Fargo Season 2: “The devil came to God”
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Fargo Season 2 Episode 1 recap
In Fargo, people like to tell stories. Characters speak in parables and riddles, and the events of previous generations linger in collective memory. In season one the shadow of a massacre in Sioux Falls hangs over the case police officer Molly Solverson investigates. Her father, Lou, was involved in that case, as was Gus Grimly’s lieutenant in Duluth. “Oh Christ, it’s Sioux Falls,” that lieutenant says, when mayhem starts up in Minnesota—Sioux Falls has become a specter of madness and something more. It’s not as a physical place but a spiritual one—Sioux Falls, an invocation of something truly horrible that no one is anxious to revisit.
So season two takes us back to Sioux Falls. It’s 1979 and Lou Solverson is still a state trooper. Molly is six, her mother is still alive but undergoing chemotherapy. America is in the waning days of the Carter presidency, awaiting Ronald Reagan and the more prosperous 1980s. Episode one, “Waiting For Dutch”, opens with a black and white “outtake” from an old Ronald Reagan movie called “Massacre at Sioux Falls”. Fargo is generous with clues and foreshadowing, and this opening scene, followed by Jimmy Carter’s “Crisis in confidence” speech laid over the opening credits, sets the tone—anxious, paranoid, doubtful, stuck in a sort of permanent waiting room, hoping for something better but a little too cynical to trust it when it comes.
Patrick Wilson plays the younger Lou Solverson, and he’s not doing much to try and match Keith Carradine’s performance from season one. That’s fine—continuity is not really important to Fargo. It’s only loosely connected to the Coen Brothers’ movie, more kindred spirit than actual adaptation, so if you missed the first season, don’t let it put you off. Fargo is GREAT, like Justified on steroids, and “Waiting For Dutch” wastes no time setting up the conflict.
Events begin with the Gerhardt crime family. Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin) is the youngest of three Gerhardt brothers. His oldest brother, Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan), expects him to take care of his portion of the family business, but Rye wants a bigger share. So he’s setting up a shady side business involving typewriters, but first he needs a judge to unfreeze some assets and thus loosen his cash flow. Rye, anxious and with a chip on his shoulder, follows the judge to a Waffle House to force her to comply with his demands. Rye is a dangerous combination of weak and impulsive, and his desperation to prove himself leads to three people dead in the Luverne Waffle House.
Within minutes of meeting them the Gerhardts are in chaos, with Rye gone totally off the rails and family patriarch Otto debilitated by a stroke. His wife, Floyd (Jean Smart), could retain control—which would cut out Dodd—but there’s a crime syndicate in Kansas City fronted by Joe Bulo (Brad Garrett) looking to expand north. The Gerhardts are on the brink of war but don’t know it yet.
We also meet Ed and Peggy Blomquist (Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst, respectively), a young married couple. Ed is a straightforward guy, working in a butcher shop he hopes to one day buy and planning on a “litter of kids” with Peggy. But she is more interested in “actualizing” and dreams of California. Peggy’s path intersects with Rye’s—literally, as she hits him with her car moments after he murdered everyone in the Waffle House. “I panicked,” she tells Ed, when pressed as to why she didn’t call the police about hitting a man. But Peggy’s dialogue plays over scenes of Peggy going about her routine at home, and she doesn’t look panicked. She looks a little thrilled, frankly, that Something Is Happening. Ed is not thrilled, especially after he kills Rye in self-defense. Instead of comforting her husband, though, Peggy makes him an accomplice in her cover up, and Rye ends up in the Blomquists deep freeze (murdered and stuffed in a deep freeze—the #1 way I do not want to die).
Wounded masculinity is a common theme in Fargo. Each plot introduced revolves around a man with something to prove, but this is not a brotastic celebration of manly dudes being manly. These men are wrecks, either outwardly, like Rye, or Lou’s Army veteran buddy Karl Weathers (Nick Offerman), who’s into conspiracy theories, or inwardly, like Lou, who wants to believe three dead in the Luverne Waffle House ends with a botched robbery. “And it was just a break in at the Watergate Hotel,” Karl warns, much to Lou’s dissatisfaction. He neutralizes chaos by solving it, but the Luverne Waffle House resists his solution. There’s a shoe in a tree, which doesn’t fit Lou’s story. The judge tells Rye the story of Job before he kills her, and Rye could be the devil, or Floyd Gerhardt, or Peggy, or the Kansas City syndicate. But the real devil is that shoe in a tree, and Lou Solverson’s trials are just beginning.
Attached - Kirsten Dunst arrives for an appearance on Kimmel yesterday in LA.