Posted by: markfender | December 23, 2015

Fargo Season 2

Fargo was better than it had any right to be. With the movie being one of my least favorite movies of all time (only to be beaten by various other Coen Brother films – I’m not a fan of their “weird people with weird accents talking is hilarious” schtick), I wasn’t expecting much from the show. However, Noah Hawley did an excellent job of adapting the basic premise of the movie and making it its own beast.

fargoseason2So, I was definitely looking forward to Season 2. Unfortunately, it got weirder. And not necessarily in a good way.

The acting and casting are still excellent. There’s so many people in this show! Ted Danson! Jesse Plemons! Patrick Wilson! Jean Smart! Jeffrey Donovan! Kirsten Dunst! Brad Garrett! Nick Offerman! At least one Culkin! At least one Cusack! I don’t know what the budget for this show is, but it apparently all goes to actor salaries, because there are a ton of people you probably recognize. And everyone gets to do their best Minnesota accent. If I have a complaint, Bokeem Woodbine’s Mike Milligan is far too much of a movie character to be included in the ‘ordinary folks’ riff the show does – he engages in long speeches filled with Shakespeare quotes, and generally acts like he showed up to monologue.

Season 2 upped the stakes pretty significantly. While season 1 focused on Thornton’s character and his body count, season 2 went for an entire family and their body count. And the body count jumps up significantly with some pretty shocking displays of violence. It’s not for the kids, is what I’m saying. There’s dismemberings, mass killings, sieges, and some old-fashioned stabbing.

I also liked some of the later episodes that split the story. When the Blumquists flee, the show spends one hour with one group, only to catch the audience up on the other story in the next episode, only to speed past where the last story went….and then catches you up on the other facets of the story in the next one. The story eventually grows to cover three states, so this focusing and refocusing works pretty well at keeping the stakes high while giving you the entire gamut of the situation.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of other just weird stuff that didn’t really help the story much. Like the constant split-screen. Or the UFOs (Yeah, don’t ask). Or the inclusion of Ronald Reagan’s bid for presidency (Bruce Campbell plays the former President, but, other than adapting Regan’s breathy voice, doesn’t stray too far from Bruce Campbell). Or, the inexplicable voiceover for one episode (Martin Freeman provides the voiceover, which is even more confusing because he was in the first season. But he had a Minnesota accent in the first season, and used his regular British voice for the voiceover). Could the Fargo people just not decide what wacky movie schtick to include, so they included all of them? The weird bits that the show keeps doing don’t make any sense, don’t flow from episode to episode, and often seem to change when the writer gets bored or something. I was not a fan.

Thankfully, the story and performances are still here and on point. The violence level is definitely escalated from the first season. I would be hard pressed to say which season’s story I enjoyed more. I would be hard pressed to call out a season’s performances. But the first season was more straightforward and didn’t indulge in half as many wacky storytelling hijinks. While the story and performances remain excellent, the method that story was told suffered.

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