Fargo Review

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The best praise that can be given to the incredibly complex second season of Fargo, of which four episodes have aired, is that the show manages the seemingly impossible task of making Minnesota seem cool. Gone are the high-pitched accents, quirky aphorisms, and general aloofness that were entertaining throughout the original Coen brothers movie but eventually grating towards the end of the first season of the show. In its place are slick, pensive, but unbelievably brutal criminals that have dominated the season up to this point.

Equipped with it’s late 1970s setting, all the way down to the split screen shots and Reagan campaign posters, season two of the FX show Fargo tells the story of the criminal Gerhardt clan and their desperate attempt to maintain control of their trucking empire in the face of a mysterious criminal enterprise from Kansas City. Now, to be clear, desperation does not connote the lily-livered passive-aggression that has become synonymous with the Fargo brand. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Everyone here knows what they want, is vocal about it, and will do whatever it takes to get it.  

Consider Dodd, played brilliantly by Jeffrey Donovan, one of three Gerhardt sons who attempts to emerge as the head of his family in the face of the looming threat from Missouri. Every word that emerges from his mouth is tainted with the anxiety that he is clearly reconciling with, but at the same time, spoken with a roughness that strikes unparalleled fear into the heart of anyone foolish enough to ever consider getting in his way. The result is a human quality that resonates with the viewer but does not sacrifice the compelling, fantastical nature of a violent criminal. This is probably best seen during a moment in the fourth episode, where, using the longest taser that one could ever imagine, Dodd cripples two of his enemies within a matter of seconds, but then stops to order a doughnut. Scenes like these not only add humor and levity into moments so far detached from the normal human psyche, but also allow the viewer to relate to the character. Combined with fantastic cinematography depicting the snowy, tranquil towns in which this story unfolds, and a nuanced soundtrack, Fargo creates what can only be described as beauty in brutality.

And it is in this space that Fargo really shines. Yes, people are going to get killed. Yes, the bad guys are going to fall at the hands of the polished and dedicated police officer, played rather well by the underrated Patrick Wilson. Yes, those who try to take more than they are entitled to will fall to the mighty hand of justice, so those plot points are not incredibly interesting. What is interesting however, is the opportunity to watch them try in spite of that. The opportunity to watch the Gerhardts curse, steal, kill and pillage everything and everyone that stands in the way of what they want, because even with the eventual outcome somewhat predictable, the gripping writing, brilliant camerawork, and compelling acting make it enjoyable to watch. To borrow one of the cheesy adages that could have been, but is thankfully not, anywhere near this revamped series, it is not the destination, but the journey.

By Ezra Lerner