What Makes 'Fargo' So Great?

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We’ve been very lucky with television in the past few years, blessed with shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. With those shows over and done with, though, there isn’t a clear winner for the title of “best show on television”. A whooooole lot of people seem to think it’s Fargo. It’s hard to argue with any of them.

Both of Fargo’s season have featured incredible casts, the kind that the anthology series attracts. It’s impeccably filmed with a style and flair all its own. That style sure plays a large factor. Fargo is built upon a foundation of increasing tension. As these forces come together and butt heads, everything is wound tighter and tighter until it’s ready to snap. The Minnesotan friendliness adds a filter of good humor to these proceedings. As Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) points out during his encounter with Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson), everybody sure tries their damnedest to seem friendly, but that’s just a way of masking their unfriendliness.

Mike Milligan Fargo S2

For me, however, the key to Fargo’s success may be the simple satisfaction of seeing a story with so many disparate storylines come together so well. It’s not easy to focus on a large cast and give everyone a satisfying storyline. Characters get forgotten, lost in the shuffle. Seinfeld was one of the most satisfying shows to watch come together in this manner, and sometimes it felt like they were moving heaven and Earth to get 4 characters into the same place in 22 or so minutes.

Fargo has the challenge of bringing together 4-plus groups of people:

  • The law: Lou Solverson and Hank Larsson (Ted Danson)
  • The home-grown, local crime family: the Gerhardts
  • The Wal-Mart of crime: the Kansas City mafia
  • Peggy and Ed Blumquist (Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons)

The Blomquists accidentally murder Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin) as the Kansas City mob moves in on the Gerhardt’s territory in North Dakota. Rye’s murder occurs in Minnesota, placing the responsibility for the investigation on Solverson and Larsson. Oh, and just before Kansas City comes to town, the Gerhardt patriarch, Otto (Michael Hogan), suffers a massive stroke, creating internal strife in the family. The whole thing’s chaotic, with threads crossing every which way. It would be all too easy to get them tangled up.

But Fargo doesn’t get them knotted up in a big old mess. It uses this terrifically talented cast and that fine-tuned tension to create a perfect knot that a boy scout would be damn proud of. Lou checking in on Ed Blumquist, Hank facing off with human mad dog Dodd Gerhardt, Karl Weathers (Nick Offerman) lawyering his way out of a police station siege; these are just a few fantastic examples of these tense scenes that make this show great. When these characters cross paths and that gee golly Minnesotan accent has to deal with danger, all is right in the world of Fargo.

Blah blah blah

  • Not mentioned but really should have been: Jean Smart as Floyd Gerhardt. She’s been doing terrific work all season as the struggling matriarch of the mom and pop crime shop.
  • I honestly thought Michael Hogan was Harve Presnell from the film. Presnell has been dead since 2009.
  • The first season’s cast was terrific, and this one is no slouch
  • I still have no idea what the hell was going on with that early season UFO that distracted Rye Gerhardt right into Peggy’s windshield.
  • Nick Offerman went with the beard and no mustache, I imagine to separate himself from Ron Swanson.
  • Cristin Milioti yet again playing the wife with cancer. Girl can’t catch a break!
  • Jesse Plemons really plumped up for this role. It works!
  • Bruce Campbell’s cameo as Ronald Reagan was perfect.
  • Holy shit, that mustache on Kieran Culkin in episode one. Culkin was looking very Fredo-esque in a Fredo-type role.
  • Best scene of the season so far? It’s really hard to say. Perhaps Lou and Ed in the butcher shop. Or maybe any one of the 5,000 standoffs from “Rhinoceros”?

 

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