SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains details about tonight’s Fargo season 4 finale “Storia Americana” on FX
Crime doesn’t pay, and it never did for mobsters.
While we were bound to see the death of one big Kansas City mafia kingpin at the end of Fargo‘s season 4, specifically Jason Schwartzman’s wet-behind-the-ears Josto Fadda (who was killed by the hands of his own family no thanks to his snitch mistress Oraetta Mayflower played by the sublime Jessie Buckley), there was always hope that Chris Rock’s Loy Cannon would see better days and the dominance of his 1950s Kansas City empire.
After an acerbic code of loyalty between crime families that entailed trading their sons in an effort to keep the peace, Loy finally saw his son Satchel (who was in the custody of the Faddas) return home. But the sins of the father, are the sins of the son, and Satchel wound up seeing his father stabbed to his bloody death on the family porch by outlaw Zelmare Roulette (Karen Aldridge). She was expected to see a better life with her g.f. Swanee Capps (Kelsey Asbille) after Loy sent them out of town. However, a police raid at the city train station in Episode 8 “The Nadir”, which culminated in Swanee’s death, foiled that, and, well, Zelmare didn’t forget. In the epilogue shot, we see that young Satchel grows up to be ’70s gangster Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) from Fargo season 2.
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Below is our chat with Fargo series architect Noah Hawley about tonight’s season finale and what future projects he has in store:
DEADLINE: When you were developing season 4, was it always intended that Loy and Josto would die or was there a world where Loy lived?
NOAH HAWLEY: Well, we had a lot of conversations about what would happen to Loy in the end which I think is a sort of separate conversation than Josto on some levels, because of race and the idea that Loy is a Black man at the center of the story. So many of the options that could happen to him can be loaded with meaning that isn’t intended. None of us wanted him to end up behind bars, that didn’t feel like a satisfying ending even though for a man in his position that is a very possible ending. But nor did we want him to really be killed by his enemy, but it also didn’t seem realistic that a Black man in 1950 is the head of a criminal organization was going to ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. I think there was this idea that we give him this moment. He’s defeat into victory and then back into defeat and then he stands on the porch looking in at his family and his son who he thought was dead, who has finally come home, and I think he has this profound moment where he realizes ‘I thought I needed more power to keep him safe but now that I have no power, no one is after us and maybe this is a good thing.’ He has this moment where he thinks maybe this is a happy ending and that the night comes, not because of anything other than that he as an individual betrayed another individual, and as we know from the Coen Brothers universe, the things we do catch up with us.
So, that ended that. Josto was never cut out for this. He is the sort of spoiled second-generation crime boss who never really rose to the job nor took it particularly seriously. He was always just trying to survive from week to week and, I mean, I just thought it was funny when Bulo said ‘Any last requests?’ then Oraetta would say ‘Will you kill him first so I can watch?’ And you know, it just plays so much into her character and of course, in the end he realized that he was her pawn, so it seems fitting.
DEADLINE: Are you still involved with the Alien reboot TV series? I understand deals are trying to be done.
HAWLEY: I know that there’s an effort to reshuffle a lot of things post-Disney takeover and it was a conversation that I had a couple years back. And I have not in the last few weeks been having those conversations about it. But I know that like any studio that there’s a great desire to make the most of one’s library so I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like that.
DEADLINE: But you’re involved in it?
HAWLEY: Ya know, I have conversations from time to time but I’m not committed.
DEADLINE: And there isn’t a hard conceit to it yet?
HAWLEY: No, I haven’t — nothing is at that stage.
DEADLINE: Loy’s son being the younger Mike Milligan — why was that an important connection for you to make in the Fargo universe?
HAWLEY: This whole thing sort of started with that question about where a man named Mike Milligan comes from. He’s a man in 1979 who either fits into the white world or Black world and works for this criminal organization that doesn’t really take him seriously, and yet you know, he’s such an iconoclastic character. And so I suppose on some level this story is an attempt to explain the origins of someone as unique as him, this idea that he’s Cannon’s son, but he’s raised by a second father who himself was raised by Irish and Jewish and Italian parents and on some level that that’s the history of America right there. It seemed like a way to this larger story, but then I think ultimately that the Mike Milligan origin story became just a component of a larger story.
