Fargo (season 2)
|Fargo (season 2)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||10|
|Original release||October 12– December 14, 2015|
The second season of Fargo, an American anthology black comedy–crime drama television series created by Noah Hawley, premiered on October 12, 2015, on the basic cable network FX. Its principal cast consists of Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Jesse Plemons, Jean Smart, and Ted Danson. The season had ten episodes, and its initial airing concluded on December 14, 2015. As an anthology, each Fargo season possesses its own self-contained narrative, following a disparate set of characters in various settings.
A prequel to the events in its first season, season two of Fargo takes place in the Midwestern United States in March 1979. It follows the lives of a young couple—Peggy (Dunst) and Ed Blumquist (Plemons)—as they attempt to cover up the hit and run and murder of Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin), the son of Floyd Gerhardt (Smart), matriarch of the Gerhardt crime family. During this time, Minnesota state trooper Lou Solverson (Wilson), and Rock County sheriff Hank Larsson (Danson), investigate three murders linked to Rye.
Hawley and his writing team used the second season to expand the scope of the show's storytelling. Season two's episodes were shot in Calgary, Alberta over an 85-day period. The series received widespread critical acclaim and was cited as one of the strongest programs of the 2015 television season. It was a candidate for a multitude of awards, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series and Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film, and won several other honors recognizing outstanding achievement in acting, directing, writing, cinematography, editing, special effects, and creative direction.
- Kirsten Dunst as Peggy Blumquist, a hairdresser focused on feeling accomplished in her life.
- Patrick Wilson as Lou Solverson, a Minnesota State Patrol trooper and the father of Molly Solverson, one of the main characters of season one. Keith Carradine portrayed the older version of the character in the first season.
- Jesse Plemons as Ed Blumquist, Peggy's husband and the local butcher's assistant.
- Jean Smart as Floyd Gerhardt, wife of Otto Gerhardt, the head of Fargo's most prominent organized crime syndicate. After her husband suffers a debilitating stroke, she finds herself having to lead the Gerhardt dynasty and deal with her three living sons, each of whom is vying to replace their father.
- Ted Danson as Hank Larsson, the sheriff of Rock County, Minnesota and Lou's father-in-law.
- Cristin Milioti as Betsy Solverson, Lou's wife, suffering from cancer.
- Jeffrey Donovan as Dodd Gerhardt, the oldest of the three Gerhardt brothers.
- Bokeem Woodbine as Mike Milligan, a man sent by the Kansas City crime family to deal with the Gerhardt family.
- Brad Garrett as Joe Bulo, a man sent by the Kansas City crime family to supervise the negotiations and potential elimination of the Gerhardt family.
- Nick Offerman as Karl Weathers, an alcoholic and the only lawyer of the town.
- Kieran Culkin as Rye Gerhardt, the youngest of the three Gerhardt brothers.
- Michael Hogan as Otto Gerhardt, Floyd's husband, who suffers a stroke.
- Zahn McClarnon as Hanzee Dent, an uncommunicative Native American loyal to Dodd Gerhardt.
- Angus Sampson as Bear Gerhardt, younger brother of Dodd and older brother of Rye.
- Adam Arkin as Hamish Broker
- Raven Stewart as Molly Solverson, one of the main characters of season one, depicted here as a child.
- Emily Haine as Noreen Vanderslice
- Daniel Beirne as Sonny Greer
- Brad Mann as Gale Kitchen
- Todd Mann as Wayne Kitchen
- Elizabeth Marvel as Constance Heck
- Rachel Keller as Simone Gerhardt, Dodd's rebellious daughter.
- Allan Dobrescu as Charlie Gerhardt, Bear's teenage son who has mild cerebral palsy.
