The first season of Fargo turned out to be one of the biggest surprises in recent television history. How could a remake of an already acclaimed film turn out to be good let alone great in the television medium? Noah Hawley answered that. For his follow up act, Hawley pursued a second season of the show. With such a unique format and style, it would seem impossible for Hawley to capture the magic a second time. Just look at the show that Fargo has been compared to so often ever since it premiered, True Detective. While the second season of True Detective was not the complete disaster it was made out to be, it was a far cry away from the masterpiece that was its debut season. Yet somehow, Noah Hawley and company found a way to beat the odds again. While I wouldn’t call season two of Fargo to be as memorable as its first, it certainly takes the same formula to the table and captures the energy that makes the show so great. The second season even corrected the few weaknesses of the first season.
The second season of Fargo takes place in the late 70s when Lou Solverson (played in the first season by Keith Carradine but in this season by Patrick Wilson) is just a state trooper still adjusting to normal life after serving in Vietnam. When the youngest son (Kieran Culkin) of the local crime lord (Michael Hogan), it causes a series of events that lead to a turf war between the local crime lord and the Kansas City crime syndicate.
Noah Hawley brings along an entire writing team for this one rather than last season’s approach where he almost singlehandedly wrote the whole season. Nevertheless, the interesting fusion of Coen-esque comedy and high literary drama still remains in powerful force. The only complaint that could be had with this season is that without a powerful narrative arc at the level of Lester Nygaard’s in season one, this season does get off to a slower start than the less time around. However, by the time we do get to the finale it is hard not to be interested in every single plotline that is still running thanks to its diverse but incredible cast of characters.
Patrick Wilson and Kirsten Dunst (as a local woman that gets mixed up in the turf ward) both deliver solid lead performances, but it is really the supporting cast that makes this season sing. Ted Danson, Nick Offerman, Brad Garrett, Cristin Milioti and Zahn McClarnon all do top notch-work. However, the real scene-stealer of the season is Bokeem Woodbine as the ambitious soldier for the Kansas City Crime syndicate, Mike Milligan. His smooth-talking style is truly captivating (in the same way that it was hard not to listen to what Barack Obama was saying when he first ran for the presidency), and never has an actor felt more comfortable speaking Coen-esque dialogue. With a surprising physical presence to boot, Mike Milligan is one of the most memorable TV characters in recent memory.
Fargo: Season 2 is another exception to the sophomore slump rule.