DVD Review– Fargo: Season 2
When it was first announced that the modern classic movie Fargo was being spun off into a television miniseries, fans of the original film were justified in being apprehensive. But just as Bates Motel and Hannibal proved to be astoundingly impressive surprises, the first season of Fargo proved to be great television, and the second season is just as sterling.
If asked which of the first two seasons of Fargo I prefer, I’d find it impossible to pick one. It is not necessary to watch the first season before the second one, though a couple of inside jokes and characterizations will have more impact after seeing the first season. The second season is set in 1979, and the younger versions of a few characters from Season 1 appear, giving the characters even more background, depth, and humanity.
While many series center on unremitting darkness, Fargo has always found strength from depicting both the best and the worst that humanity has to offer. While the first season featured two characters who came to accept evil as a means of self-actualization, many of the new characters see the world as a jungle where survival is the ultimate good. As Season 2 of Fargo opens, a small-town family crime business is trying to avoid being absorbed by a well-funded syndicate. Many of the criminals embrace violence as a way of life and take pleasure in their bloodshed, but it’s Jean Smart, the family matriarch, who makes the biggest impact as a caring though steely woman who strives for peaceful revolution but who cannot staunch the lust for carnage that thrives in the hearts of those closest to her.
In contrast, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons play a married couple who get drawn unwittingly into a cycle of violence and are then drawn in deeper by making poor choices. Though neither is particularly blessed in the brains department, they both have the gumption to go toe to toe with those who are more comfortable with violence. Dunst is comically dizzy in her absolute refusal to look inward, and Plemons is perpetually astounded and on the brink of being overwhelmed. Both are always believable.
Just like the previous season, it’s the Solversons and their family business of law enforcement that form the warm heart and soul of the series. Patrick Wilson makes for a remarkably likeable hero as the younger version of Keith Carradine’s Season 1 character, a small-town policeman with vast reserves of courage and decency. Ted Danson has never been better than as the grizzled teddy bear of a sheriff he plays here. Finally, Cristin Milioti gives a gently touching performance as a loving mother battling cancer. These are the people you want as your friends and neighbors, the kinds of individuals who restore your faith in humanity.
Fargo manages to make the most out of even the minor characters. Ann Cusack takes five minutes of screen time and creates a marvelously tough judge. But the biggest scene-stealer outside of the main cast is the incomparable Nick Offerman as Karl Weathers, a hard-drinking local lawyer with a talent for wordplay. Offerman’s brief cameo appearances all make the most of his comedic talents, but he plays a pivotal role in the sixth episode. In “Rhinoceros,” Offerman gets the kind of colorful role that actors would give their molars to play. Offerman manages to go over the top and round the twist with a sure-footed confidence that few other actors could even dream of matching, all the while maintaining a gleeful spark of inspired insanity in his eyes.
Fargo displays considerable violence and bloodshed, but there is not a flake of nihilism to be found amongst the snow, for the series consistently stresses that life is precious and every life has meaning. Camus’s existentialism is specifically targeted for a heartwarming critique, and like Foyle’s War, the central moral of the series is that the best way for one to fight the evil in the world is to become a force for goodness.
Fargo: Season 2
20th Century Fox