Warning; this review contains spoilers.
2014 was very much the year to bow down at the feet of the “genius” that was True Detective. This brand new cop drama revolutionised the genre through long rambling driving scenes that had absolutely nothing to do with the plot and was filled to the brim with unlikable characters. Well as you can probably tell, I quite happily missed that band wagon. No, Fargo was the new show that blew me away. Fargo was something new and exciting. Stylistic to the point that it wouldn’t get in the way of the plot and full of likeable characters both good and bad. For all the horrible things they did, you still could help finding yourself digging out a soft spot in your heart for some of these villainous creeps which was very fitting to the Coen brothers style. So I was more than eager to watch the second season in one gluttonous binge session as is my style.
Fargo Season Two
Episode one showed a lot of promise. Boosted egos and suspected UFO sightings brought upon the downfall of the youngest Gerhardt son. A small town hair stylist and disgruntled housewife was on the other side of this downfall but in recognition of the show’s black humour decided to ignore the crime boss’ son that she had just run down with her car and carry on with her day. A heavy but somewhat unintentional start to a crime war that would lead to a body count so big that if you stacked ’em high you could’ve climbed to the second floor. It was very reminiscent of the first episode of season one but not quite as exciting or unique. After that first episode, it was pretty much done. Fargo lost the magic and while it was a fine series, it just wasn’t Fargo fine.
Noah Hawley plays around with the anthology idea enough that we essentially are given a prequel to the first season as well as an entirely new story. Which is fortunate in terms of characters because this way we at least get to have one family full of interesting and likeable characters left over in the Solversons. Outside of this family it is slim pickings, everyone else is either a carbon copy of a character from the first season, boring or just an arsehole. Of course you need your arseholes for a story to run sometimes but it’s much nicer when you don’t ram so many of these awful people in the audience’s face. Noreen (Emily Haine) is the one exception, Simone Gerhardt (Rachel Keller) is likeable enough but not an overly interesting or fresh character and Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) gets close before you realise how similar he can be to Lorne Malvo from the first season. It’s always nice to have a bit of Nick Offerman floating around but don’t be fooled by the lack of moustache, he is still very much a Ron Swanson character.
Stylistically the second season is a bit all over the place. At first it felt like Fargo before things got a bit alieny and weird. I am no Coen brothers expert but this series didn’t feel as Fargoey as the first. Hawley tried to cram in too many references to other Coen brothers films and forgot to stick to the original idea. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem sneaking in as many references as you can but when they start to get in the way of the quality of the show, well then maybe you should slow down. One thing this season had over the first is the humour. There are a lot more laughs to have this year and while it’s not out and out hilarious, it’s funny enough to deserve the black comedy tag.
Some people may say it’s unfair to compare this show to its first season and I would slightly agree with that statement. If I were to watch Fargo season two before its predecessor with no expectations, I would probably enjoyed this a lot more. Fargo is still one of the better shows on television and the second season is packed with drama, comedy and a couple of thrills along the way. Unfortunately I am not the kind of person that can detach myself from my expectations so easily and that stupid alien scene really pissed me off.
Another grind in my gears this season is the sudden appearance of what seems to be sexism. Before watching Fargo this year, I could quite easily write off my one disappointment with the first season as all part of the themes of the show. Molly should have been the one to take down Malvo but up until now I thought Hawley had given Gus this job because of the serendipity of the Fargo universe. Nothing happens for a reason and there is no such thing as fate but now I’m not so sure. Hawley almost goes so far as to do what Nic Pizzolatto was pretending to do with True Detective. Showing a bunch of awful men exploiting women to highlight how some men can be so careless to women in society. A lot of strong female characters were introduced this year and were voicing their opinions on how civilization tends to privilege men but then the good guys shut them up. Both Lou (Patrick Wilson) and Hank (Ted Danson) disregard these clearly good points and then for no discernable reason Peggy’s (Kirsten Dunst) just crazy, WTF? I really hope I’m missing something here but this is how it’s look for me at the moment and it’s making me think that maybe Molly was destined to never meet Malvo because “her weak womanly ways couldn’t handle it”.
In terms of cast there are some impressive names bulking up the credits but for some reason I felt last year’s cast did a much better job. Martin Freeman is always great, Allison Tolman portrayed one of the most badarse, cool police officers on the fictional force and Billy Bob Bowlcut really made Malvo his own. So this year there are some great, great performances but somehow they don’t quite compare. Patrick Wilson and Kirsten Dunst would be my choice for stand outs but they are still lacking after the first bunch. It’s something that I think is down to the writing because Hanzee (Zahn McClarnon) was building up to be something pretty cool until his story very quickly fizzled out. Also his new face being Moses Tripoli was just ridiculous.
This show is still great and if not for my loyalty to the first season alone, I will be watching the third. Along the way there are some nice little touches. Hearing Martin Freeman as the narrator was a nice callback and an interesting idea as a whole and the humour is to be praised. The first episode is still very good for a Fargo fan and the whole season is still very good for a TV fan but overall I’m a bit disappointed. So on the basis that this is still a great show when you compare it to almost everything else on television I am going to give the second season 3 out of 5 stars. Ok then.