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Fargo: Season 2 - Review

Fargo: Season 2

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

IF the idea of a television series based on the Coen brothers movie Fargo seemed like a bit of a stretch at first, then think again.

Series creator and writer Noah Hawley blew many people away with his first season, featuring a stellar cast that included Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton and Allison Tolman. But he surpassed even those achievements with his sophomore run, a prequel of sorts that took the action back to March 1979 and another criminal chapter.

Once again, Hawley amassed a terrific ensemble cast, led by Kirsten Dunst and Patrick Wilson, and also featuring Ted Danson, Jean Smart, Jesse Plemons, Jeffrey Donovan and Nick Offerman. But he also made things even more involving, as if he really found his stride at the second time of asking.

The story principally follows the attempts by beautician Peggy Blumquist (Dunst) and her husband, butcher Ed Blumquist (Plemons), as they attempt to cover up the hit-and-run and murder of Rye Gerhardt, son of Floyd Gerhardt (Smart), matriarch of the Gerhardt crime family in Fargo.

In doing so, they must also stay one step ahead of the criminal investigations of Minnesota State Trooper Lou Solverson (Wilson) and Rock County Sheriff Hank Larsson (Danson), who are looking into three murders at a local diner that were committed by Rye just before he was struck by Peggy’s car.

And there’s also the matter of a brewing war between the Gerhardts and the Kansas City Mob, led by Joe Bulo and his right-hand man Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine), which quickly leaves bodies piling up.

The great joy of watching Fargo unfold is seeing just how Hawley keeps the intricate plotting so tightly wound while juggling so many different, yet wonderfully drawn characters. It’s a neat balancing act, deftly handled, that makes virtually every episode one to savour.

In terms of style, Hawley nails the ’70s look and feel, throws in some brilliantly realised songs to embellish the soundtrack, yet retains the spirit of the Coens while also drawing on classic TV crime sagas such as The Sopranos or even Twin Peaks (because, yes, there are some surreal moments stemming from the appearance of a UFO).

But it’s in the characterisation that he really grabs your attention, with just about everyone making their mark in some way. Wilson is the everyman hero, endearing to the core with his decent values and quiet family heartbreak (a wife dealing with leukaemia), while Danson is superb as his unflappable father-in-law, offering good counsel whenever possible.

Dunst is on career-best form as the quietly calculated Peggy, while Breaking Bad‘s Plemons is a revelation as the awkward Ed, desperate to carve out a decent life for himself and his family, yet continually thwarted by events beyond his control.

Of note, too, are Smart, as the steely Gerhardt matriarch, Donovan as her gruff, violent son and Woodbine as the wonderfully articulate Milligan. But like we said, even the smallest parts shine in big ways, right down to a comical guest appearance by Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan.

So strong is the characterisation, in fact, that once the bodies start to fall, you’ll feel the losses. And another of Hawley’s master-strokes is his ability to keep you guessing, with no one guaranteed safe passage to the end of the tale.

As involving as it is stylish, Fargo: Season 2 is another classic piece of American television that fully deserves every accolade coming its way.

Certificate: 15
Episodes: 10
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: April 25, 2016