Season 2 heads back to the 1970s but loses none of its quirky and malevolent undertone.


Anthology series are a wonderfully creative way for Television to think outside the box and surprise us. Hitting the refresh button is like unwrapping a new present every series, full of new toys to play with.

American Horror Story has, for the most part, utilised this with great rewards. But as True Detective demonstrated this year, it’s no guarantee of success.

The good news is the acclaimed Fargo gets it right, at least in earliest episodes. In truth this anthology is also a prequel. It’s set in 1979 South Dakota an Minnesota on snowy, lonely roads. It just wouldn’t be Fargo any other way. It still draws upon its trademark language, doncha know? But we are now without Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman and Allison Tolman.

This season centres on a younger Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson), who was the father of Season 1’s Molly -originally portrayed by Keith Carradine. From there, everything else is new.

State Trooper Solverson, recently returned from Vietnam, lives with young wife Betsy (Cristin Milioti) who is beginning chemotherapy following a cancer diagnosis. Betsy’s father Sheriff Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) works well alongside his son in law in this largely uneventful town.

But that all changes when the patriarch of a local family mob has a stroke, leaving his three sons and wife to pick up the pieces of their crime business. Youngest son Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin) lights a comedy of errors fuse when he tries to blackmail a judge at a waffle diner. This quickly degenerates into a particularly violent slaughter in the episode’s most arresting scene. As he staggers from the crime more drama -and more bizarre themes- will strike.

In the strange tableau that is Fargo we also meet beautician Peggy Blumquist (Kirsten Dunst) and her husband, local butcher Ed (Jesse Plemons). But the unassuming Peggy is hiding a dark secret -any more would really be a spoiler- that will send their world into a tailspin.

Gerhardt matriarch Floyd Gerhardt (an unrecognisable Jean Smart) attempts to take some control of her sons Rye, Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan) and Bear (Australia’s own Angus Sampson), whilst a crime syndicate headed up by Joe Bulo (Brad Garrett) is making a move on their turf.

Writer / director Noah Hawley expertly unifies his clusters with dark humour, idiosyncrasies, mystery and a tone that remains faithful to the Coen Bros. original. Amongst this star-studded ensemble, he affords them plenty of room to show they are character actors.

Patrick Wilson as Lou Solverson serves as a quiet sleuth and family man, scratching the surface of a very dark Sioux Falls. Kirsten Dunst is pitch perfect as a sweet hometown girl who cannot face reality. Australia’s Angus Sampson underplays the towering Bear, a brother in a most erratic family.

Fargo is moody, binge-worthy television, wonderfully unsettling with the unnerving feeling that something terrible could always erupt from this picturesque backdrop. On these icy tundras, who would ever know anyway?

The second season also comes with cinematic juxtaposition reminiscent of 1970s films: there are split screens, fade in / fade outs ….and don’t even try to analyse the opening scene of actors on a film shoot. Okie dokie?

Fargo begins with a double episode premiere 8:30pm Wednesday on SBS.

15 Responses

  1. So looking forward to this, loved how well they translated the quirky tone of the movie in the first series. Why does everything seem to be on Wednesday night, can’t record all channels I need now.

  2. omg, I’m actually excited. I have resisted temptation to watch the first ep so I can reward SBS for actually fast-tracking it as they said they would. Like tomothyd I really want to be able to binge this over 2 or 3 nights but won’t be storing the eps up as I don’t want any spoilers. I’ve even been studiously avoiding the 6000 sneak peaks that SBS have been spamming over the last few weeks.

    Wednesday can’t come soon enough. ABC’s great lineup from 8:30 that night will have to be watched later.

  3. The opening two or three minutes made no sense, but the rest of the episode was great, brought back a lot of the quirkyness and bizarre that I was hoping to see return. The cast was vey well picked, and look forward to see how they develop their characters. Its a shame we have to watch it week by week, I’d love to be able to sit down and binge watch like I did with season one. Yes, I could wait 10 weeks, but I don’t want spoilers.

  4. I wish Australian TV producers, directors, etc would look to these sort of US shows for inspiration. Notice how they don’t just recycle lame soap opera plots. Notice the quality of the acting. Notice the great dialogue, rich in subtext and nuance. Notice the intricate structure which unrelentingly propels the story towards its inevitable ending.

    1. Totally agree JimboJones. For the most part I find Australian drama to be pretty lame too, they generally have ‘fluffy’ storylines without depth and edge. The last time I remember an Australian drama that really had me sit up and watch was the first series of Underbelly and that was some time ago now. The Walking Dead is my current favourite drama to watch and it’s so far from what Australia produces these days, it’s no wonder I don’t watch Australian drama anymore.

        1. I agree with JimboJones as well and I tried The Principal only because it had Aden Young in it who is awesome in Rectify, while I did not find the show terrible, I thought it was average at best and I don’t watch many Oz Dramas, most suck badly. The only other one I have watched all the way in the last few years through and enjoyed was Wildside and the first two seasons of Underbelly.

    2. Of they look at US premium cable dramas. And given $2m (Mad Men) to $8m (GOT) per episode would do more.

      One of the areas we save money is on the writing. We don’t employ millionaire writer producers overseeing large teams of writers to come up with ideas and hone the scripts to wring everything they can out of them. And because we don’t do that we haven’t built up the skills to. 800 Words has better scripts and acting, it is a joint production and hopefully will generate some international sales too.

      Though in the US revenue is falling at the guild system locks in costs so there are problems. The staff of Mad Men when on strike when AMC tried to reduce the budgets and several show runners have left The Walking Dead over disagreements with the network.

      1. I don’t buy into the cost argument. The first season of Breaking Bad only cost about $10m. We have plenty of local shows with those sorts of budgets per season.

        You’re correct about the writing. The Writers’ Guild and state screen funding bodies have been doing good work in recent times researching writing rooms and setting up training programmes to do something about the quality of screenwriting in this country. Everyone knows it’s the weak link in the chain.

        I wouldn’t use The Walking Dead as any yardstick. That show is a notorious basket-case when it comes to budgets and retaining staff!

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