A rewatch of Fargo season 2? Ok then, you betcha.
A couple of weeks ago, FX apparently ran a marathon replay of the second season of “Fargo,” because all 10 episodes appeared out of nowhere on my DVR. I immediately thought two things: (1) oh, I’m rewatching that, and (2) oh man, season 3 must be on its way! Unfortunately it turns out I was half-right. Currently, season 3 is set to premiere at an unspecified date in the spring of 2017 (ugh). But the showrunner, Noah Hawtley, and Executive Producers, the Coen brothers, are working on it — apparently casting has begun and filming begins in November.
So, in the meantime, we’ll rewatch it.
I need to state first off, if you’re not watching this series, you most certainly, without a doubt, absolutely should be. While some current shows are demonstrating promise but aren’t quite paying off, it’s comforting to go back to a series that’s so damn good that I’d probably watch it all a third time before the next season comes out. My recommendation would be to watch the original film from those lovable Coen brothers first, then get moving on the series. You might have to catch it on replay or pony up the dough to stream it through Amazon, but it’s worth it. The film is still a phenomenal piece of work, and I had my apprehensions when FX announced there would be a series based on it. Would this be a drawn-out retelling of the movie? Are there more grisly crimes being committed near Fargo, North Dakota that need to be investigated by Sheriff Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand)? Just what would a “Fargo” series be?
It would be brilliant, that’s what. Playing coy with the series’ premise, the connection to the film wasn’t officially known until somewhere around the third episode of season 1. No spoilers here as to what that connection is. It’s such a fun bit that I remember cheering out loud in my living room on the first watch. Season 1 was so fantastic in every aspect, that I had even more apprehension about season 2. The question wasn’t even whether they could top season 1, but could they even come close?
I am quite the doubting Thomas (pun intended, it’s my name), and “Fargo” Season 2 might as well have been Jesus himself showing me the nail holes in his hands. With the characters from season 1 having had their story told (at least for now), we travel back in time to Minnesota, 1979 for a prequel. It takes about one whole episode to set the stage and introduce our main characters, before delving into one of the most satisfying and delightful stories likely ever put on screen. Part crime drama, part black comedy, part existential study of violence, greed, life, and northern accents (oh yah?), season 2 manages to surpass and enrich everything that came before it. Also, there might be aliens, but you didn’t hear that from me.
I can’t remember such a layered story with so many moving pieces being threaded together so well, especially within the confines of a series. Usually, such master craftsmanship is reserved for high-caliber films. Nor can I remember so many actors effortlessly vying to each become your favorite character in every scene. Patrick Wilson has cemented himself as one of my favorite actors with his portrayal of State Trooper Lou Solverson (our main protagonist — he was portrayed by Keith Carradine as the older Lou in season 1). Every stand-off that he’s in (and there’s a few, you betcha), whether it’s verbal or physical, is impressive and pitch perfect for each set of circumstances. Even when he’s likely in over his head, Lou acts the way we all hope we would in these situations: tough, level-headed, and on the side of virtue. He’s a quiet badass and has some of my favorite scenes in the series.
There are just too many other great performances to list individually without repeating praises, but I’ll try to give a quick rundown anyway. Jean Smart is wonderful as the de facto head of the Gerhardt crime family that comes under fire from the Kansas City mob. Bokeem Woodbine steals the show as the idiosyncratic Mike Milligan, an opportunistic and cunning mob enforcer who’s looking to make his mark in the world. This may be the first time I’ve truly enjoyed Kristen Dunst in anything since Interview With the Vampire. Jesse Plemons has put on some weight since his Meth Damon days on Breaking Bad and does a fine job as a simple everyman who goes along to get along even as it gets him along to a lot of trouble. Zahn McClarnon is downright scary as Hanzee Dent, the Gerhardt family’s right hand man. On the Kansas City side are Brad and Todd Mann who play the Kitchen twins — two silent and brutal pieces of sawed-off shotgun muscle. Cristin Milloti, Jeffrey Donovan, Ted Danson, Nick Offerman, and many others in the ensemble craft such a terrific story together. Even the King of B-Movies, Bruce Campbell, shows up for a cameo in a short but brilliant turn as Presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan (Hail to the Gipper, Baby).
I cannot heap enough praise on this show, and, after this rewatch, it’s probably settled itself in as my top series, maybe ever. The pacing is spot on. The performances are phenomenal. The varying tones of drama, action, and humor are handled masterfully. Nothing ever feels slow or repetitive (unless deliberately so). The nods to the source material, as well as other Coen brothers films (music, dialogue, situations) are an Easter Egger’s delight. “Fargo” is an example of what truly creative television can be. I don’t know what’s in store for Season 3, and once again, I don’t know if they can match what they’ve done before. But I’m certainly not going to worry about it anymore. Ok then? Ok then.