In my review of Fargo‘s second season premiere, I criticized the season overall for lacking the wide array of quirky characters that was the first season’s most significant claim to fame. I was disappointed that unlike Season 1, Season 2 does not introduce another strong and distinct character in every one of its first five episodes or so. Yet as I rewatch these first few episodes of the season, I realize more and more that this might not really be a weakness.
Rather, the show deliberately introduces a bunch of less-distinct, slightly more generic characters in the season premiere, and slowly but surely fleshes them out over time, to the point where now, in “The Myth of Sisyphus,” Fargo‘s second season feels like it has a fully inhabited universe full of interesting, rich characters.
The centerpiece of this week’s episode of Fargo is a fantastic confrontation between Lou Solverson and the Gerhardts. Lou’s searching for Rye in connection with the diner murders, so he heads to Fargo and walks right on up to the Gerhardt’s front door, something the local Fargo-ians might be wise enough to know not to do.
It’s a great scene for Patrick Wilson, who is at his A-game all episode long. The scene in question makes us reconsider how we think about Lou – he’s no longer a mild-mannered cop, he’s instead kind of a badass. It’s a nice piece of character development for a character who was getting to be somewhat boring.
It’s also a showcase for Jeffrey Donovan, who continues to chew up the scenery as Dodd, the eldest and most ruthless Gerhardt brother. Dodd drives up to the house in the middle of the confrontation and almost comes to fisticuffs with Lou when it becomes clear that Lou isn’t scared of him. Dodd is a one-note character, but a fun one-note character, made all the more entertaining by Donovan’s excessive sneering and arrogant attitude.
(At the end of the episode, we’re treated to another round of “How Cruel is Dodd Gerhardt, Really?” as Dodd slowly and terrifyingly buries a semi-innocent typewriter-salesman alive as the salesman pleads for his life.)
Mike Milligan is back in action this week, and is continuing to be one of the best parts of the show. Bokeem Woodbine is absolutely fantastic here, clearly having a great time with a character that is a ton of fun. Milligan and Lou bump into each other, Lou searching for wanted murderer Rye Gerhardt, and Milligan searching for possible human leverage for the Kansas City Mafia Rye Gerhardt. Lou and Milligan’s interaction is a highlight of the season so far, it’s electric and really gets me excited thinking about what’s to come down the line for these two characters.
Speaking of Lou’s continuing to get himself in scary situations, while watching this season of Fargo I find myself facing a similar annoyance to the one I faced watching Better Call Saul earlier this year – given that this is a prequel, and that we’ve seen Lou Solverson in his old age, we know definitively that he will not die this season. (This is even more of a problem for Fargo than it is for Saul; given that Saul is not an anthology series, we understand that the show’s namesake wasn’t going to die, while Fargo could’ve easily killed Lou off anytime it wanted if this season wasn’t a prequel to last.) The consequence of this is that scenes like the one in this episode, where Lou has two shotguns trained on him, are significantly less suspenseful. This isn’t a huge problem, I just figured I’d point it out because it has been annoying me a bit.
Meanwhile, Peggy overhears Betsy (Cristin Milioti, who is charming here) voice a theory about Rye Gerhardt’s disappearance that is remarkably close to the truth. She freaks out and pulls Ed out of the butcher shop for an impromptu brainstorming session, which leads to them faking a car crash in an amusing scene.
Kirsten Dunst continues to stick out as a bit of an odd duck – in a cast so full of hugely talented actors (I won’t even get around to talking about Jean Smart or Ted Danson in this review; suffice it to say, they’re both excellent) it’s actually confusing that Dunst was cast in the first place. She’s been mediocre-to-bad in so many things over the years; it doesn’t surprise me when she’s cast in crappy rom-coms or in Lars Von Trier movies, but it does kind of surprise me that she’s in the mix here. Maybe it’s just me – am I the only one who thinks Dunst is a bad actress?
Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, I’m seriously rethinking my criticism of this season. It’s turning out to be hugely enjoyable, the characters are engaging, and while I still think I prefer the first season, I don’t really have that much to complain about regarding this one. (And the soundtrack is inspired.)
One last thing – is Nick Offerman actually in this show? What’s going on here? He was featured significantly in the promos, but shows up for like five minutes of the first episode. Was he cast for marketing purposes alone? If we don’t get more Offerman, it’ll be a letdown. He seemed like he’d fit nicely into this universe. Fargo gave us a tiny taste of him and now he seems to have vanished. Too bad.