‘Fargo’ goes back to the past for a gripping crime story

Who gets to be an American? And how much blood must be spilled?

That’s the beating, bleeding heart of the new season of FX’s “Fargo” (Sundays at 9 p.m.). Series creator, writer and director Noah Hawley delivers an extended opener that has one significant thing in common with every other season of “Fargo.”

It is instantly engrossing.

Warning! Minor spoilers ahead!

Two rival gangs in 1950 Kansas City, Mo., are trying to forge a path toward mutual co-existence.

The solution?

A son swap.

The mob leaders – one Italian, one Black – will hand over one of their sons to be raised by the other.

Oh, flashbacks show this has not gone so well over the years.

But hope here doesn’t so much spring as leak.

Hawley has always walked “Fargo” on that razor between comedy and tragedy, and never is that more apparent in the premiere’s centerpiece sequence, which takes place at crosswalk near a park.

As a car waits for the go-ahead to move forward, one passenger spies danger at a bus stop. What follows next is something that could have been culled from a “Final Destination” film.

Much attention is being given to comedian Chris Rock, here in a deadly serious role as mobster Loy Cannon.

If he were white, the banking establishment would take him and his ideas for an innovative financial product – a credit card! – far more seriously and he’d be a billionaire. As it is, he is forced to work outside the law. Rock is authentic as a man ahead of his time.

Jessie Buckley, "Fargo" (Photo: FX)
FARGO — “Welcome to the Alternate Economy” – Year 4, Episode 1 (Airs September 27) Pictured: Jessie Buckley as Oraetta Mayflower. CR: Elizabeth Morris/FX

The night’s menace – and the season’s show-stealer – looks to be Jessie Buckley as Nurse Oraetta Mayflower, a Minnesota native who uses 90 words when three would do and has a bedside manner like no other.

In “Fargo’s” long-storied Hall of Eccentrics, Nurse Mayflower is on the fast track to occupy the center throne.

If there is a moral center to this twisted tale – and in “Fargo,” that’s not usually apparent – that role might belong to 16-year-old Ethelrida Pearl (E’myri Crutchfield), the biracial daughter of a couple who own a mortuary.

Ethelrida is thoughtful beyond her years, prone to quoting Frederick Douglass, and has an intense curiosity about the people around her.

“What’s going to happen to me, Dad? In the world?” she wonders.

Crutchfield makes her teenager utterly sympathetic. Andrew Bird, just lovely as her father Thurman, replies, “There’s a place for all of us on this earth. We just have to find it.”

That search for a part of the American dream looks to drive “Fargo” – and an escalating body count.


E'myri Crutchfield, "Fargo" (Photo: FX)
E’myri Crutchfield as Ethelrida Pearl Smutny. CR: Elizabeth Morris/FX