- Keir O'Donnell as Ben Schmidt
- Terry Kinney as Chief Gibson
- Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan
- Ann Cusack as Judge Mundt
- Mike Bradecich as Skip Sprang
- Martin Freeman as Narrator
- Allison Tolman as Molly Solverson
- Joey King as Greta Grimly
- Colin Hanks as Gus Grimly
- Keith Carradine as older Lou Solverson
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||Prod.|
|11||1||"Waiting for Dutch"||Michael Uppendahl|
|Noah Hawley||October 12, 2015||XFO02001||1.59|
|In March 1979, the Gerhardt family is the most powerful crime syndicate in Fargo, North Dakota. Their power is threatened by two near-simultaneous incidents. A debilitating stroke leaves patriarch Otto (Michael Hogan) incapacitated, potentially jeopardizing the dynasty's leadership. Two of his sons, Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan) and Bear (Angus Sampson), begin competing for control. At a Waffle Hut near Luverne, an attempt by the third Gerhardt son Rye (Kieran Culkin) to extort Judge Mundt (Ann Cusack) into unfreezing his business partner's assets turns deadly. Rye kills Mundt and two Waffle Hut employees. Wounded, he sees what appears to be a UFO and stumbles into the road, where he is struck by a passing car. The driver, beautician Peggy Blumquist (Kirsten Dunst), assumes Rye is dead and hides him in the garage. Her husband Ed (Jesse Plemons), a butcher, discovers him alive but manic, and stabs him to death after being attacked. Peggy convinces a visibly shaken Ed to keep the incident a secret, and they hide the corpse in their meat freezer. Officer Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) and Sheriff Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) begin investigating the diner shooting. At home, Lou deals with his wife Betsy's (Cristin Milioti) progressing cancer. Meanwhile, in light of Otto's stroke, members of a Kansas City-based syndicate make plans to move on Fargo.|
|12||2||"Before the Law"||Noah Hawley||Noah Hawley||October 19, 2015||XFO02002||0.96|
|Joe Bulo (Brad Garrett), Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) and two Kitchen brothers of the Kansas City syndicate arrive at the Gerhardt residence. Bulo offers Floyd Gerhardt (Jean Smart) a buyout of her family's operation but would allow them to run it. Afterwards, Floyd tells her sons about the meeting. Dodd bristles at his mother running the business, but acquiesces when she expresses her intent of him taking over once the current situation settles. She then demands Rye be found. Milligan and the Kitchens also begin searching for Rye. In Luverne, Peggy resumes work at the beauty salon while Ed stays home to clean up the garage and bundle up Rye's corpse to take to the butcher shop. While driving his family into town, Lou stops by the crime scene where Betsy finds Rye's gun in some weeds. Later that night, Lou sees a light on inside the closed butcher shop and finds Ed there. Lou asks to buy some bacon, while Ed does his best to distract Lou from seeing Rye's remains in a meat grinder. Lou eventually leaves unaware of what was really happening, and Ed finishes grinding Rye's body while strange flashing lights illuminate the exterior of the butcher shop.|
|13||3||"The Myth of Sisyphus"||Michael Uppendahl||Bob DeLaurentis||October 26, 2015||XFO02003||1.21|
|The manhunt for Rye begins after fingerprints are pulled from the gun found at the Waffle Hut. At the same time, Milligan, Dodd and his henchman Hanzee (Zahn McClarnon) each conduct an independent search for him. Hank encounters Betsy while hanging a wanted picture of Rye at the local beauty salon. She speculates that Rye is the victim of a potential hit and run. Peggy discounts Betsy's theory, but quickly convinces Ed to crash her car a second time to as an explanation of the damage caused by hitting Rye. Meanwhile, Lou travels to Fargo to meet Detective Ben Schmidt (Keir O'Donnell). They visit the Gerhardt farm and have a tense encounter with the clan. Lou then visits Skip's typewriter store, where he encounters Milligan and the Kitchen brothers, also searching for clues, resulting in another standoff. Dodd's daughter Simone (Rachel Keller) tips off Hanzee about a lead on Rye, and they ambush Skip at Rye's apartment. He is brought to Dodd for interrogation. Dodd learns that Skip has no information on his brother's whereabouts. He and Hanzee force Skip into an open grave and bury him alive in hot asphalt. Dodd then tells Hanzee to do what is necessary to find Rye, beginning in Luverne.|
