After a nail-biting, must-see debut season, Fargo is back on FX. Unlike True Detective, Fargo fans shouldn’t fret about this new installment. Season 2 is looking to be equally as addictive, don’t cha know.
The first episode, “Waiting for Dutch,” opens with a snippet of the black-and-white film Massacre at Sioux Falls, starring Ronald Reagan (who should be showing up at some point looking a lot like Bruce Campbell). He’s not in the clip, though. Instead, it’s a conversation between an actor and maybe the director. It doesn’t really matter who they are because the landscape is way more interesting. There are bodies everywhere. This probably isn’t going to be the last time we see that sort of thing this season. After all, Lou Solverson (Keith Carradine, Madam Secretary) made that outcome pretty apparent in Season 1.
From there, we get the promise that this installment will be based “a true story,” but names have been changed “at the request of the survivors.” The promises may seem familiar, but writer/creator Noah Hawley is taking us to a very different time.
According to the first few seconds, we see that “the events depicted took place in Minnesota in 1979.” Just in case you need some reassurance, that type plays over the screen as we get glimpses of Jimmy Carter, John Wayne Gacy, Jim Jones and several other headliners from that era. However, you don’t really need historical references to know where we’re at. This installment of Fargo oozes with hints that Hawley is going to have a field day with the time period. The cars, the attire, the muttonchops, and the soundtrack; it all screams late 70s.
Speaking of screams… this installment promises to have a few of those, because well, the bodies thing. If you recall back in Season 1, Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) had a brief conversation with Solverson at the diner, where he asked about a specific incident and the body count involved.
“Yes, sir. One after another. Probably, if you stacked ’em high, could’ve climbed to the second floor,” Lou said. “Now, I saw something that year I ain’t ever seen, before or since. I’d call it animal. Except animals only kill for food. This was — Sioux Falls. Ever been?”
We’re all about to go — for a whole 10 episodes.
But I digress. We don’t want to talk too much about last season, because this one has plenty of interesting characters that we need know. And it’s only the first episode!
After the highlights reel and a peek at some of this season’s cast, we get introduced to Dodd Gerhardt (Jeffrey Donovan, Burn Notice) and his brother Rye (Kieran Culkin, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). The two are part of the Gerhardt crime family, which controls trucking and distribution for the entire Northern Midwest. Dodd’s right-hand man, Hanzee (Zahn McClarnon, Longmire), is also in the background.
Rye has kept Dodd waiting. Dodd’s not the type of guy you want to keep waiting. He’s also not the type of guy you want to keep waiting for money. Rye seems to be holding out, maybe because he’s not all that pleased with his current position. Maybe he just spent the money. Dodd doesn’t seem to care, as long as he gets it.
Back at the Gerhardt house, Otto (Michael Hogan, 12 Monkeys) is going over funds with his wife, Floyd (Jean Smart, Designing Women). No, that’s not a typo; her name is actually Floyd. Dodd walks in and kicks his brother Bear (Angus Sampson, Insidious) out of a seat at the table. The family is talking about the month’s light cash flow, due to “local business,” possibly Rye, and maybe even another outfit. As Otto starts to spit fire about it, he suffers a massive stroke.
Rye’s day leads him to Watson’s Typewriters, where the owner shows him a new “self-correcting” model. The guy is hoping that this awesome innovation will clear his gambling debts with the Gerhardts and set him right with “the judge.”
The judge is an actual judge, who Rye follows to the Waffle Hut in Luverne, Minnesota. Rye does a quick line of coke, enters the diner and waits for the place to empty out. He then tries to convince the judge to change her mind about a case — presumably one that involves the typewriter guy. He’s not very convincing, so she empties a can of bug spray right into Rye’s face. And it’s awesome. I mean, who carries something like that around in their purse and wields it as a weapon? In return, Rye empties his gun on her and everyone left inside the Waffle Hut.
