Critical Condition: Fargo

Fargo creator Noah Hawley says the cinematic inspirations behind this season's Fargo extend beyond the original move to Miller’s Crossing, and The Man Who Wasn’t There

Fargo creator Noah Hawley says the “cinematic inspirations” behind this season (SoHo, 8.30 Tuesday) extend beyond the original movie to Miller’s Crossing and The Man Who Wasn’t There.

“From the early evidence (I’ve seen the first four episodes), the show’s second season, which debuts Monday, is even better—much better. The cast is excellent, the plotlines are richer and more neatly interwoven, and the alternating portions of whimsy and menace are served up with extraordinary panache. Moreover, unlike the first season, which seemed somewhat captive to the great Coen brothers movie that inspired it—another hen-pecked husband making mortal choices, another female trooper, etc.—this time out the series’ creator, Noah Hawley, has given himself wider narrative latitude and seems still more assured in his black-comic vision.”

“The second season of FX’s Fargo starts off with one of the most jarring and confusing, then ultimately hilarious scenes you can probably imagine. Not long after that, it gets very bloody, very funny and very weird. None of that is even counting the UFO … It’s thrilling to witness what creator Noah Hawley has dreamed up this time, and how the series fearlessly tackles the task of mixing drama, comedy, goodness, malevolence, hopefulness, tragedy and mundane everyday life — often in the same episodes, sometimes in the same scene … When everything is working in concert, it’s a real thing of beauty — smart writing, accomplished acting, visual eloquence, all in the service of something bigger than what’s apparent.”

“FX’s frost-covered drama appears to have equaled its splendid predecessor, capturing the same off-kilter tone while actually enhancing the comedy quotient. If the first series deftly approximated the spirit of its movie namesake, this one works in a cheeky Quentin Tarantino vibe, with results as refreshing and bracing as the region’s abundant snow. Season two of Fargo isn’t a prequel, exactly, but it does benefit from tying in with the original by going back to 1979, following a strange (understatement alert!) case that involved Lou Solverson, played here with perfect pitch by Patrick Wilson (and Keith Carradine as his older self in the earlier production).”

“One of the brilliant moves about the way that Fargo Year 2 has been constructed is that unlike, say, Better Call Saul — which features at least two characters we know will survive — only two people are safe. Those people are Lou and 6-year-old Molly, because we saw them both in the year 2006 during Season 1. Everyone else is fair game for tragedy — or justice. The most important thing about what’s before us is that Fargo remains a risk-taker. Between Ronald Reagan and moments lifted straight out of The X-Files, it’s a show that is having fun, while also being real about the costs of having fun, while living outside the law.”

“Hawley and his collaborators employ a gamut of imaginative and mischievous strategies to create an allegory for a fragmenting and fogged culture at an ideological crossroads, from split-screen storytelling, to a myriad of competing personal narratives, to UFOs as symbols of personal doom and worldview flux, to Reagan himself: He haunts the narrative via fabricated outtakes and scenes from historically dubious Westerns and Red Scare-era sci-fi flicks starring the Hollywood star turned politico … The season gains more complexity and considerable power as it gains even more characters whose expressions of identity flick at other tenured and enduring American problems.”

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