|14||4||"Fear and Trembling"||Michael Uppendahl||Steve Blackman||November 2, 2015||XFO02004||1.28|
|As Otto is being taken to a doctor's appointment, Simone has sex with Milligan, inadvertently mentioning the doctor visit. The Kitchens then eliminate Otto's guards in the parking lot outside the medical clinic, leaving Otto unharmed. Meanwhile, Floyd, Dodd, and Bear meet with Bulo and propose a counter-offer to his buyout in the form of a partnership. Bulo balks at the idea, since Dodd assaulted two of his men earlier. Bulo phones his superiors who reject the Gerhardts' proposal. They now offer two million dollars less than the first offer and demand the Gerhardts' complete surrender. In Luverne, Hanzee's investigation leads him to find Rye's belt buckle in the Blumquist fireplace. Lou talks to the Blumquists regarding his suspicions that they are involved in Rye's death, but they stubbornly refuse to cooperate. He warns them of the Gerhardts' violent history. At the Gerhardt farm, Floyd tells the family to prepare for war.|
|15||5||"The Gift of the Magi"||Jeffrey Reiner||Matt Wolpert & Ben Nedivi||November 9, 2015||XFO02005||1.13|
|Lou is temporarily taken off the Waffle Hut murder case while working a security detail for presidential candidate Ronald Reagan (Bruce Campbell). Dodd and Hanzee concoct a story—in which Ed is a hitman called "The Butcher" hired by Kansas City to kill Rye—in an attempt to rile Floyd into bloodshed. She has Hanzee and accomplices ambush a group of KC men. Hanzee kills Bulo and a Kitchen brother, and sends the former's head to Milligan. Milligan threatens Simone during their next dalliance, demanding she spy on her family for him. Meanwhile, Dodd orders his henchman Virgil to kill Ed, accompanied by Bear's son Charlie (Allan Dobrescu). Peggy heeds Lou's warning and plans to leave for California, but Ed insists on staying. Peggy nearly leaves without him, but through a change of heart, sells her car to mechanic Sonny Greer (Daniel Beirne) to get the down payment to purchase the butcher shop. Virgil and Charlie arrive in Luverne and botch their attempt to kill Ed—Virgil is killed, Charlie is hospitalized, and the butcher shop goes up in flames. Ed returns home to Peggy, now wanting to leave town with her, but she tells him she's sold her car. As the two freeze in a moment of panic, the Police arrive on their doorstep.|
|16||6||"Rhinoceros"||Jeffrey Reiner||Noah Hawley||November 16, 2015||XFO02006||1.15|
|Ed is arrested and taken to the police station for questioning, while Hank interrogates Peggy at their home. Hank reveals that Sonny has consented to have the vehicle inspected for blood traces. In Fargo, Floyd insists that "The Butcher" be executed, and Charlie released from jail. Hours later, Dodd and accomplices arrive at the Blumquist residence hunting Ed, while Bear fetches for Charlie. Hanzee knocks out Hank, but Peggy subdues Dodd in her basement using his stun rod. Karl Weathers (Nick Offerman), Luverne's only attorney, is summoned to the station. Bear and his men arrive on-site as Weathers leaves. Knowing Ed will be shot swiftly, Lou hatches a plan. Weathers distracts Bear while Lou sneaks Ed out a rear window, narrowly avoiding Hanzee. Bear and his men leave without incident. Hank, now well enough to drive back to town, intercepts Lou and Ed, though Ed runs off, presumably back to Peggy. Hanzee follows him shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, Simone calls Milligan and mentions the Gerhardts' departure to Luverne. Fed up with her father's abuse, she wants Milligan to murder Dodd. Milligan and his men arrive at the thinly protected farmhouse and open fire with Simone, Floyd, and Otto inside.|
|17||7||"Did You Do This? No, You Did It!"||Keith Gordon||Noah Hawley and Matt Wolpert & Ben Nedivi||November 23, 2015||XFO02007||1.24|
