By Peter Roslovich
Like most things in life, we like to put things in boxes and label them as one thing. This movie is a comedy, this one is a drama, this man is a criminal, this man is a hero. Fargo refuses to be put in a box and labeled.
The latest season of the television show is set in 1979 and follows the Gerhardt crime family, who are the dominant crime family in the Upper Midwest, as they go through a change in leadership left by the paralysis of the patriarch Otto Gerhardt (Michael Hogan) and the threat of a new rival in the region: The Kansas City Mafia. The story also follows Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) and Hank Larson (Ted Danson) as the two policemen who investigate the family’s crimes as well as Peggy and Ed Blumquist (Kristen Dunst and Jesse Plemons) as an ordinary couple who get involved with the Gerhardt’s dirty business.
The story itself is incredibly interesting; it follows the basic format that Fargo uses which is ordinary people get themselves in over their heads and an honest policeman has to clean up their mess. But what is new this season is the addition of a crime family. Now not only is there a sense of the west from the lone policeman attemptingto clean everything up, or a sense of the crime drama from the people over their heads, or a sense of comedy from the dialogue, but there is now a very obvious gangster-movie feel. Another addition is a mystery, which was hinted at in season one. The second season moves toward this massacre mystery which constantly has you guessing who is in this crime and why does it occur. These questions only become more interesting as the season continues to increase in intensity with each episode.
The Setting. The setting is what has always made Fargo unique, and that doesn’t dwindle in its second season. The setting of Fargo in the Upper Midwest has always meant that most of the characters speak in the now famous “Minnesota Nice” accent. It’s in the name itself, the accent is stereotypically associated with kindness and friendliness, but Fargo portrays people committing horrible crimes and doing violent acts, creating a natural juxtaposition between the kind sounding people and their inhumane doings. This is the brilliance of Fargo – it creates a sense of dark comedy simply by having its story take place in the Upper Midwest. This season is set in 1979 and it is perfect down to the detail. From the soundtrack, to the typewriter font that the opening credits utilize, to the constant use of screen wipes and split screen, right down to the constant Ronald Reagan references. The show perfectly nails the setting and is worth watching just for its atmosphere and beauty alone.
The Characters. While Fargo has certainly always had interesting characters, this season has the most developed characters. It seems as if each character has their own motivations and reactions to what is occurring around them. There are no throwaway characters or those that are boring to watch. Each character has a clear and individual personality and a key part to play in the story. None of the characters are stereotypes either and are all so original and well acted, like Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) the singsongy hitman that loves poetry or Karl Weathers (Nick Offerman) the drunk, paranoid and patriotic lawyer. Fargo accomplishes what so few shows manage to do and that is to have the story be a frame for the characters and to give each character enough space on this frame to create a beautiful portrait.
Consensus An amazing cast, atmosphere and script propel Fargo Season 2 to television greatness and make it a must watch for any film or television lover.