Fargo: Season 2 created by Noah Hawley (MGM Productions, FX Productions)
Starring Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Jesse Plemons, Jean Smart, Ted Danson, Jeffrey Donovan, Rachel Keller, Nick Offerman, Brad Garrett, Kieran Culkin, Bokeem Woodbine, Angus Sampson, Cristin Milioti, and Zahn McClarnon.
Layers and Layers
The best stories blend a gripping narrative with intriguing themes that ride underneath the surface. While the plot piques your interest and encourages you to tune in next week, the themes in the undercurrent provide a rich tapestry of human experience.
I recently read an article on Kendrick Lamar that explores this very concept. In his tune, “King Kunta,” Lamar frequently references a yam. On the surface, the yam flows with the rest of the lyrics to provide a rhythmic masterpiece. Yet underneath, the yam reference draws parallels to Ralph Ellison and Chinua Achebe.
Season 2 of Fargo presents another excellent example of the perfect blend between surface-level story and deeper-level themes.
Good and Evil in the Midwest
As a basic premise, Season 2 of this anthologized story depicts a standard good vs. evil, cops vs. villains structure. On the ledger of the good we find State Trooper Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) and Sheriff Hank Larsson (Ted Danson). These men desire nothing more than a safe and simple life in the small town of Luverne, Minnesota.
On the evil side, Fargo presents a cast of interesting characters. There’s a Fargo-based crime family with the matriarch, Floyd Gerhardt (Jean Smart) and her three sons, Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan), Bear (Angus Sampson) and Rye (Kieran Culkin).
Finally, somewhere in the middle between good and evil lies a young Minnesota husband and wife, Ed (Jesse Plemons) and Peggy Blumquist (Kirsten Dunst).
Much of the violent action found in Season 2 occurs as an offshoot of an aggressive expansion bid from the corporate mob of Kansas City in the late 70s, led by Joe Bulo (Brad Garrett) and his henchman-philosopher, Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine).
When the Gerhardt clan refuses the buyout option from Kansas City, circumstances turn bloody. Meanwhile, the Minnesota police spiral into the conflict when the youngest Gerhardt, Rye, pulls the unsuspecting Blumquist duo into the fray.
Season 2 unfolds violently through these various points of conflict.
Under the Surface
Yet, for me, the beauty of this series lies in the motifs just under the surface.
Most strikingly this season, the writers frame the story against the 1970s back drop. With Reagan spitting platitudes on the campaign trail about making America great again, the idyllic small-town life feels threatened. Big business wants the entire pie and that means no more mom and pop.
The writers, interestingly, also structure the story with a divine element. Throughout the season, UFOs emerge unexplained and disappear shortly after influencing the story. For some, this aspect might feel absolutely absurd, but it seems proper given the tone and structure of the show. The UFO represents the element of chance for some, or divine intervention for others. Either way, it suits the oddball vibe of the series.
Fargo has many layers and it represents some of the best television of the year. Go watch it.
Verdict: 5 out of 5