|Otto and some of Rye's belongings, including his belt buckle, are buried at the Gerhardt farm. Lou and Ben arrive after the funeral and take Floyd to the station for questioning. She eventually accepts a deal that absolves her family members for all crimes previously committed in exchange for information about the inner workings of their drug operation. Elsewhere, Bear drives Simone to a secluded wooded area where he shoots her for betraying the family. Lou asks Weathers to stay with Betsy and to keep an eye on her and Molly (Raven Stewart). Betsy claims to have received placebo pills for her treatments, and wants Weathers to look after her family after she is gone. Betsy goes to her father's house to feed the cat and discovers his office filled with strange drawings and symbols. Meanwhile, Headquarters calls Milligan saying he has run out of time to take care of things. An "Undertaker" is being sent to take over. When he arrives, Milligan kills him and his two accomplices instantly, intending to blame the murders on the Gerhardts. Suddenly, Ed makes a call from a telephone booth to Milligan, stating that he has Dodd hostage in his trunk.|
|18||8||"Loplop"||Keith Gordon||Bob DeLaurentis||November 30, 2015||XFO02008||1.32|
|Once Ed arrives home, he and Peggy put Dodd into the trunk of his car and hide out in a relative's hunting cabin in South Dakota. Hanzee is pursuing the Blumquists. At a gas station, Ed makes several phone calls to bargain with the Gerhardts for Dodd's freedom. All seem uninterested. He finally comes to an agreement with Milligan and prepare to meet at a motel in Sioux Falls the following morning. Dodd however gets loose, incapacitates Peggy, and hangs Ed upon arrival. Peggy knocks Dodd unconscious in time to save Ed. A manhunt for Hanzee is organized after he shoots five individuals at a bar. He finds Constance (Elizabeth Marvel) in her hotel room at the seminar, and forces her to lure Peggy to reveal her general whereabouts, to no avail. Hanzee strangles Constance thereafter. A gas station attendant calls the police after he recognizes Hanzee in his shop. Hanzee finds the cabin and holds Ed and Peggy at gunpoint and asks for a haircut from Peggy before shooting Dodd in the head. Lou and Hank burst through the rear door and exchange gunfire with Hanzee as Peggy stabs him in the back with the scissors. Hanzee flees out the front door.|
|19||9||"The Castle"||Adam Arkin||Noah Hawley and Steve Blackman||December 7, 2015||XFO02009||1.31|
|Lou and Hank call in the South Dakota State Police after recapturing the Blumquists. When Ed reveals his upcoming rendezvous with Milligan, State Police Captain Cheney hatches a dangerous scheme for him and Peggy to wear a wire for the meeting. Cheney has Lou escorted out of the state after strongly opposing the idea, though Hank stays behind. The Blumquists agree to the plan for lesser charges, and the police set up an ambush at the motel meeting spot. Hanzee lies to Floyd and Bear by claiming Dodd is being held inside the motel by the Kansas City mob. Meanwhile, Lou stops at the gas station to call home, unaware his wife has collapsed, then discovers that Hanzee killed the attendant. Lou rushes to warn the others, and arrives to find the Gerhardts on the offensive against Cheney and his team. All but Ben and a wounded Hank are dead. Floyd realizes Hanzee's deception and as she turns to confront him he stabs her to death. Bear attacks and attempts to strangle Lou. A UFO appears in the midst of the chaos, distracting Bear and allowing Lou to fatally shoot him. The Blumquists flee the premises, pursued closely by Hanzee. Hank tells Lou to pursue the trio as police reinforcements arrive.|
|20||10||"Palindrome"||Adam Arkin||Noah Hawley||December 14, 2015||XFO02010||1.82|
|The Gerhardts are virtually wiped out, with the exception of Charlie, thus permanently ending their dynasty. During the pursuit, Hanzee shoots Ed as he and Peggy flee through an alley. The pair take shelter in the meat locker of a supermarket. Ed eventually succumbs to blood loss, causing Peggy to have a mental breakdown and hallucinate that Hanzee has set the supermarket ablaze to smoke them out. However, Hanzee has since fled. Lou arrives and arrests Peggy. The two converse about life and death on the trip back to Minnesota, with Peggy finally accepting her fate. Hanzee, now provided a new identity from a confidant, contemplates his future and is last seen rescuing a pair of young boys, one of whom is deaf, from a schoolyard bully. Milligan is promoted after claiming responsibility for wiping out the Gerhardt family, but finds that he will be working in a small office in a corporate setting. Meanwhile, Betsy has recuperated from the side-effects of her experimental chemotherapy drugs. When Lou returns home, he, Betsy, and a recovered Hank gather as a family. No one can explain the mysterious UFO seen at that shootout. Betsy then asks Hank about the strange symbols in his home office, and he explains he was attempting to create a universal pictorial language to promote better global cooperation and understanding. The three ponder what the future holds for each of them and for the family.|
