James Garcia reviews Fargo season 2 episode 1, ‘Waiting for Dutch’…
Last year, Noah Hawley took it upon himself to do what, on paper, seemed outlandish – create a television series based around the 1996 Coen Brothers masterpiece, Fargo. Hawley’s ambitious ten-hour opus – which he wrote every episode of – was a great success and exceeded even our wildest expectations. As a standalone miniseries, Fargo would have been an immense achievement. Luckily for us, Hawley took it upon himself to do something even more outlandish: He chose to do head back to the snow-covered north of the United States and do it all over again.
Fargo wasn’t granted a second season renewal until July, but in just five months Hawley has managed to write and produce a project that not only lives up to the season that preceded it, but may very well surpass it when all is said and done.
Fargo‘s second season premiere delivered the same bursts of savagery and sharp wit that made the Coens’ film and freshman season such a surprising delight, and ups the ante on several fronts. The decision to wind the clock back to 1979 provides a fresh and exciting new aesthetic for Hawley to splatter blood over, while the show’s cast is more star-studded and, perhaps, more talented, than last year’s.
Jesse Plemons (who stands to turn in yet a third iconic and beloved television performance) and Patrick Wilson (who’s playing the younger version of Keith Carradine’s Lou Solverson) act as firm anchors in a torrential storm of larger-than-life talent stirred up by Kirsten Dunst, Ted Danson, Jean Smart, Nick Offerman, Kieran Culkin, Michael Hogan, Cristin Milioti (playing yet another cancer-ridden mother) and Jeffrey Donovan. Hawley has, once again, shown his aptitude for perfectly capturing the Coen-like balance of real and outlandish characters, and I’m excited to see the character arcs continue to go in crazy directions over the remainder of the season.
In season one, Fargo‘s core narrative orbited Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo, a character so devious that many fans wildly speculated that he was the devil himself. Fargo season two has yet to give us such a troublesome force of nature, but has managed to deliver an intriguing crime narrative all the same. Rather than focus on the acts of one evil man (and the sudden rise of another), Fargo is going for something much more subdued and widespread – a diner encounter that gets out of hand, a soul-searching housewife who inadvertently kills the murderer, and her husband’s desire to bury the hatchet (or stick the body in the freezer, as it were). Thrown into the mix are Solverson (and, in turn, his family), the criminally-inclined Gerhardt family (whom the diner murderer belonged to), and a crime syndicate from Kansas City that sees an opportunity for some “Northern Expansion.” And all over a typewriter business, no less.
In short, Fargo succeeds in its second season where True Detective so spectacularly failed. It took its anthology format to a new level with finesse and apt storytelling, rather than a reliance on star power and complicated narrative. Fargo certainly has both of those elements, but it manages not to fumble them thanks to Hawley’s firm grip on the storytelling and production.
Do I think that he’ll manage to do the impossible and deliver yet another year of stunning, game-changing television? Aw, you betcha.