10 Things We Learnt About Fargo Season Four And Beyond From Showrunner Noah Hawley

10 Things We Learnt About Fargo Season Four And Beyond From Showrunner Noah Hawley

Looking For The True America

Fargo season four just ended on US TV on Sunday and here’s 10 things we learnt about the latest season and a possible fifth season from its showrunner Noah Hawley who just spoke to GQ. Warning: spoilers if people haven’t seen any of the fourth season…

  1. Hawley feels relieved that the show is finished and out there as the coronavirus caused a delay in shooting earlier in the year: “I feel a great sense of relief because there was a few months where it wasn’t clear when, or if we could get it done. But we did manage to go back to Chicago in late August and get 13 more days of photography and to finish it. I don’t see, when I watch it, any compromises that were made. I think the last two hours are as grand a statement as we could have made even had we not had that break in production. I think everyone came back determined to finish and to make something great.”
  2. Hawley and the rest of the programme makers see Fargo in a very particular way: “For me, Fargo has always been the story of America. One of the things that I think you can say about Joel and Ethan’s movie is that it is a quintessentially American film and that the characters in it are so unique and the exploration of this idea of basic decency in the face of greed and violence—there’s something very American to that struggle. And so, certainly every year for me has been about expanding that conversation about America, and this year, the focus of it moved on some level to this idea of, ‘Well, what is an American? And who gets to be an American? And who gets to decide?'”
  3. Immigration has very much been at the heart of the fourth season for Hawley: “it does seem like you have these two groups in the show: the first and second generation Italian immigrants, and then you have the sons and daughters of slaves who have come up from the South looking for a new beginning and this collision between these two groups, both of whom just want the same thing. And yet they’ve been told—the way that people are told in this country—that if I win, it means you have to lose. And so they set out to determine winners and losers.”
photos courtesy of FX Networks
  1. For the showrunner, despite the machinations of various parties in season four, the outcome was always fairly inevitable: “You’re talking about a war between two groups. And the one thing that neither of them could have known for sure is one of those groups would be white one day. The Italians weren’t considered white in that moment, but that moment was coming, and there was an access to power and a national organization that allowed them to win on that level. And it’s a complex map of endings. Which is tragedy, a happy ending, is how I described Fargo. And so the question is who gets the tragedy, and who gets the happy ending. That process of figuring out, “What happens to Ethelrida, what happens to Josto, and what happens to Loy?” Those were all really hard fought conversations. What you find is that in the end, the house always wins.”
  2. For Hawley, telling a tale with black protagonists very much at its core wasn’t designed to be intentionally topical but it is the way it has worked out: “I mean, unfortunately the recent events that we’re talking about have always been recent events in the country. The initial motivation in looking at this story was in thinking about how Fargo always comes back to, “And here you are, and it’s a beautiful day, and for what? A little bit of money?” In season two, we looked at the death of the family business and the rise of corporate America. And season three, we looked at the post-corporate, offshore, billionaire class. And this year, it was about going to the origins of the original sins of American capital, which was the exploitation of free and cheap labor. And you can’t have that conversation without talking about race.”
  3. The twist in the season which ties with a major character from Fargo season two is one that has got a lot of people talking but he never felt that they were trying to cover it up at any point anyway: “I think there was a lot of talk around FX about trying to keep it a secret, and I just never thought it was a secret. I mean, when you have a central character named Milligan, it doesn’t seem like you’re really fooling anyone, and you’re talking about the trading of sons. So [a twist] was never my goal, but I think if you look back at our second year, which was the Molly Solverson origin story, that’s not how you think of that season. You don’t think like, “Oh, that explained how Alison Toleman became that person that she was.” And yet, on some level, everything that happened in that year to her parents and her grandfather all informed her path in life. And it’s the same thing here. You can’t look at this year without seeing how Satchel became Mike Milligan, but the story is also about so much more, the way that all of our lives are interwoven throughout history.”
  4. The after credits cameo from Bokeem Woodbine was short but it felt true to the spirit of the show throughout, Hawley argues: “I think that the footage that we pulled was simply footage from season two. But one of the things I like about the show is that you can watch it in any order. You can watch season three and then season one and then two, and you can even think about, “Well, what moment in season two was it that Mike Milligan was on the road, thinking about his younger self?” Was it when he was on his way to confront Patrick Wilson at the typewriter store? Or was it after he had shot up the Gerhardt farm? I think that creates an interesting dynamic for the audience of placing. What’s exciting about long form television is that you don’t have to paint a literal picture, but you introduce these elements and then the audience can assemble them as they choose.”
  5. The ghost in this season plays a very important role, again in keeping with the spirit of Fargo as a show: “In the black and white episode, if you remember, there were a lot of historical markers, which you find as you drive around the country, the sense that the places that we live have a history of their own to them. And that in many of those places, blood was spilt. There was a similar element here, the fact that our pasts haunt us and the things that we’ve done and the things that were done to us, especially if they’re not acknowledged and or resolved. I mean, post traumatic stress comes from the inability to exorcise the trauma. And this was a more metaphysical way of exploring that idea, which was that we are all haunted by the sins of our fathers and their fathers and their fathers. “
  6. Apart from affecting shooting the show, the coronavirus impacted on the show in other ways, he admits: ” There were two things that happened. In hindsight, we got lucky that we got as much done as we did, because we shot all the way through the black and white episode. And then coming back to those last two hours, there was always a sense of a time jump. So we got lucky because, you may have noticed that Rodney, the actor who played Satchel, he grew a lot in the last six months. Right? And if we had shut down and the next scene was supposed to be tomorrow and he was a foot taller, that would have been problematic for us. On the other hand, what the break allowed me to do was something that in TV you don’t normally get to do, which is to spend time editorially with the material to really live with it.
    I had blocked those first two hours, and then six months later, I was able to watch them again without having seen them in a while and to cut five minutes out of each of the first two hours. Because at that point I could see, “We can make this a tighter hour and not sacrifice anything.” But the other thing that I noticed in watching was the fifth, sixth, and seventh hours were all really long. And I think television went through a phase where we were very excited that we didn’t have to make things that were 42.5 minutes anymore, but there is such a thing as too long. Right? And the other element that we had is we’re in the middle of the story that does have twenty-one main characters, and in episodes, you can resolve one storyline and then you’re at forty-eight minutes, and now you’re introducing a whole other character, and it’s too late. People don’t want to switch. They feel done.”
  7. He teases what could be a new season at the end of his chat: “I don’t mind the question. I felt bad about the question in previous years when I wasn’t, and I didn’t have a real answer. This Fargo experiment has been one of the most rewarding, creative experiences of my life, and telling stories in this style…it’s a crime story that is not about crime, ultimately, where magic realism is available to me and comedy is available to me. I have not found another type of story that is as expansive. So yeah, I’m kicking around something. I don’t know how quickly it would come together, but I do feel like there’s still more to say about the America that we live in and the ways in which it pushes people both to be their best selves and to be their worst selves.”

Read the whole interview here


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