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Review: 'Fargo' returns with a lot less 'Fargo'

New season's gangster war story lacks invention and spark

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

The thing about the new season of “Fargo” is it doesn’t seem like a new season of “Fargo.”

Yes, like previous TV seasons and the movie before them, it takes place in the Midwest and follows a series of crimes “based on actual events.” And sure, you get the shots of cars rumbling down a highway past a flat, barren landscape.

Chris Rock in the new season of "Fargo."

But this “Fargo” is a pretty straight affair, not given to the baroque plot turns and character curlicues that make “Fargo,” well, “Fargo.” It’s a straight-up gangster story — Black gangsters versus Italian gangsters in 1950 Kansas City.

See? You can summarize it in a sentence. None of the previous “Fargo” seasons could be summarized in a sentence. Or even a paragraph. Or likely a page. Especially as a season progressed. But this show is Black gangsters versus Italians in every episode.

The head Black gangster is played by Chris Rock. On the Italian side there are two brothers fighting for dominance — a “pipsqueak” (Jason Schwartzman) and an old- country bully (Salvatore Esposito, overdoing everything). Guys get shot, guys get stabbed, money gets stolen. You know, typical gangster stuff.

“Fargo” always revels in quirky characters. But this time around the quirks don’t really lead anywhere. Timothy Olyphant plays a Mormon manhunting Marshal, Jack Huston is a obsessive-compulsive dirty cop and… so? Jessie Buckley absolutely owns the part of a deranged nurse and in any other year she’d be the breakout star but in this season she’s left spinning in place.

Look, the new "Fargo" isn’t terrible — it’s loaded with talent, the story rolls along, there’s lots of nice dialogue. But it’s just not near as good or unique as the previous three seasons. Great shows breed great expectations.

'Fargo'

GRADE: C+

9 p.m. Sunday

FX

Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News.