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Fargo’s second season builds on strong writing

By DUBRAY KINNEY | February 4, 2016

Season two of FX’s Fargo wrapped up during winter break. The series is an adaptation of the Coen Brothers’ 1990s film of the same name, and the second season is a prequel to the events of the first season. The show is helmed by writer Noah Hawley, who delegated the writing of several episodes this season to other talent, in a departure from the past season.

Fargo’s second season takes place in 1979 during the baby steps of Ronald Reagan’s campaign trail, with famed actor Bruce Campbell playing the role of Reagan in two episodes of the season.

The main plotline of the season follows state trooper Lou Solverson, played by Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring, Insidious) and his attempts to solve a waffle-house shooting in his hometown of Luverne, Minnesota.

In parallel to his investigation, a crime family known as the Gerhardts from nearby Fargo, N.D. go through a change in management and prepare for a gang war with a larger corporate crime syndicate from Kansas City.

While all of this is happening, housewife Peggy Blumquist, played by Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man, The Virgin Suicides) searches for self-meaning and confidence while her husband Ed Blumquist, portrayed by Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights), attempts to reel in his expectations.

The most impressive part about Fargo, from the first season to the most recent, is its ability to seamlessly link the multiple plot lines that run in its undercurrent. Most TV shows would stumble with such a wide range of characters and an ensemble cast, but Fargo’s great writing does something most other anthological shows with ensemble casts can’t accomplish in that it has no true standout character. Rather than having one character who is meant to dominate screen time, every character who a scene revolves around is interesting, well-formed and has enough depth that each dialogue choice is worth a second of thought.

Another strong aspect of the show is the fact that there are no throwaway episodes. Since the show works as a sort of character study, every episode is important to understand the actions that each character will make in the next event or made in a previous.

True highlights of the series include Patrick Wilson’s performance as Solverson, which allows the viewer to see who the man that raised Molly Solverson, played by actress Raven Stewart (Cracked), really is. He shows conflict over his wife’s struggles with cancer, and his relationship with his father-in-law is well-fleshed out, with the conversations between the two putting the viewer in a situation where they’re like a fly on the wall.

Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice, J. Edgar) possesses an intimidating presence in his portrayal of Dodd Gerhardt, the new patriarch and muscle of the crime family. While Wilson’s performance gives off a warm but staunch justice-like vibe, Donovan’s character is much more spiteful while still portraying another side of masculinity.

Also of note, Kirsten Dunst as Peggy had her best performance since The Virgin Suicides, which positioned her as one of the best female leads in 2015 television. She runs the gamut of emotions and calls back parallels between herself and Martin Freeman’s (Sherlock) performance as Lester Nygaard in season one.

Both characters call their lives into question when faced with absolutely mundane futures and make extraordinary steps toward something unattainable, with both of their choices coming at the cost of others’ lives.

Fargo’s second season builds off a surprisingly effective first season in a manner that leaves viewers salivating for the third one (though Hawley has said that the season will premiere in 2017). Unfortunately the series isn’t available on Hulu or Netflix, but readers can find it on Amazon Prime or other video on-demand platforms with purchasing options.

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