Review by Lauryn Angel
Season two of Fargo follows the example of shows like American Horror Story by telling a story that is completely independent of its first season. The only characters returning to the show are Lou Solverson and his daughter, Molly – but the season takes us back to 1979, when Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) was a state trooper, and Molly (as her mother constantly reminds us) is only six years old. Lou’s wife, Betsy (Cristin Milioti), is alive, but has been diagnosed with cancer, a source of constant concern for Lou and her own father, Luverne, Minnesota police chief Hank Larsson (Ted Danson).
The first episode of season two also introduces the Gerhardts, a mafia family operating out of South Dakota. The head of the family, Otto (Michael Hogan), has suffered a recent stroke, leaving the family in chaos, both within — as Otto’s wife, Floyd (Jean Smart) and sons Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan) and Bear (Angus Sampson) struggle for control of the family – and without, as a rival family headed by Joe Bulo (Brad Garrett) offers to buy them out. Meanwhile, youngest son Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin) has gone missing after a mishap at the Luverne Waffle Hut that attracts the attention of the police.
Rounding out the new cast of characters are Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons as Peggy and Ed Blomquist – a couple who would be better off if they had just called the police – and Bokeem Woodbine as charismatic hit man Mike Mulligan.
The quirky humor of season two is consistent with season one, and is what one would expect from a show based on film by Joel and Ethan Coen (who serve as executive producers of the series). The series becomes more complex with each episode, as the stand-alone stories begin to twine together. While the Mid-Western accents are quite good, none of these characters quite demonstrates the charismatic menace of Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo – although Woodbine’s Mulligan comes close. The cast is solid, with standout performances from Jesse Plemmons and Jean Smart.
Season two makes some interesting choices – such as the inclusion of UFO sightings at seemingly random points in the story – but those choices work to make season two even stronger than the first. And changing the timeline has the added benefit of adding tension to the story. The only characters whose futures are assured are Lou and his daughter Molly, so any of the season two characters can be (and often are) eliminated. It’s an advantage that serves the story well, leading to a finale that is philosophically satisfying, if not the explosive ending that viewers expect.