Starring Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Jesse Plemons, Jean Smart, Ted Danson, Cristin Milioti, Jeffrey Donovan, Bokeem Woodbine, Brad Garrett, Nick Offerman, Michael Hogan, Zahn McClarnon, Kieran Culkin, Angus Sampson, Adam Arkin, Bruce Campbell. Various directors. (2015, 532 min). 20th CENTURY FOX
Who would have thought such a quirky classic like Fargo would ever inspire, not just a TV series, but an actual good one? And who would have thought any such show, no matter how creative, would have enough mainstream appeal to warrant a second season?
But here we are, Year Two, with a brand new 10 episode tale and another stellar cast led by Patrick Wilson, Kirsten Dunst, Jean Smart and Ted Danson. This time, it's 1979. The notorious Gerhardt family, led by matriarch Floyd (Smart) & her three idiotic sons, is being threatened by a take-over from a Kansas City crime syndicate. Youngest son Rye commits a triple homicide at a diner before being hit by a car driven by beautician Peggy Blumquist (Dunst). Panicked, she flees the scene with Rye still on the hood and, with the help of her dim-but-good-natured husband, Ed (Jesse Plemons), disposes of the body, hoping life will go on as usual. State Trooper Lou Solverson (Wilson) and father-in-law/sheriff Hank Larsson (Danson) are trying to solve both crimes. In the meantime, the Gerhardts prepare for a war with the Kansas City mob while trying to find out what ever became of Rye. Things becomes increasingly complicated (in a good way) as events & circumstances - not-to-mention random chance - escalate into bloodshed and betrayal.
Not having seen Year One, I can't tell you how well that season retains the overall tone of the original film. But Year Two, which tells a completely different story, certainly does, with quirky characters, deliciously black humor and well-timed moments of jarring violence. The whole thing looks and feels like the original Fargo, right down to the production design and ingenious use of obscure music from the era in which it takes place. The script is clever and funny, with plenty of asides for various vignettes that allow minor characters to shine. I do, however, question the WTF subplot of infrequent UFO sightings throughout the show. These scenes pop up almost randomly two or three times and have no baring on the story whatsoever, yet during a climactic shoot-out, a massive flying saucer drops down to make its presence known.
Still, like the original film, it's the characters and performances which ultimately carry the show. Standouts include Plemons, Zahn McClarnon as an icy psychotic who's loyal (?) to the Gerhardts, Jeffrey Donovan as the oldest, most-hateful Gerhardt brother and Bokeem Woodbine as an ambitious mob enforcer. While I’ve never been a particularly big fan of Danson or Dunst, both deliver career performances. All these characters would be amusing to watch even without the labyrinthine plot.
Best of all, Fargo: Year Two is addictive and binge-worthy. The story builds a momentum that is best appreciated and enjoyed in a marathon sitting. It takes its time getting going, then winds itself down with a satisfying resolution that doesn’t quite answer every question raised during its 10 episodes (such as the aforementioned UFO sightings or an out-of-the-blue killing spree by one of the major characters). But while we’re in the moment, this is terrific entertainment worthy of the Fargo brand name.
- Featurettes: "Waffles and Bullet Holes: A Return to Sioux Falls" (making-of); "Lou on Lou: A conversation with Noah Hawley, Keith Carradine (who played Lou in Season 1) and Patrick Wilson"; "The History of True Crime in the Mid-West"
- Slap Sprang TV Commercial
- "The Films of Ronald Reagan" (audio commentary by Bruce Campbell)