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

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.