'Fargo' Season 4: Ahead of the penultimate episode, here's a look at all seasons ranked best to worst
It is very difficult to say which season was better and which one fell short. From the perspective of a fan of Hawley’s storytelling abilities, it is near-impossible to make this call but let’s attempt to do that anyway, shall we?
Noah Hawley’s weird and darkly humorous anthology series, ‘Fargo’, is by all standards a masterclass in storytelling. Each season -- and all of them belong to the same universe and are subtly connected -- has something different to offer even if the underlying themes (critique of capitalism, examining human behavior) remain the same.
And when each season has something unique to offer, it is very difficult to say which season was better and which one fell short. From the perspective of a fan of Hawley’s storytelling abilities, it is near-impossible to make this call. But let’s attempt to do that anyway, shall we?
4. ‘Fargo’ Season 3
With a heavy heart, it has to be admitted that this was by far the weakest season of ‘Fargo’. The story follows the lives of Ray Stussy (Ewan McGregor) and Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who, after unsuccessfully trying to rob Ray's brother Emmit (also played by McGregor), become involved in a double murder case.
One of the victims is an old man with a mysterious past whose stepdaughter, Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon), is a policewoman. While this unfolds, Emmit tries to cut his ties with a shady organization he borrowed money from a year before. But the company, represented by V. M. Varga (David Thewlis) has dark plans.
It was a good season, but there was something missing. Even though Thewlis was a formidable villain, his character did not manage to give what Billy Bob Thornton did in season 1 as Lorne Malvo. But more importantly, the central story lacked the mischievous slow-burn thrill that other seasons provide. Individually, it’s a stellar season. But when decked with the others, it falls a little flat.
3. ‘Fargo’ Season 4
The current season is a departure from Hawley’s styles in some way, especially with his aesthetic choices. His usual distinct visual style, achieved through color grading by removing the blue channel, is missing. Instead, this season looks like a carnival of sepia, which makes sense seeing the story is based in the '50s. It’s a valid stylistic choice, just one that pinches a bit. The story follows two criminal gangs. One Black, the other Italian.
The story, admittedly, has some classic Hawley-isms. Which makes it more enjoyable to watch as a fan. It also connects heavily with the second season -- which is also a departure in many ways. But a good one, all the same. What makes this season great are characters like Loy (Chris Rock) and Rabbi Milligan (Ben Whishaw) and Nurse Mayflower (Jesse Buckley). What makes it somewhat tiring is that it’s an overcrowded story that makes it difficult to invest in any one character heavily. Still, the ‘Wizard of Oz’ symmetry in the story makes it a masterful work.
2. ‘Fargo’ Season 1
In 1996, brothers Joel and Ethan Coen released ‘Fargo’, their own dark, idiosyncratic spin on the thriller genre. The first season of the show (almost two decades later) is a blessing of a homage to this Academy Awards-winning film. The story closely resembles the film but also has connections to that story. We see Lester (Martin Freeman), a bumbling wimp of a man, kill his wife and get an evil (really evil) assassin called Lorne Malvo to kill his bully. As the story goes on, we see Lester try to jump from one danger to another until finally succumbing to his own arrogance.
The first season of the show offered something unique to viewers who were not accustomed to seeing thrillers in such a fashion. It also gave us one of the best villains of all time in television history. What more can one ask for?
1. ‘Fargo’ Season 2
And this brings us to the best of the lot. Set in the 70s, ‘Fargo’ Season 2 follows the usurping of the Gerhardt crime family’s power and domains by the Kansas City Syndicate. From a seemingly-random diner massacre, the story explores the internal politics of a crime family, ambition, false ideals of empowerment, racial identity, and of course, the slow poison of capitalistic forces. Oh, and aliens. Yes.
What makes Season 2 the best season is just how harrowing the story gets as it reaches its end. And once you finish watching (no matter how many times), it leaves you feeling both fulfilled and empty. Some magical realism, some good old-fashion noir, and a lot of dark humor and rich characters make this arguably not just the best ‘Fargo’ season, but one of the best television shows ever made.
'Fargo' Season 4's new episodes air every Sunday at 10 pm ET on FX and can be streamed on Hulu.