Fargo series 2 episode 1 review: a welcome return to the blood-soaked folksiness of freezing Minnesota

Ben Dowell finds that the second series of Fargo looks like it could be just as good as the first one. But you'll need a strong stomach...

Well, that was a relief.

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Whatever Fargo series two is, it’s no True Detective.

Which is to say that, despite the absence of all the main cast members from the first run, it looks like we will be getting a hit second series of an acclaimed American thriller (a feat True Detective didn’t manage in its rather tangled and noirish second series). 

Last time we visited Fargo-land, the TV remake of the Coen brothers’ classic movie, we had Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton in starring roles – the latter sporting perhaps the worst haircut in small screen history as the psychotic baddie Lorne Malvo.

And happily this return to bloody spattered, folksy Minnesota is just as involving.

This time we’ve headed back to 1979 with Lou Solverson (below, this time played by Patrick Wilson) the only surviving character from the first series.

The grizzled café owner, portrayed by Keith Carradine in series one, is here presented in his youthful incarnation as a clean-cut State Patrolman stumbling upon a grisly murder in a waffle house and aided in his investigations by his Sheriff father-in-law Hank (a grey-bearded Ted Danson, below).

Creator Noah Hawley has kept much of the flavour and plot devices of the first run, not least the parallel presence of an organised crime plotline that always threatens to viciously intrude on this small town world characterised by the gently folksiness of the locals, proponents of the so-called ‘Minnesota Nice’.

But there is nothing nice about the crimes that are committed here. And there are certain similarities between the travails of Freeman’s Lester Nygaard (who killed his wife in a fit of anger in series one, with ultimately disastrous consequences for a lot of people) and the highly unfortunate central crime which sucks Peggy and Ed Blomquist (Kirsten Dunst and Breaking Bad’s Jesse Plemons) from their world of apparent gentle domesticity. 

As series one fans will attest, this is a drama which is not afraid of taking it slow – and then suddenly shocking you with a kind of Jacobean intensity, absurdity and horror.

Because the twist at the end of tonight’s episode was just pitch-perfect Fargo, a grisly event that prompted laughter and disgust in precisely the same breath.

In the same way people in this neck of the woods run over furry mammals, Peggy’s return home with an unwelcome present on her windscreen was a little different: a hapless gangster called Rye Gerhardt she had run over immediately after his senseless killing of three people in the aforementioned waffle house.

But he wasn’t quite dead. Peggy’s husband Ed (bottom pic) was compelled to subdue the roadkill and, once he was dead, shove him in the freezer. Ed is a butcher. Wonder what he’ll do with the body….

If ever there was a moment which captured the mixture of absurdism and grim violence then this was it. And what was that UFO thing we all saw just before all those deaths?

Whatever the answer, episode one means one thing. Fargo is back, and with it more deaths and shocking surprises. No doubt the Gerhardts will be descending on the small town looking for the missing man and I reckon a few other gangsters will also be getting involved. It’s the kind of thing Fargo does so well. Some recipes are too good to tamper with, as this butcher will no doubt attest…

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Fargo continues on Channel 4 on Mondays at 10pm