Development and writing
As an anthology, each season of Fargo is engineered to have a self-contained narrative, following a disparate set of characters in various settings. Noah Hawley and his team of writers used the second season to expand the scope of the show's storytelling—from its narrative to its characters. They increased the show's cast of core characters to five, each with interconnecting arcs and different viewpoints of the central story. Hawley wanted viewers to sympathize with characters they might not feel empathy for in real life. The producers at one point discussed revisiting a modern period for their story. Ultimately, their vision—inspired by Miller's Crossing (1990) and The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), in addition to the show's namesake film (1996)—was realized as a prequel that takes place 27 years before the events of the first season of Fargo (set in 2006) in 1979, rotating between Luverne, Minnesota, Fargo, North Dakota and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. According to Hawley, the change in the time period helped to develop a sense of turbulence and violence in a world that "could not be more fractured and complicated and desperate".
A principal cast of five actors received star billing in the show's second season. Hawley did not tailor his characters with any specific actors in mind, though Nick Offerman, Brad Garrett, Patrick Wilson and Kirsten Dunst were among the few he considered for starring roles in the season's early stages. The search for talent was sometimes an exhaustive process that required advertising via custom built websites and social media. Once actors were hired, their agents were made aware of the frigid shooting conditions and any issues with the location and potential scheduling conflicts during production were discussed. Hawley discussed the script with actors who had little experience in the television industry. "They're used to reading the whole story but you’ve given them one or two hours of it," he remarked. Once hired, the actors trained with a dialect coach to master a Minnesota accent.
Dunst and Jesse Plemons were the season's first lead castings (as Peggy and Ed Blumquist) in December 2014. Dunst found out about the project through her agency, and read scripts for two episodes, viewed Fargo's first season, and its namesake film, before securing her role. The actress recalled, "I was so impressed by the way it looked, the writing; it was such high-quality television." Plemons came to Hawley's attention for his work in Friday Night Lights (2006–11) and Breaking Bad (2008–13). Hawley thought that the actor's bulky physique, weight he had gained previously for Black Mass (2015), captured the cow-like deportment of his character. Plemons said that he had trouble interpreting his role initially because he "was worried that [being cow-like] meant dumb and just went along with whatever his wife said".
Wilson, Ted Danson, and Jean Smart completed the principal cast by January 2015. Wilson appeared as officer Lou Solverson, Danson as sheriff Hank Larsson, and Smart as Floyd Gerhardt, the matriarch of the Gerhardt crime family. Wilson's casting was unique because he was the only performer to portray an already established character; Keith Carradine played Lou for the show's first season, set 27 years after the events of season two. As such, Hawley did not want to take cues from Carradine because Lou was "at a different point" in his life, although Wilson analyzed Carradine's performance to a point. Wilson was persuaded by Fargo's critical accolades and commercial success; the actor said: "There have been several times that you’ve given your heart and soul to an independent film and more often than not it doesn’t match up to any commercial success or people seeing your film. So [my wife and agent] were like, 'You need to do something that people see'." Danson found learning the Minnesota accent difficult; to improve, he began practicing as soon as he was signed, often on set before filming began. Smart's role required an older look, which producers achieved by cutting and dyeing her hair, and Hawley gave the actress a book of paintings by Andrew Wyeth to explain her character.
