TV Review: Noah Hawley Is All Aces Again With Season 2 of ‘FARGO’

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11059751_494703507374553_2066643268822015367_nPreston Barta // Editor

“Well… OK then.”

When it came to crime drama last year, TRUE DETECTIVE was all the talk– a great show nonetheless. FARGO came in quietly when it premiered last fall. Coen brothers fans, of course, took notice, while others thought they soaked up all the rich villainy they needed from Nic Pizzolatto’s pen. However, Noah Hawley proved otherwise.

Going into FARGO last year, most assumed this was going to be your typical remake for TV fiasco. What more could they possibly add after the 1996 film? But Hawley set out do something far more inventive and challenging than a simple TV remake. He upped the stakes, threw in some spices, and gave audiences something worthwhile and chewy.

Following multiple Emmy and Golden Globe wins for its first season, the FX drama kicks off its second season tonight to high critical expectations. After the disaster (for the most part) that was Season 2 of TRUE DETECTIVE, many are likely expecting FARGO‘s second whirl to follow the same footwork, but Hawley, again, shows that he has a little more kick in his step.

Jesse Plemons as Ed Blumquist, Kirsten Dunst as Peggy Blumquist. Photo coutesy of Chris Large/FX.

Jesse Plemons as Ed Blumquist, Kirsten Dunst as Peggy Blumquist. Photo coutesy of Chris Large/FX.

Now set in 1979 Luverne, Minnesota (yeah, “Fargo” is more of a TV-film universe than a town). A trio of murders at a local Waffle Hut (yep, it’s as great as it sounds) is the central mystery that young state trooper Lou Solverson (a terrific Patrick Wilson) is trying to uncover with the help of his father-in-law, Sheriff Hank Larsson (Ted Danson).

At this point in the game, there is no main villain like Malvo (Billy Bob Thorton). This time the good guys are outnumbered by the bad, which is an entire crime family on one side and a Kansas City crime syndicate on the other. So things undoubtedly get a little messy for our two troopers, especially when a young couple (Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons) become caught in the mix.

The best thing about anthology stories is the ability to pull in great, recognizable talent without any long-term commitments. All the players in Season 2 serve a purpose on the field, and each have their shining moments– primarily Dunst (as a flighty motor-mouth wife and hair stylist), Bokeem Woodbine (as a member of a crew of gangsters), and Jean Smart (as the mafiosa matriarch).

While Season 1’s tone channeled the original film, Hawley captures the feel of earlier Coen brothers’ work such as RAISING ARIZONA here– finding a nice balance between goofy and serious, tense drama. Hawley deepens the mythology of the show and doesn’t make it louder– just bigger and better.

Season 2 of FARGO premieres tonight at 10 p.m. E/P on FX.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.