Season Two, Episode One — “Waiting For Dutch”
By Jarrod Jones. Full disclosure: I never got around to watching the first season of Fargo. (I know! Shut up!) So upon my first viewing of last night’s second season premiere, I truly understood the depth of my failure. All of a sudden, just seconds after the credits began to roll, I had to know more, and even though Fargo‘s first and second seasons boast star power of a wattage so imposing it’s almost disorienting — keeping track of all this hoopla at once is gonna be a chore in and of itself — I’ve begun total immersion. And the experience thus far has been a deeply enriching one.
Because Fargo‘s second season trip down memory lane begins so strongly, there’s no other option than to submit. A show this engrossing — this bewitching — simply has to be criminal. So let’s cut the shit, and get to it.
WHAT WORKED: I’m not sure what the episode’s opening “Massacre at Sioux Falls” outtake sequence was all about, but considering I spotted a Ronald Reagan campaign poster strategically placed in the Wilson/Offerman bar scene (and that we know Bruce Campbell’s Reagan is coming, and soon), it’s probably a narrative flourish of Alan Moore-ian proportions. In the meantime most of this season’s tapestry remains obscured, so I wait patiently for it to reveal itself in full. (And watching the film’s producer navigate the racist minefield he set for himself with a Native American extra was a gorgeously cringe-worthy thing to behold: “Look, I’m a Jew, so believe me, I know tribulation.” Priceless.)
I’ve been reading the heaps of accolades thrown at the first season’s stellar casting (and yes, I’m finding them all to be absolutely true), but Season Two is pulling out ahead with its inspired ensemble early on in the game. Kieran Culkin’s Buscemi-esque turn as Rye, Angus Sampson’s stress-eating elder Gerhardt, Bear, Jesse Plemons’ aw-gosh butcher boy, Ed… these were the standouts of the episode, you betcha. And the best part? Patrick Wilson, Jean Smart, and Kirsten Dunst still have plenty of time to work their magic, so no one got lost in the shuffle (save for that Offerman feller, but more on him in a bit). And I’m not gonna lie: Jeffrey Donovan’s Dodd Gerhardt is looking like he’s gonna be my Season’s MVP, but I won’t get ahead of myself.
I’m loving the show’s attention to period detail, from the stupendous Waffle Hut to the IBM electric typewriter. Even Kieran Culkin’s ratty mustache/lapel combo rings true. It’s a wonder how it all comes together so well, but it certainly helps matters that the show isn’t afraid of the era’s casual racism or its crummy eating habits: remember, this was a time when people blithely dunked their ‘taters in oceans of catsup, and Kirsten Dunst dives in headfirst. Exquisite detail, marvelous execution.
WHAT DIDN’T: It’s strange for a show as serene and sophisticated as Fargo to trip over a hurdle we’ve come to expect from workhorse CW fare like The Flash, but here we are. What am I talking about? All that fumbling exposition shared between Sheriff Hank Larsson and officer Lou Solverson over a crime scene examination. The ship quickly rights itself once the two men step outside to find what the cold has hidden for them, but the “oh, yah, how’s my dotddur” chit-chat — all meant to helpfully guide impatient audiences through this weaving tapestry — deflated the gravity of Fargo‘s still early-in-the-game intrigue.
It’s a season that captures the zeitgeist of the late Seventies, just before Ronald Reagan stormed across the nation with his oil-slicked brio, so it’s only natural that noted rustic Nick Offerman would pop up in all this cozy hominess with a patch of perplexing facial hair to stare dead-eyed into the screen and talk some masculine shit. And here he is in a bewildering role as an impassioned theorist espousing a conspiracy that can only foreshadow the rabbit’s hole Officer Lou will undoubtedly fall into, only it looks and feels about as obvious as it sounds.
“You’re the comic in a strip of bubblegum!” – Dodd, which no, I don’t know what that means, either.
“You’re a little dim, aren’tcha?” – The Judge. Ann Cusack killed it.
“There are two ways this can go —” “Is one of them ‘the hard way’?” – Rye v. The Judge.
“We did that last weekend, didn’t we?” – Peggy.
BEST MOMENT: The diner scene. It’s goofy, tense, gorgeously shot, and completely surreal. The nature of the entire sequence is so methodical and concise, it ought to be deconstructed and poured over relentlessly in film schools across the globe for the rest of time. Don’t believe me? Consider the framework and sharp edits that take place in between the real-time swings of the kitchen door. In that very short moment, so much happens you have to wonder what it was you actually saw. And that’s the diabolical brilliance of Fargo: its abrupt, messy depiction of human violence feels immediate while looking so goddamned beautiful. (The shot of blood emulsifying into a still-frosty milkshake was a particularly nice touch.)
EPISODE’S MVP: Rye Gerhart. Even though he didn’t hang around very long, Kieran Culkin’s shifty-eyed, sugar-sucking coke fiend was hands down my absolute favorite this week. His deep-set eyes darted out from his dissatisfied sneer, and everything he said was the wrong thing. A pitch-perfect scoundrel.
OK THEN, YOU BETCHA:
– I’m pretty sure Bruce Campbell is gonna rock it as Ronald Reagan.
– What did Rye see in the night’s sky? A panic-induced hallucination? Or was it a bona fide UFO? I don’t know about you, but I appreciated that particular Man Who Wasn’t There flourish. Pure Coen Bros bliss.
– I think Jesse Plemons looks great with a fuller gut, but I also think he’s looking wayyy too much like Matt Damon anymore. Zoinks.
– Peggy’s swipe of the water glass was both patently obvious and comically perfect. How did she do that.
– I’ve seen a zillion ways a fella can die on TV, but I don’t think I ever saw “death by garden trowel” before.