The Dim-Post

December 27, 2015

Thoughts on the second season of Fargo

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:39 am

(Contains spoilers for the second season of Fargo)

We’ve just finished watching this. It made the top of a lot of the critic’s best-of-year lists and I can see why. It is a triumph of style and technique.

But it is also a TV show that desperately wants to be about something, and much of the final episode is taken up by characters delivering very forced monologues that point to the themes of the season. What they’re saying isn’t always clear but, near as I can tell, the core message of Fargo is that white middle-class domesticity is the epitome of all that is good and decent; it must be protected by the law, violently if necessary, from evil: represented by a murderous Native American, a murderous capitalist black man and Peggy, a stifled house-wife whose dreams of independence and liberation are manifestations of her insanity. The Gerhardt family, meanwhile, are destroyed when they lose their patriarch and his wife is incapable of uniting or controlling her family.

The goodness and decency of ordinary people is the message of the original Coen Brother’s movie, so there’s some continuity there. But that movie didn’t have a bunch of evil ethnic characters or an insane hysterical feminist housewife and when you throw them into the mix it distorts the simple celebration of wholesome domesticity into something very reactionary and creepy. Also, there are UFOs in the show and I have no idea why.


  1. I have similar qualms. On the other hand, though, Peggy, Floyd, Mike Milligan, and Hanzee all have sufficiently well drawn characters that you can feel a connection with, that you still root for a bit despite their flaws. Dodd Gerhardt is a straight up unsympathetic villain, and he’s the representation of the misogyny etc of the era. He gets his comeuppance at the hands of those he puts down. It’s not simple, but parts did make me wonder, did they really have to go there.

    Comment by Delia — December 27, 2015 @ 9:32 am

  2. I haven’t see fargo yet, however I have been told that Reagan’s incompetence and vacuity is skewered in the latest season. Is this not an implicit criticsm of white, middle-class goodness?

    Comment by Nick — December 27, 2015 @ 9:42 am

  3. *seen

    Comment by Nick — December 27, 2015 @ 9:44 am

  4. Perhaps the UFOs are a metaphor for KDC?

    Comment by leeharmanclark — December 27, 2015 @ 11:13 am

  5. I haven’t seen the Coen Bros movie, so I was amused/horrified at the OTT carnage in Fargo. Though I admit the UFO had me puzzled.

    Comment by Wendy Floyd — December 27, 2015 @ 12:13 pm

  6. But Mike Milligan’s move into the mafia office job working with accounting (essentially, being transferred into a life of “middle-class domesticity”) isn’t shown as a victory for him.

    Comment by Finn — December 27, 2015 @ 2:03 pm

  7. Up to a point, Lord Copper. I’m mostly with Delia on this one. Mike Milligan was a gangster but a charming and literate one whose success leads not to bigger limos and life as crime kingpin but to the horror of an office cubicle in middle America. Hanzie is the classic noble intelligent, skilled and, above all, and wronged Indian who, having suffered one injustice too many goes over the edge and wreaks havoc. As for the Gerhardts, no evil ethnics they. It is harder to find a more mainstream name and family in that part of the US, and their family enterprise is the most evil in the series. But they are still not smart enough to avoid being bested by a black man – Mike Milligan – and a not very smart white woman, Peggy. The wholesome US family, represented by the two good cops, do what they can to bring order to the scene but they are mostly there to mop up after the idiots and criminals have inflicted maximum damage on one another.

    Comment by Tinakori — December 27, 2015 @ 2:14 pm

  8. @Nick: The season is set in the year before Reagan came into office. It was in the dying days of Carter’s presidency.

    Comment by philstewart — December 27, 2015 @ 8:13 pm

  9. Determing events in life being random and explicable they may as well be caused by UFOs.

    Comment by NeilM — December 27, 2015 @ 11:19 pm

  10. Reagan is an incidental character in one of the episodes. He’s a symbol, I think, that aspiration and confidence in America and the future without any actual tangible ideas of how to solve any problems isn’t enough.

    I’ve decided that the UFOs play off the idea in season one that the world of the show is ruled over by a harsh, mysterious but ultimate just God (ie the Jewish God).

    Comment by danylmc — December 28, 2015 @ 7:58 am

  11. If you remember the late 70s the UFO thing is obvious. There was a UFO craze at the time and many people reported “sightings”. Even NZ got in on the act with the Kaikoura lights. It was so pervasive that UFO branded food items were a thing.

    Comment by LC — December 28, 2015 @ 12:03 pm

  12. “He’s a symbol, I think, that aspiration and confidence in America and the future without any actual tangible ideas of how to solve any problems isn’t enough.”

    See, that’s also Peggy. Right up to her final speech, she’s all about self actualisation, whatever that is, rather than any explicitly feminist goals. She’s been sold some cultish programme of self help seminars that play on her frustrated housewife situation, but it’s self confidence, not consciousness raising or any of the feminist themes from that era.
    The message I take from it all (and I think season 1’s henpecked husband is worse than any of season 2’s characters) is that pure human frailty and ignorance, mixed with some real societal fracture lines, makes for interesting watching when it meets venal violence and greed.

    Comment by Delia — December 28, 2015 @ 9:45 pm

  13. i watched the first season – it made me feel uneasy – slick violent sadism porn dressed up in cool – the heavy duty violence thing is tricky – unless it’s done perfectly (Breaking Bad) i feel manipulated and somewhat detached

    Comment by rodaigh — December 30, 2015 @ 11:33 am

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