For most of the premiere episode for Fargo season two, the show felt like a wonderfully paced exercise in exploring the way two sides of the same coin handle the problems of work and family. The Gerhardt crime family is dealing with the stroke of their patriarch and leader at a time when they are at their most vulnerable to a rival mob. The Solverson police family has had a massive blood-soaked crime scene thrust into their laps while the woman at the center of all their lives battles cancer.
The forces of good and evil have been the foundation for both the movie Fargo and the first season of the show. It seems that foundation will be here too, though the most interesting parts take place when someone suddenly finds themselves in the world of crime, someone that doesn’t belong there. We get to see how quickly they find themselves going down a path that feels strangely comfortable, one they can’t return from.
In season one, local nobody Lester got a taste of the satisfaction that violence and deception can offer someone kicked around his whole life. He embraced it until any sense of decency he ever had vanished. Here, in what feels like our season two Lester role, Peggy Blumquist (played wonderfully by Kirsten Dunst), enters this world by happenstance, not by choice.
We find out it was her car that hit the youngest Gerhardt son, Rye, and unaware of the bloodbath he had just left behind, she responds by taking him home. Lester saw how that world could make him feel and embraced it, but Peggy gets there quite literally by accident. The fascinating part is how she then responds. She hits a man, believes she has killed him, but because this won’t help her big dreams of moving away to Hollywood, she decides she can’t report it.
In staying true to the universe the Coen Brothers created with the movie, it is a development that is dark but somehow humorous. Peggy runs a stranger over and decides to cover it up because it’s not convenient. Peggy enters a dark place, and when she does she does not even blink. In fact, when she comes home, as we see in a brief flashback telling her dimwitted husband about what happened, she couldn’t seem happier or calmer. The only real problem is the bloodstain on her shirt that won’t come out. A character that we didn’t even know minutes ago, the one making hamburger helper and tater tots, the one that won’t have sex with her husband, is apparently a sociopath that just discovered who she is. People don’t react as calmly to getting a flat as Peggy does to killing a man.
The mob world is a fascinating place, and watching honest police work counter it in a battle of good and evil is equally as satisfying, but it is in between where Fargo continues to make its mark. Peggy kills a man (she thinks), and it’s completely fine. Her husband Ed, a simple-minded butcher played by Jesse Plemons, ends up being the one to finish him off when a bloodied and desperate Rye attacks him in the garage. The near-silent, pragmatic approach by Ed as he fights back and ultimately kills Rye is classic Fargo: dark, weird, and funny. Either Ed is too stupid to realize the danger, or we are seeing another normal person enter the world of murder as though it was a chore as troublesome as running to the bank.
When Ed is easily manipulated by his wife to cover it all up, we again see an ostensibly good person make a decision that is less about right and wrong and more about convenience. The theme of taking the easy way out has been explored by Fargo before, though it still feels fresh watching someone make what is a completely indefensible choice justifiable as the lesser of two evils. But the lesser of two evils still means evil.
The icy roads of Fargo are not paved with good intentions, just good and bad people driving on them. Which direction those good people decide to go is what makes this show, and its new season, already feel like it has a chance to be the best iteration yet.