Oofta, that sure was a strange, violent, retro — and yet familiar — start for the second season of “Fargo.”
The show is no longer in the Bemidji/Duluth parts of Minnesota, for it has traveled back in time to the tail end of the 1970s and down to the southwestern edge of the state for more helpings of organized crime, murder, deceit and the friendly Minnesota Nice (i.e.: passive aggressiveness) attitudes that are already beginning to crack and reveal these characters’ dark sides.
The episode begins with a black and white “outtake” from a fictional Ronald Reagan movie called “Massacre At Sioux Falls.” We see an actor waiting impatiently for Ronald Reagan to get to the set (he is still having the arrows put on his costume). Which can be seen as a metaphor about where America was at in 1979 — waiting for someone like The Gipper to come around after the turbulent 1960s and 70s. That theme is pushed further after the scene cuts from the Reagan flick to a montage of what was going on around the late 70s in America — news clips of Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, the gas shortage of the time, the horror at Jonestown, ect. are sprinkled over President Jimmy Carter addressing a crisis we were facing in America. It certainly stirs up the echoes of Reagan’s “are you better off now than you were four years ago?” quote (also the episode’s title is “Waiting For Dutch”), which I’m sure is a theme that will be more pronounced and played with as we get further into the show (and Bruce Campbell’s portrayal of Reagan).
Right away in the episode we meet two of the three Gerhardt sons, the offspring and eventual leaders of their family’s Fargo crime syndicate, Dodd and Rye (we meet Bear a little later).
Rye is — to be blunt — the opposite of a Lorne Malvo. He is bumbling, in way over his head, incompetent and basically the Midwest’s answer to Fredo Corleone. He owes his family money (he has been skimming), and is quick to be duped with a scam (those Selectric typewriters are the future! A real money spigot, don’t cha know!) by a cheap hustler of a businessman. Of course, he has to lean on a judge in some legal case that pertains to the eventual acquirement of these typewriters (frozen assets).
Which brings us to the massacre at the Waffle Hut (also, great name for a rock album, by the way). Rye follows the judge to the Waffle Hut in Luverne (not a quick jaunt at all from Fargo, by the way), where he is as calm and calculated as a drunk playing Jenga as he tries to convince this woman to sway her decision on the case regarding the frozen assets (so he can get in on that sweet, sweet typewriter business). She offers a tale about God and the Devil, where the Devil tries to sway Job’s faith in God. When he obviously does not understand what she is telling him, she bluntly states that if the Devil can’t change Job’s mind, how on earth will he change hers.
He ultimately shoots her, the cook and the waitress. Aw jeez, what a mess. The judge does manage to get a steak knife into Rye’s back, before he empties his gun on her. The waitress somehow gets out of the restaurant and Rye chases her. He gets her all right, but then, and I’m not making this up, sees what looks like a UFO.
A UFO. Let that sink in for a moment.
We as the viewers don’t get much time to reflect on just what the hell happened because Rye is suddenly run over by Peggy Blomquist (Kirsten Dunst), whom she drives “the back way” home with Rye sticking halfway out her windshield. Her husband, Ed, works at a local butcher shop and has dreams of starting a family in Luverne, something we see is not what Peggy wants. He discovers Rye in his garage, dying, and is attacked by the punk. He takes Rye out with a garden instrument, and Peggy convinces him, through emotional blackmail, to cover up this crime of theirs. The cracks in the Minnesota Nice facade are already happening.
There is more trouble for the Gerhardt Empire, as Otto (the patriarch) suffers a stroke, a set-up that seems to leave the family in somewhat disarray in the near future. We see a shadowy crime syndicate talking about this at the end (The Kansas City Northern Expansion Strategy). They are ready to pounce on this opportunity.
We also meet young Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson here, Keith Carradine in season one) as a state trooper with a family, who seems to be having a lot of issues. His wife, Betsy, has cancer and his father-in-law is Rock County Sheriff Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) who seems to be close to his daughter and is having trouble relating to Lou. The two men are called to the Waffle Hut massacre. Lou has an eccentric, government conspiracy friend Karl Weathers (brilliantly played by Nick Offerman) whom he briefly meets up with at a Bingo game. I look forward to what this character will bring to the show.
This was a lot of premise to go through, but I think I touched on all the main themes here.
- Let me say this time around for the scenery, the flat land and lack of trees are pretty spot on for the Luverne/Sioux Falls areas (having lived in Worthington, I stand by this observation). Though the Waffle Hut is fictional, there are places similar to it along Interstate 90 from Worthington to Sioux Falls that makes this location somewhat believable.
- The judge maces Rye with a can of bug spray.
- The song at the end, “Didn’t leave nobody but the baby,” is also used in the Coen brothers’ “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” film and soundtrack.
- Peggy cooks up some Hamburger Helper and tater tots for Ed, while Rye is dying in her garage. She is a psycho.
- They said “casserole” instead of “hot dish,” which is simply not done here in Minnesota.
- The use of 70s style filming (split screens) really added to the retro vibe.
- Milk “tastes different in the glass.”
- “That’s a shoe up in that tree.”
- Again, the UFO.
- It’s great to be back writing about “Fargo.” Let me know your thoughts about the show in the comments section.