As my good friend and Storm of Spoilers co-host Joanna Robinson wrote earlier today over at Vanity Fair, there’s a lot of thematic mileage in Fargo’s second season, which debuts tonight on FX. Even though it’s set in the late 1970s, the new story in the anthology series has a lot to say about feminism, the things we bring back from war and the issues of equality that permeate today’s America. For more on that, read Joanna’s piece. You won’t regret it.
I’m here to tell you that Fargo season two is violent and wonderful and fucking strange and if for no other reason, you should watch it because it is a completely unique experience. The basics of the story revolve around a very bloody incident at a diner that disrupts the relative tranquility of a small town in Minnesota. In the process of investigating the affair, Vietnam vet and state policeman Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) and his father-in-law, the local sheriff (Ted Danson), begin to unravel the many pieces of narrative shrapnel from the opening episode’s explosive incident.
The formula is not that dissimilar than season one. On one side we have the criminal elements that are intertwined with the inciting event – Jean Smart, Jeffrey Donovan and Kieran Culkin play members of a crime family whose patriarch is Michael “Col. Frackin’ Tigh” Hogan, while Brad Garrett and Bokeem Woodbine play members of a crime syndicate looking to annex their territory. On the other side we have the dogged police, played by Wilson and Danson. The fun connection to season one is that Wilson’s Lou Solverson is the father of Molly Solverson, played by Allison Tolman in the first season. If my memory serves me, there were a few mentions by Keith Carradine (who played Lou in season 1) about a case he worked a while back, a massacre. There’s a lot of connective tissue here.
The other connective tissue is that between the law and the criminal element, there’s also a seemingly law-abiding household that is dragged into the fray. In season one, Martin Freeman’s Lester Nygaard was front in center as both the pitiful mastermind and collateral accomplice to the bloodiest parts of the story. In season two, a content young butcher named Ed Blomquist (Jesse Plemons) and his hair stylist wife Peggy (Kirsten Dunst) quickly become wrapped up in the mess made at an all-night diner. And as the season moves forward, we can look to some interesting little moments with the likes of Nick Offerman, who plays war vet Karl Weathers, and Bruce Campbell, whose mug can be seen in background posters as Ronald Reagan.
Oh right, and there’s a UFO subplot.
Having screened the first few episodes, I’m finding it hard to convey the sheer will of this show to be surprising and gnarly without giving too much away. But I will say this: this cast is incredible. And the show oozes style and courts violence around every corner. The dialogue from writer/creator Noah Hawley, especially in these first few episodes, is particularly sharp. For those who enjoyed Fargo’s first season, it shouldn’t take much coaxing. There’s plenty of momentum left over. For those who missed out on the first season and aren’t quite sure, jump into tonight’s season premiere. Episode one, “Waiting for Dutch,” is a pitch-perfect opening frame for any series. It sets the tone for everything that is to come. One episode and it’s entirely likely that you’ll be hooked.
Fargo premieres tonight at 10pm on FX. Watch the trailer below. I’m going to watch it, too, as it makes me smile.