. m. that brings us to the end of our show. Thank you glenn for being here as we and of course thank you for listening to pop culture. Happy hour from npr. 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