‘Fargo’ Season 2 Premiere Recap: “Waiting for Dutch”


Fargo is nothing if not ambitious. Showrunner Noah Hawley battled preconceived notions about the show’s connection to the classic 1996 Coen Brothers film with his first ten episodes; for the second act, emboldened by the confidence of a strong first season, his narrative ambitions have grown.

It’s now 1979, but the setting is the same; the rural snow plains that cover the land where Minnesota and both North and South Dakota meet. Season 2’s scale is larger from the start; many of the interwoven threads are revealed from the first episode. It’s a bit overwhelming, but the narrative-driving characters in Fargo can be attributed to one of four families: The Solversons, the Gerhardts, the Blumquists and Kansas City. The Kansas City clan is more business than blood, but in the end, they’re all connected.

The Gerhardts are a local crime family in a state of upheaval. Its patriarch is incapacitated by a stroke, leaving a power struggle between the matriarch Floyd (Jane Smart)—backed by the middle son, Bear Gerhardt—and Dodd Gerhardt (Jeffrey Donovan), the oldest of three boys. The youngest, Rye (Kieran Culkin), is a small, slighted man with outsized ambition, and doesn’t see a bright future for himself in the family business, so he moonlights with a petty crook and soon finds himself the perpetrator of a drug-fueled triple homicide at local diner. Berated by his older brother, Rye seems at first to be a perfect stand-in for Season 1 villain Lester Nygaard, a pathetic excuse for a man driven to murder by his own self-loathing. But if the bag of money buried in the snow connects Fargo the movie to Fargo Season 1, it’s the Solversons that connect Season 1 to Season 2.

Lou and Molly Solverson return, 27 years younger; Lou (Patrick Wilson) is a Vietnam vet working as uniformed officer with the Minnesota state police. He’s working the triple-murder case with his father-in-law (and WWII vet) Hank Laarson (Ted Danson). His wife, Betsy (Cristin Milotti), has cancer, as well as the same detective instincts shared by her father, husband, and eventually, her daughter.

The Kansas City family is the arm of an organized crime syndicate led by Joe Bulo (Brad Garrett), who dispatches Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) and the Kitchen Brothers (Brad and Todd Mann) to either entice the Gerhardts into selling their illegal business or “liquidating” the operation and moving in anyway. Still following? Great.

Jesse Plemons as Ed Blumquist, Kirsten Dunst as Peggy Blumquist in FX’s Fargo. © Chris Large/FX

Which brings us to the Blumquists. Ed (Jesse Plemons) is a mild-mannered butcher with dreams of inheriting his family’s shop, his wife Peggy (Kirsten Dunst) an early-stage hoarder with California dreams. Peggy accidentally runs over Rye Gerhardt immediately following the triple homicide, then drives home with him still attached to her hood, parks in the garage, and makes some Hamburger Helper—firmly entrenching the family in the grand drama.

There’s a lot to process narratively from this first episode, but we still get a strong sense of what drives these characters. Dodd mercilessly puts Rye in his place early on after Rye makes the mistake of revealing his ambition, telling the youngest that “You’re the comic in a piece of bubble gum.” Ed Blumquist’s “Okay, then” aww-shucksness is evident in how he handles his wife’s lies and vehicular homicide “Heck, hon, did ya bring the deer home?”

One sour note was Karl Weathers (Nick Offerman) small-town lawyer and resident conspiracy theorist. For now, anyway, he’s a one-dimensional caricature. But as the spectre of Reagan looms large (the odd old-timey western outtake is surely just the beginning), look for him to play a larger role. As sprawling as this version of Fargo seems to be, it should be interesting to see how the tangled narrative unfolds—fans of Season 1 will undoubtedly remember the ominous way that Lou Solverson referenced the 1979 incident at Sioux Falls, and all that it portends.