An ensemble of 20 actors make up the bulk of the series' cast. Hawley found ensembles enticing because they presented "a lot of really good moving pieces". At Paleyfest 2015, the Fargo creator commented: "It's sort of like a horse race in a way, especially when you know that everyone is on this collision course. It's like, 'Who's going to make it?' And you can put people together in unexpected pairings." Offerman played Karl Weathers, an alcoholic and the only lawyer in Luverne, and Cristin Milioti was assigned the part of Betsy Solverson, Lou's terminally ill wife. Hawley felt that Milioti was the right choice because her personality was similar to her character's. Garrett portrays Joe Bulo, and Bokeem Woodbine appears as Mike Milligan, a role he was offered two days after auditioning. For the role of Hanzee Dent, Hawley hired Zahn McClarnon two weeks after his audition. Six others play members of the Gerhardts: Kieran Culkin as Rye, Rachel Keller as Simone, Michael Hogan as Otto, Allan Dobescu as Charlie, Angus Sampson as Bear, and Jeffrey Donovan as Dodd. When asked about his decision to cast Donovan, Hawley told the actor, "I don't know. You just come off with a sense of power. I think Dodd comes off with a sense of power, and I thought that you have the chops to find the humor in it." Donovan gained 30 pounds in preparation for his role. Other major supporting roles in Fargo's second season include: Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan, Keir O'Donnell as Ben Schmidt, and Elizabeth Marvel as Constance Heck.
Preliminary scouting was well underway by the time Fargo was renewed. Principal photography began in Calgary, Alberta on January 19, 2015, and took 85 days. The city's central business district and Kensington neighborhood doubled for Kansas City, Sioux Falls, and Luverne. Production crew constructed the Waffle Hut set on the CL Ranch in neighboring Springbank. Elsewhere in the area, shooting took place in Didsbury, High River, and Fort Macleod. Initially, the weather posed a challenge for the production because it was too warm for snow. To solve this problem, the production crew brought snow to the set from nearby mountains.
Continuing his services from the prior season, Dana Gonzales oversaw production of the show's second season. The cinematographer took cues from William Eggleston to develop a retro visual palette. To achieve this quality, Gonzales relied on vintage practical lighting technology, and captured scenes with an Arri ALEXA camera, retrofitted with vintage Cooke lenses. In one section of Calgary where they were filming, production staff replaced each sodium-lamp street light with tungsten light bulbs, creating an ambience that "pulls the audience into the world when the story takes place". Also, once Hawley analyzed the 1968 thriller film The Boston Strangler, split screen effects were employed to help streamline the narrative during transitions. Gonzales said: "We felt that split-screen would be an incredible way to track all these characters and locations within the episode: Where's the Gerhardt family? Where are the guys from Kansas City? Where's Peggy? Where's Ed?"
Costume designer Carol Case and Hawley worked closely together to develop Fargo's costumes. Case saw the show as a big undertaking because of her desire to capture the "specific feeling" of 1970s fashion. Starting "from scratch", the design team sought to create a "really small-town America[n]" style for most of the show's wardrobe. They also felt that it was important to distinguish the style of the rural characters, who at that time were largely unaware of fashion trends, from that of the urban characters. For the urban characters, Case used clothes she bought from New York to create a more polished, sleek look. Though Fargo producers bought a few pieces months in advance of production, sourcing vintage wear proved to be daunting, especially for cold weather, since much of the available supply was inadequately insulated. As a consequence, many costumes, such as Dunst's, were either modified by adding insulation, or created anew by the design team. Some modern pieces were used for footwear and accessories.
Leading music production of the second season of Fargo were composer Jeff Russo and newly appointed music supervisor Marguerite Phillips. Phillips was hired immediately after her first meeting with Hawley, in a text which she received as she left the building. Together, they brainstormed ideas on the season's musical direction; progressive rock, krautrock, Jethro Tull, and The Runaways were among several early suggestions. Phillips spent months conducting research, "dicking around and 'going down rabbit holes'" for the obscure music choices, until ultimately narrowing down the selection of music from a master playlist. Russo employed various compositional and recording techniques to build a distinctive retro sound. The soundtrack features songs by: Billy Thorpe, Burl Ives, Cris Williamson, Devo, Jeff Wayne, Yamasuki, Blitzen Trapper, Shakey Graves, White Denim, and Bobby Womack, as well as one cover version—Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch's "Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby" performed by Hawley. The use of "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath in the opening scenes of the season finale received acclaim. Russo also recorded music with the University of Southern California (USC) marching band at Hawley's request.
