In 1996 a film came out by the Coen Brothers that was nominated for 7 Oscars and won 2 of them. It had some memorable scenes, one including a wood chipper, and became one of those films people talk about for, well, long enough for them to make a television series off of nearly 20 years later.
The first season was nominated for 5 Golden Globes and won 2 of them. It did even better at the Emmys, nominated for 18 and winning 3. While season 2 has been nominated for 10 Emmys, less than the first, that doesn’t mean that it’s actually 8 Emmy’s worse than the first season. In my opinion it’s better than the first season, in some ways.
Season 2 pretty much takes place in Luverne, Minnesota and follows Lou Solverson (father of Molly Solverson from season 1), Ed and Peggy Blumquist (local butcher and beautician) and a few other characters who share screen time with one another. Much like season 1, this season starts off in a way to introduce our characters and show us what’s happening in their lives. Lou’s wife has cancer and they’re dealing with that as positively as they can and Ed wants to, someday, take over the butcher shop and make it his own while his wife has dreams of moving to California. Another character introduced is Rye Gerhardt, youngest brother of an underground crime syndicate from the big city who starts some trouble that ultimately creates the spider web of complicated events that leads to the trademark mysteries Fargo is known for.
The first 3 episodes are detective stories, reeling you in and raising questions decide who you’re going to root for. Rye’s brothers are introduced, and they’re something special, but the star characters to me are two particularly dangerous men who tally up a lot of bodies by the end of the show, together they’re basically the Lorne Malvo of this season. Mike Milligan, a man who works against the Gerhardt family along with his two, voiceless goons, and Hanzee Dent, a Native American Vietnam Vet who serves for the Gerhardt family but notably sides more towards the eldest brother.
After these first 3 episodes everything unravels and shit hits the fan in every episode in a big way. The biggest issue I had with season 1 was that, in the second to last episode, we suddenly jump ahead a year and feel that we missed out on a handful of meaningful events and we’re just rushed to be caught up. Season 2 doesn’t do this, everything moves forward, sometimes they flashback to what certain characters were doing during another event, but the endgame all comes together with everything in one big blaze of glory. What makes this entire spectacle so great are the characters.
Too often I find myself coming up with excuses for characters in movies and TV shows, mainly TV shows and horror movies, where they make a decision that really doesn’t make sense and you have to explain that they did this because blah blah blah, and it’s complete garbage you’re making up to defend whatever it is you’re watching. Fargo, season 2 at least, I feel that every single character had a reason to do what they’re doing. Season 1 had its moments where I had to ask the characters why they were doing what they’re doing, like Lester in the elevator in the second to last episode. This draws back to the actual Fargo film, most notably the scene where Marge Gunderson agrees to meet with Mike Yanagita at the restaurant to catch up.
In the scene, Marge arrives and sits across from Mike Yanagita and they have a strange conversation about Mike’s wife being dead and then he uncomfortably sits beside her for a moment, obviously trying to take this conversation elsewhere. The scene felt like it had no reason to be in the film, it was just a strange, comedic relief scene. Although, shortly after that scene she hears from someone else that Mike Yanagita’s wife is alive and well and Marge realizes he was lying to her. This sparks a thought in her head about Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) and how she’d spoken with him earlier. Now that Mike Yanagita’s lying is obvious to her, so is Jerry Lundegaard’s lies. This leads her to go back and question him again and moves the story forward when Jerry makes a run for it.
In season 2 all of the characters have a reason to do what they’re doing. Whether they’re delusional, vengeful, power hungry or jealous, they all have a reason to do the terrible things they end up doing. This is the glue that brings the season together for me and is making me want to watch it again right now. With season 3 on the way and with two excellent actors, Ewan McGregor and Carrie Coon, starring, I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do next.
Below are a few aspects that need breaking down...
Vision: Fargo is unique, the storytelling is weird and the characters are quirky and all of that is fantastic but the only thing missing from this whole package is a unique vision. The music works, the scenes blend together fine, but that’s it, it still feels like a TV show at times so I’m never fully out of it, other than the superb storytelling. Fargo (the film) had Roger Deakins as their DP (Director of Photography), a man who deserves an Oscar more than anyone (13 nominations from films like Sicario, Prisoners, Skyfall, The Reader, Shawshank Redemption, No Country for Old Men and of course Fargo) brought a unique vision to the film alongside the storytelling and quirky characters. I know Roger Deakins won’t do the TV show, but if they could try to mimic his vision to make the show feel like something he’d make, then they may be in the right direction.
Atmosphere: Great soundtrack to capture the timeframe of the second season and they did a fantastic job making it feel like we’re in the late 70s, old cars, payphones, clothing and hairstyles. They did a great job, at no point did I feel like I was watching a TV show trying to mimic the late 70s by showing us obvious time stamps, rather I was watching a TV show that was the late 70s.
Acting: Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton have some serious competition from the cast we had this year; everyone put on their A game for this show, even Kirsten Dunst was terrific (I didn’t think that was possible). As I said before, the characters all have a reason and a purpose for what they do and the acting is so top notch that you feel what they’re trying to obtain and can get on board with their motives. I expect to see this dominating the Golden Globe nominations.
Writing: I absolutely love the lore they’ve created with Fargo, they’ve created a Fargoverse where so many characters are intertwined with so many events, it’s absurd. On top of that, they managed to introduce something a bit more wild for this season that I was absolutely not expecting but I loved it. If I were to write for Fargo I wouldn’t have even brought this idea to the table because I’d figure it’d get shot down as ridiculous, but they took it and ran with it and I can’t wait to see if this specific twist continues to be something that comes up in later seasons.
Kudos: I was hesitant to watch Fargo after having watched True Detective, as they were originally running together, but now with Fargo still moving forward and True Detective left somewhere in the shadows all I can say is that I’m glad Fargo is still running because it’s fantastic. I reviewed Stranger Things last time and that has made its way on my top 10 TV series already, but Fargo is right there next to it – If they can keep up the imaginative and ridiculous storytelling then I’ll always be on board, mix in some great acting and crazy twists and I’m happy.
If they can keep up the imaginative and ridiculous storytelling then I’ll always be on board, mix in some great acting and crazy twists and I’m happy.