Season one of Fargo was an unexpected hit. Based on (and eventually connected to) the Coen’s Brothers’ 1996 crime film, it impeccably weaved black comedy, a gripping narrative, interesting characters and quite simply, beautiful cinematography to create a show that was by all accounts universally praised.
It would come as no surprise when season two was promptly announced albeit with a small caveat. It wouldn’t follow on from season one, instead taking us to 1979 to to map out exactly what happened in Sioux Falls, a crime spoken about in the first season.
Season two, much like anything Fargo related involves multiple tales and a hell of a lot of players. The first of which pertains to the Gerhardt crime family located in Fargo, North Dakota. When their youngest member Rye (Kieran Culkin) massacres a judge and staff at a diner in Luverne, Minnesota, it launches a tri-state investigation to find his whereabouts. Only problem is, beautician Peggy Blumquist (Kirsten Dunst) struck Rye with her car during his escape and in an effort to cover it up, she and and her husband Ed (Jesse Plemons) dispose of the body and drag themselves into a world of mess.
Meanwhile, a crime family out of Kansas City led by Joe Bullo (Brad Garrett) and Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) plan to move on the Gerdharts, amicability or by force. In the middle of all of this is Officer Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) and his father-in-law Sheriff Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) who attempt to put all of the pieces together.
Fargo is a tour de force in storytelling and creator Noah Hawley has preserved everything that made the movie and season one great. It isn’t any one thing that produces something so sublime, it’s a combination of everything, all as integral as one another.
There are a handful of story threads that begin their journeys frayed and seemingly directionless but by series end, they tie in together so seamlessly and organically. Going into any plot details would be downright disrespectful of me, however it needs to be put on record just how tightly scripted Fargo is. The final three episodes in particular are gripping and there is nary a lull in sight.
The pace somewhat dips during the middle but only by Fargo standards. Each episode still pushes enough exposition and character development that nothing ever feels like wasted screen time.
Season two, like everything before it is populated by distinct, nuanced characters, some dressed up in geniality and niceties yet harbouring malicious intent. Patrick Wilson is undeniably the shows shining star, assisted in no small part by how beloved his character Lou Solverson was in season one – here, a lot younger of course.
Always level headed and able to stare danger in the face without a trace of fear, one can tell he is only ever a step behind simply because of the peculiar details of the case.
Ted Danson is a veteran at this now, his small mannerisms and speech disfluency painting a very real, very raw performance.
Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons get a huge chunk of screen time and the pair are simply fantastic. Peggy was my favourite character to watch progress, building herself up from an austere, defensive housewife to strong yet completely bat shit crazy. Ed, like Lou, tries to remain level headed but is constantly picking up after Peggy, his frustration with her lack of help growing with each episode, yet his love for her shrouding his better judgment.
Jean Smart is terrific as a the matriarch of the Gerhardt family. She moves from scene to scene as a bold leader, firm and unforgiving.
Her sons Bear (Angus Sampson) and Dodd (Jefferey Donovan) are contrasting characters. Sampson crushes his role with all of the mono tone and raw anger and power he can muster while Donovan is callous and completely selfish. He is easily the shows most malevolent character, simply because of his lack of any empathy whatsoever.
Bokeem Woodbine stole the show for me on a personal level. His Mike Milligan is cunning, intelligent and doesn’t bat an eyelid in the face of violence. His delivery of perplexing dialogue is wonderful.
Fargo is shot to perfection too. Its accompanied by a rousing, menacing score that honours its source and there are scenes of such visual polish, you forget you’re watching a TV series. Minnesota and North Dakota have some beautiful landscapes and they are put on display here. A firefight in the woods early on is highlight.
The final shootout is as cinematic as the show gets. It’s violent, unflinching and tense, as is the build up to it.
There are moments of shock and cameos and hilarity in the second season of Fargo and the best way to discover them is by watching it, instead of reading about them in a review. If that means picking up from the first season, the do it because Fargo is arguably the closest show to perfect out right now.
The writing is superb, the acting is outstanding, the action is thrilling and if it wasn’t for all of that, the show would thrive off of its painstaking attention to the inner workings, the cogs and wheels that drive these characters Fargo is brilliant, you don’t have to look far for someone that will attest to that. It’ special and unlike any crime show you’ve ever seen and it deserves every accolade it has received.
Series Review Score: FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
There are some great bonuses on the DVD as well including a conversation with creator Noah Hawley, Keith Carradine and Patrick Wilson about their character Lou Solverson. There is a making of and a great documentary on true crime in the Mid-West. The best part however is an audio commentary with Bruce Campbell on Ronald Regan’s best films (who he plays in Fargo).
Special Features Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Complete Second Season of Fargo is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray.