If there’s one person who can be trusted with bringing Alien to television it’s Noah Hawley. The creative mind behind Fargo, the four-season anthology series spawned from the Coen Brothers film, is currently writing the sci-fi horror series which will enter production in spring of 2022. Few details are known about the project other than it’s set on Earth, a rarity for the space-faring franchise. With Fargo, Hawley adapted a classic, beloved film in an imaginative way that stayed true to its heart yet was able to veer off in unexpected directions. It’s a perfect film-to-TV adaptation and Alien has the potential of being the same by following in the footsteps of Fargo. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an anthology series, although it could, but regardless of structure, Alien should embrace the same storytelling philosophies and attitude towards its source material.
In truth, Fargo is not a remake of the 1996 film. Instead, it’s a sequel, then a prequel, then a sequel again, and finally (for now) a prequel again. The show remixes almost every element found in the movie but exists in the same world. I would love if Alien followed suit and maintained Fargo’s sensibilities of delayed, minimal connectivity. It’s not until halfway through the first season when the connection between the film Fargo and the TV series is made, Stavros stumbling on a case of cash left by Steve Buscemi’s Carl Showalter. It’s a great moment made more potent because it remains one of only a small number of explicit connections, others being mentions of Brainerd and other tiny details. Yet the show and film are intertwined on a thematic level. The Alien series may eventually connect to the films but hopefully only fleetingly in terms of story and characters and deeply when it comes to visuals and themes. Just as Marge Gunderson is left alone in the Fargo series, let’s leave Ripley out of this.
Fargo began as a remix of the film of the same name but by the time it closed out its fourth season it was something very different. The show evolved into a Coen Brothers series rather than just Fargo, taking aspects of so many of their films and reworking them in new, brilliant ways. Season 3 takes elements of The Big Lebowski and inflects them with horror, and the Miller’s Crossing parallels with season 4 are obvious for anyone who has seen the movie. Alien should, largely, be concerned with the Alien films but I would love if Hawley again takes the opportunity to look at the wider films of both Ridley Scott and the genre and pick and choose from them. As with Fargo, the circle of inspiration could expand with each future season, but from the very start it’s hard to escape the gravity of Blade Runner. I’ve long since theorised that Alien and Blade Runner are set in the same universe and what a perfect time to connect them, either subtly or explicitly, with an Alien series set on Earth and a Blade Runner series also being developed.
Fargo has been unafraid to get political. This is most notably the case in season 4 but while some viewers were turned off by this development, let’s not forget that Ronald Reagan was a character in season 2 and season 3 was all about the battle between objective reality and subjective truth inspired by the politics of the time. Alien is a film about space truckers space truckin’ round the stars, a group of lower-class individuals concerned with “the bonus situation” whose lives are controlled by a faceless corporate entity on the other side of the galaxy who care about profit more than the lives of their workers. Now that the series is going to Earth we can see these elites, something Noah Hawley has indicated in interviews, and continue the political dialogue, the true terror, within the gory extra-terrestrial horror.
Fargo is a weird show. There’s human drama, visceral crime, but also UFO’s, ghosts, a man who may or may not be the devil, and a metaphysical bowling alley inhabited by the Wandering Jew. I love the changes in tone and Hawley’s bonkers choices which could torpedo the entire series but ultimately just make it more fascinating. Alien should be a different kind of show but I still want Hawley’s sensibilities of tonal balance and just plain weirdness to seep their way in, not only from Fargo but also Legion, although that show sometimes tried to hide its flaws with its crazier aspects. I want the grounded to be balanced with the existential. After all, Alien offsets the bizarre alien terror with very human characters. The Alien films can get silly at points and if the show wants to take elements from Alien: Resurrection, for example, then a certain amount of goofiness is to be expected. Even the philosophy of Prometheus could work its way in. Hawley’s work is always surprising and takes chances so I expect the same from Alien, a show that can re-tread similar ground as the films as long as does so in a new, unexpected way.
I hope Hawley’s Alien revels in the sci-fi horror aspects of the first film more than the action that came to dominate in James Cameron’s sequel and the further franchise. But there’s only so much ‘hoping’ I can do when my main hope is to be surprised by the show. I trust Noah Hawley, one of the few writers in the television landscape who feels like an auteur and a visionary. I remember when Fargo was announced and thinking it would be a disaster. How can that film possibly be adapted for television and why should it? I’m so glad I was wrong and so much of that series is masterful. It’s a wonderful adaptation that became so much more, and if Hawley can find just some of the magic of that show and work it into Alien I’ll be happy. For the past few years Fargo has been the best adaptation on television and, with Hawley again writing, Alien could be the next.
What are your thoughts on Alien and Fargo? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.