Ben Watches Television : Fargo, Season Two (2015)
Success is a heavier cross to bear than failure.
Say what you want about this statement, but I sincerely believe it's more difficult to become successful and remain successful at what you do than not being any good at all. Failure is demoralizing, but it's not that difficult. For example, the first season of Fargo was so fucking great, it set up insane expectations for the subsequent seasons. Fortunately, the second season was even better received by critics and still stands at a perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes today. That would indicate that Fargo not only offered its audience the thrill it was seeking, but that it raised the bar on itself. Is this for real or is everyone trying to convince themselves Season Two is great because critics said so. I've investigated the case and came back with...no definitive answer, really
What is Fargo, Season Two about?
Remember the old timers in Season One blabbering about the tragic events of Sioux Falls? Well, we're going back in the past to 1979 for Season Two and find out exactly what happened there. Our new protagonist is Molly Solverson's dad Lou (played by the underrated Patrick Wilson) who is trying to navigate a turf war between the Gerhardts, a family of local enforcers, and the Kansas City mob. What turned this otherwise unoriginal underworld confrontation into a powder keg is the disappearance of Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin, the brother of...you know who) who got hit be a civilian driver (Kirsten Dunst) after massacring three people in a diner and subsequently....well, you'll find out. So, more bad guys in the snow for everyone! Except this time, they're wearing dated flannels and bell bottom pants.
Is Fargo, Season Two as good as advertised?
Don't get me wrong, it's great television. Unlike its predecessor, it explores classically American ideas, though. Ideas that you've seen a thousand times in Westerns and that you've seen anyway if you haven't seen a Western before: the reluctant sheriff, lawlessness, the personal responsibility of defending yourself and the ones your love, etc. Fargo, Season Two treats these ideas in a smart and original way by depicting Lou Solverson as the representative of law enforcement in town and really the only human being (along with his stepfather) preventing his town to capsize into absolute fucking chaos. So, Lou's both a state cop who represents the system, the de facto sheriff and husband to a wife with serious health issue. So, tension stems from Lou trying to manage what you could call a tough fucking break in his life.
Otherwise, you've seen movies and television shows about criminal turf wars before. Fargo, Season Two is incredibly well written and features the classic noir element of simple-minded butcher Ed Blumquist (Jesse Plemons' fat twin brother) falling into an underworld rabbit hole wanting to help his wife getting away with a hit-and-run, but it's not exactly a beacon of originality. Its brilliance lies in execution rather than its originality and subversion like Season One did. I kept waiting for that moment that would subvert my expectations and make my jaw slam into the hardwood floor of my condo, but it never really came. There's an entire subplot about aliens in Season Two that was promising, but Noah Hawley and his growing team of writers obviously didn't know what the fuck to do with it
Ben, what are your overall thought on Fargo, Season Two?
I couldn't help being disappointed.
I mean, it's objectively great television but it was ethically simpler and safer than Season One. Lou Solverson is a great protagonist, but it's clear from the get-go who he is and how he's going to navigate the incoming confrontation with the criminal underworld. Fargo, Season Two is a contemporary Western in the vein of Sam Peckinpah's filmmaking. It's a well-executed one, but NEWFLASH: that's shit's been done before. The only problem Season Two had is that it didn't live up to what made Season One so much fun: subverting expectations and taking its audience down familiar paths in a new and different way. It has all the rest, really. I mean, look at this knockout sense of style:
I liked that Season Two took its distance from the Coen brothers also and became its own thing. It was a natural progression and showrunner Noah Hawley wasn't scared to take the leap. It feels like something is missing most times, but rehashing the Coens' trademark humor would've become gimmicky faster than you can order an egg McMuffin in McDonald's after 9. I know it's wrong to be disappointed by something excellent and conventionally enjoyable, but Fargo had set the bar super high on itself with its first season. Is Noah Hawley more of a stylist than a breakout storyteller? That's two out of three now and I might have to watch Season Three of Fargo to make up my mind on what kind of author he is.
What did YOU Think about Fargo, Season Two? Leave a comment either here or on Facebook. Tell me I'm wrong!