DEADLINE: Have you laid down any beats for Fargo season five yet?
HAWLEY: I don’t have any beats there. I mean, I think I have an interest in mind, but I haven’t been able to really develop yet. But I’ve stopped saying that I’m not interested in doing another one, but I think I would come back closer to our present moment.
DEADLINE: Do you have a big series finale in mind for Fargo down the road? You have cleverly Easter egged out all these character connections throughout the seasons. Is there some big climax coming like we find out the origins of Billy Bob Thorton’s Lorne Salvo or a grand climax whereby everyone is connected?
HAWLEY: I don’t see that in our future. I think there’s something interesting, the idea of this big book of true crime that we see a couple of times, and the idea not that everything’s connected in some deep-seated narrative way, but just that there’s one degree of separation between Al Capone and Dutch Malone, that people traveling in these worlds have run into each other before.
DEADLINE: Similar to how the first season of Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was well-timed to the Time’s Up and #MeToo movement, so is season 4 of Fargo to Black Lives Matter. Talk about that.
HAWLEY: It’s a long-overdue conversation, but it’s also a conversation we’ve been having for hundreds of years because it is the penultimate American conversation which is about race and who gets to be called an American. Even now we’re talking about who’s a real American. But I also feel like if this show had premiered in 1985 or 1996 it would have felt just as relevant to the conversation at the moment when you’re having a very acute phase of having this conversation, and luckily the conversation seems to have some traction this time. But you know, there’s no way to game the white guys, you know. You had to tell a story that connects with the moment or you don’t and you can’t. I mean, even a Vegas will bet on it. You can’t really place a bet, a sure-thing bet on it.
DEADLINE: The Coen Brothers movies have never featured a Black protagonist like Chris Rock’s Loy Cannon. However, you have diversified that universe now.
HAWLEY: I had this conversation with Chris Rock at dinner early on and I said, ‘You know what? One of the things that I feel is that the Coen stories, their particular sense of humor has a lot to do with Judaism and that sort of Jewish sense of humor which is you know, ‘The food is awful and the portions are so small’ There’s an irony to it. An irony that comes out as suffering on some level that sort of Kafka-esque sense, what I call irony without humor is just violence. And that feels like it’s very relevant to the African-American experience as well; that there’s a comedy that comes from understanding that you’re never going to get the good version of the story, that there’s a sort of oppression humor that felt on point in looking at that story of Black and immigrant characters, who were told in as ironic a way as you can that the only way to become American was to not be themselves and then to be judged for not being “American”. The irony of that has no humor in it, it’s just violence and yet it feels like a very Coen Brothers dilemma.
DEADLINE: Have you been breaking any story on a new TV series or have you been strictly devoted to writing your novel?
HAWLEY: It’s been Fargo and book really. I hoped to deliver the book earlier, but when we weren’t able to wrap Fargo it forced me to continue to work on it, so I’m literally on page 364 and racing toward the end and hoping to deliver by the end of the year. I continue to have conversations [on TV series] but you know, I’m not at a place where I can say ‘Oh, this is what I’ll be doing next.’
DEADLINE: Can you tell us what the book is about?
HAWLEY: No, I can’t really. You won’t be disappointed, that’s all I’ll say.
HAWLEY: It doesn’t appear to be in my immediate future. I think when Emma came in, she took a look at the franchise and wanted to go in a different direction with it. But you know, life is long, we were very close to production but in this business that doesn’t mean much. You got to get out of the gate to be in the race if you know what I mean.
DEADLINE: Back at TCA we asked about the status of your adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, and it sounded like it was a hard limited series to pull off at a Disney-owned FX. Do you see it going forward at another network since you developed this for quite some time?
HAWLEY: I brought on the Daniels [Swiss Army Man‘s Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert]; are attached. And we’re bringing on showrunners now to develop it. I’m hoping that will move to a new home in the near future.
DEADLINE: So it’s possible that it could land at another network?
HAWLEY: Yeah, I think it will.