Fargo premiered to 1.59 million U.S. viewers; 609,000 were in the 18–49 demographic. Viewership was down by 40% after the series premiere, and 19% from the season one finale. From then on, ratings for the second season fell in the 1.13 to the 1.32 million range until the final episode, which peaked with 1.82 million viewers.
Fargo was considered among the best television shows of 2015 by the American press. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the second season holds a 100% score based on 53 reviews, with an average rating of 9.19 out of 10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Season two of Fargo retains all the elements that made the series an award-winning hit, successfully delivering another stellar saga powered by fascinating characters, cheeky cynicism, and just a touch of the absurd". The season also holds the rare distinction of having each episode maintain a perfect 100% rating as well. Metacritic gives the season a score of 96, based on 33 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". It was the highest rated TV show of the year on the same site, as well as the 20th highest of all time.
Christopher Orr of The Atlantic called Fargo "smart, thrilling, imaginative television, in addition to being wicked funny", in which Hawley assumes greater narrative dimension and assurance in his vision. Matthew Gilbert from The Boston Globe identified the dialog, acting, cinematography, music, set design and directing as its most satisfying attributes. So too did The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman, who believed that said qualities "make a very riveting and entertaining dark comedy spectacle". Neil Genzlinger, writing for The New York Times, said that Fargo marries deadpan humor, violence, and "observational oddity" in a way unmatched by similar dramas. In his review for Variety, Brian Lowry believed that despite the show's brisk pace, Hawley nonetheless adds depth to his story. Dan Jardine of Slant Magazine agreed and thought that the narrative complexity is what distinguishes season two from Fargo's freshman season. Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield felt that Fargo painted "a fascinating portrait of America at the crossroads". Alan Sepinwall said in his review for HitFix that the series captures its namesake film's most redeeming qualities while assuming a distinct identity, and The A.V. Club website felt that the series was "the rare cable drama that forgoes attenuated storytelling and moral ambiguity, and instead delivers episode after episode where a lot happens, and all of it matters".
The ensemble performances were frequently mentioned in the critiques. Lowry cited the cast as one of the show's strongest assets, and Robert Biano in USA Today wrote that Fargo's cast was "with nary a false note". The Daily Telegraph critic Michael Hogan singled out Dunst, Danson and Wilson for their work on the show, as did the San Francisco Chronicle's David Wiegand, whose opinion was that many of the performers' signature roles enhanced Hawley's script. Matt Zoller Seitz of New York magazine found Wilson to be the stand out among a pool of actors that "deserve their own stand-alone appreciations". He said of the actor's performance: "He's a young man, and he's in good shape, but he carries himself like an older, heavier one, as if weighed down by burdens he hasn't fully acknowledged because he's not ready yet. You get a sense of a personality, perhaps a soul, in the process of evolving." Reviews from Entertainment Weekly and The Washington Post singled out Donovan, Smart, Milioti, Garrett, and Offerman for their acting. Grantland, the New York Observer, and the Los Angeles Times also praised the ensemble performances.
Fargo was a candidate for a variety of awards, most of which recognizing outstanding achievement in writing, cinematography, directing, acting, and special effects. The series received eighteen Emmy nominations for the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony. It was named Television Program of the Year by the American Film Institute, and received three Golden Globe nominations—including for Best Actor and Best Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film (Wilson and Dunst). Among other accolades include two Satellite Awards nominations in two categories, two TCA Award nominations in two categories, and one Empire Award nomination. At the 6th Critics' Choice Television Awards, Fargo won four awards from eight nominations, the majority of which acknowledged the performance work of the show's cast.
Home media release
On February 23, 2016, 20th Century Fox released the second season of Fargo on DVD and Blu-ray formats in region 1. In addition to all ten episodes, both DVD and Blu-ray disc formats include five featurettes; "Lou on Lou: A Conversation with Patrick Wilson, Keith Carradine and Noah Hawley", "Waffles and Bullet Holes: A Return to Sioux Falls", "The Films of Ronald Reagan: Extended Fargo cut", "The True History of Crime in the Midwest", and "Skip Sprang TV Commercial".
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