Rye doesn’t seem like much of a killer, but it’s a bit too late for a change of heart. It’s never too late for karma, though. As Rye stumbles outside, he’s distracted by a set of lights, which look a lot like a U.F.O. The second the lights disappear, and he’s hit by a car. The driver stops for a second, but then continues on, with Rye lodged in the windshield.
At the Solverson house, a late-70s era Lou (Patrick Wilson, Angels in America) is reading to his young daughter Molly, while wife Betsy (Cristin Milioti) does the chores. A call comes in, but Lou is distracted with how his wife is feeling. Apparently, we’re going to find out what happened to Molly’s mother — and her outcome seems to have a lot in common with Milioti’s role in How I Met Your Mother. (Can’t her characters ever get a break?)
Lou finds out about the murder at the Waffle Hut. He heads to the scene, where he’s joined by Hank Larsson (Ted Danson, looking far far from his Cheers days). Hank isn’t just the Rock County Sheriff — he’s also Lou’s father-in-law. The two inspect the carnage and then find a few bloody dollar bills in the road, as well as a white shoe hanging in a nearby tree.
At Bud’s Meats in Luverne, Ed Blumquist (Jesse Plemons, Breaking Bad) is leaving work. The action then moves to bingo night at the Veteran’s Hall, where Karl Weathers (Nick Offerman, Parks & Recreation) meets up with Lou, who is a vet himself. “Okay, then!”
Ed arrives home where his wife Peggy (Kristin Dunst, Spider-Man) is cooking dinner. The two sit down to eat and pray. Something tells me they may want to skip the eating part.
Peggy says she’s excited for a Lifespring seminar, because “everybody’s doing it.” She’s trying to better herself, but Ed feels they can do that right here in Luverne. He’s planning to take over the butcher shop and wants to start a family. Peggy seems hesitant. Well, she knows what’s in the garage. Ed hears noises, opens the garage door, and finds the car with a gaping, bloody hole in the windshield.
“Didn’t I tell ya? I kinda hit a deer,” she says.
Um, no. She hit Rye, and he’s limping and grunting around the garage. Ed shines a flashlight to find Rye trying to hack his way out of the house. He decides that hacking on Ed would be just as suitable, but Ed stabs him repeatedly and finishes what Peggy started.
When Peggy approaches Ed, he jerks around so fast that he elbows her in the eye. I’d say she kind of deserved it. “You gotta believe me,” she says. “I thought he was dead.”
A flashback shows Peggy indeed hitting Rye with the car. She probably did think he was dead, considering how much blood was pouring through the windshield. Ed seems confused as to why Peggy didn’t just go to the police. She claims that she panicked, but those same flashbacks convey otherwise. That said, nothing calms a person like a little Hamburger Helper.
Peggy says they could tell people she hit a deer or take off for California. Ed doesn’t want to leave his life in Luverne, so she convinces him that they need to clean it all up or otherwise, his hopes and dreams are gone. No family. No butcher shop. No Peggy. The two stash Rye in a cooler.
The episode ends with Joe Bulo (Brad Garrett, Everybody Loves Raymond) talking about the “Northern Expansion Strategy.” This isn’t a real business plan; it’s a mob business plan. Joe is part of the mafia in Kansas City, and they want to expand. That plan involves taking over the Gerhardt operation in Fargo. Just a guess, but it’s probably not going to be as tidy and organized as Joe’s high-tech presentation and prospectus.
From the looks of things, this second installment of Fargo is going to be a bloody good trip down memory lane in more ways than one. We have Lou to anchor the story and the possibility for a very high body count. Then there’s the time period, which is sort of like a main character. This first episode alone managed to pack in a lot about the setting through the soundtrack, fashions, and tons of split screens. It’s 100 percent fun and even better, it’s 100 percent Fargo. I’m definitely looking forward to the next nine episodes, you betcha!
New episodes of Fargo premiere Monday nights at 10/9CT on FX.