The Women of Fargo Season Two
(originally published on Spoilers.TV)
As it happened with the first one, season two of FX’s Fargo succeeded in creating fantastic supporting characters, now with a kick-ass soundtrack to boot. Now that it is over, what were the season’s highlights? And how does it compare with the previous one?
The quantity of diverse and complex female characters did not go unnoticed. On season one, there was Molly, part of the main cast, but basically the only female role of significant importance. Now we had many, being two of them protagonists: Peggy Blumquist and Betsy Solverson. And many cool supporting ones, like Peggy’s boss, the mother Gerhardt, and Noreen, a butchery employee.
This bump in numbers is important, because “being a woman” is always used as the character’s defining quality, even when she carries an entire season’s plot, like it happened with the previous one. For instance, there is always a decent man, a crazy one, a sociopath, and then the woman. It’s up to her to represent an entire gender, a pressure no person can undertake. When there’s only one, she’s the sole example of female behavior and is instantly compared to every woman on the world, resulting in backlash whenever she makes mistakes or acts on bad planning.
When you put several women on a show or film, they become free and independent to follow impulses or whatever they’d like. After all, we are talking about Fargo, a show where mistakes and bad decisions are of core relevance. Just look at Peggy, on the first episode, bringing a hit-and-run body home.
I’m going to use two dialogues of the season to illustrate the different tones Fargo reached, both from women.
Peggy, played by Kristen Dunst (yep, the one from the movies!), is unquestionably the most important character of the season. After running over Rye on the first episode, she brings the unconscious body home like nothing happened. Little did she know Rye belonged to a mafia family who was about to go to war with another family. Bloodbath and hilarity ensue. All that while she was just a woman minding her own business. A confused and hard working wife, trying to find satisfaction and fulfillment in her life. “Trying” is the key-word here.
On the final episode Palindrome, captured by Lou Solverson, Peggy vents on the back of his police car. She blames Rye for stepping inside of the road on the middle of the night and promptly Lou says “you mean the victim?” Peggy gets annoyed, talks about how that isn’t fair, since she’s also a victim. “You wouldn’t understand, you’re a man.”
“It’s a lie, OK? That you can do it all. Be a wife and a mother and this self-made career woman, like there’s 37 hours on a day. And then when you can’t, they say it’s you. ‘You’re faulty’, like you’re inferior somehow.”
A female character saying this on a, by then, 80’s show proves how progressive season two of Fargo was. The pressure society puts us through is giant and, like Peggy, sometimes we can’t handle it. On Peggy’s case, she even had hallucinations, due to how extreme her situation turned into.
But Fargo naturally kept its comedy aspects. The scene that first turns Noreen from a wordless bookworm into a real character with independent thought is worth mentioning. Funny how this chat with Ed predicted what would happened later on the season. The scene: Ed, as usual, has countless problems, one of which is gathering funds to buy the butchery for himself. After overhearing what seemed to be a disappointing phone call, Noreen turns to Ed and says she doesn’t understand why he keeps trying. He plans to become his own boss and be part of the American dream.
“What’s the point? Just gonna die anyway.” Ah, American countryside existentialism. “Camus says knowing we’re all gonna die makes life a joke. (…) You could kill yourself, get it over with.” Ed thinks this line of thought is absurd, how is a teenager even thinking like that? We, the audience, also can’t really tell yet if she’s joking or not, making this dialogue funnier. Ed goes on about how, like his late 96 year old grandpa, he also plans to live long. “At which point he did what? Died.” Just a few scenes after this, two men enter the shop looking to kill the “infamous” Butcher of Fargo. Ed and Noreen nearly die.
This 70’s glimpse Fargo brought us didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Great music (shout-out to whoever chose to play Black Sabbath on the final episode). Plenty of death. And funny, complicated, cowardly, lucky, impulsive, different characters. People like us.