After last year's excellent first season on FX, many critics and viewers wondered if Fargo showrunner and head writer Noah Hawley can possibly top the first season. Well, "Waiting for Dutch" is any indication, Fargo's sophomore season will surpass its first. The top notch writing paired with a diverse and talented ensemble cast has Fargo fans salivating for more. The writing has a natural mix of humor and darkness that provides the familiar tone present in the film and the first season. Somehow Hawley manages to make the bland Midwest setting into its own character with it own unique ambience. The premiere does so much well, that one should expect another Emmy quality season from Fargo.
From the opening scene, this awkward sense of calmness pervades throughout the scene with the two men talking about Dutch, also known as Ronald Reagan to most folks at home. In a brilliant bit, they touch upon a significant issue of the time with the American Indian Movement. The director speaks to his Indian actor with subtle racist remarks that make the entire conversation awkward for the two men and, most importantly, the viewers. The subtle humor plugged into the conversation seems small with a background actor asking for a blanket and the director himself saying that he understands the struggle because he is Jewish. Meanwhile, everyone on set and in front of the television screens is waiting for Dutch, just as the episode's title suggests. Perhaps there is a deeper meaning that relates to the change Americans awaited with Jimmy Carter out of the presidency and the change that was to occur with the Democrats out of the White House. Surely, Noah Hawley's scene contains much more than meets the eye, especially because it establishes the 1970s setting and acts as the first scene for the entire season.
Moving on from the opening scene, the show introduces the Gerhardt boys Dodd, the oldest, and Rye, the youngest, who argue over Rye's role in the family business. The conversation shows that family comes first for the Gerhardts and that everyone needs to put in his (or her) work in the business. However, Rye does not agree with Dodd and responds, "That's like Jupiter telling Pluto, 'Hey,you're a planet, too.'" Dodd's attempt to make Rye feel like an integral member to the business fails, so Dodd tears down poor Rye and compares his younger brother to the comic strip in a piece of bubblegum that everyone discards. Next, the show introduces the entire Gerhradt clan that runs a family drug business. The Gerhardts face a problem from an incoming drug outfit attempting to swallow up the business while tragedy strikes at the most inopportune time as Gerhardt patriarch Otto suffers a stroke. In addition, an impending power struggle in the family looms between Gerhardt matriarch Floyd and eldest son Dodd.
The major catalyst of the episode and, most likely, the season is Rye's rampage in the diner as he tried to force the judge to change her decision on a court case. During their exchange, the judge provides a detailed and memorable account of Job and the Devil as a metaphor for the situation she and Rye are in at the moment. After she defends herself against Rye with bug spray, Rye's shooting spree claims three casualties. The entire diner sequence really is a work of art as the camera allows viewers to focus on the stark contrast of the blood against the vanilla milkshake or the snow as well as the exterior shots of Rye shooting the waitress in the diner. Then the situation becomes very weird as Rye witnesses a UFO! Just the inclusion of aliens in such a grounded world really demonstrates the confidence Fargo carries to include such a shocking twist to its already complex true crime story. However, Fargo is so exquisite that critics and viewers have accepted the UFO sighting as a natural element of the mysterious American Midwest that is so rarely portrayed on television. Back to the story, Rye wanders into the middle of the road while watching the UFO while a speeding car hits him after the UFO's departure.
Following the big diner showdown, young Lou Solverson and Sheriff Hank Larsson show off their police work. Lou meticulously and methodically examines the crime scene. He frighteningly recounts the events almost perfectly except for Rye's fate. However, Lou's one flaw in the investigation is his manipulation of the facts to fit a specific story in his head while Hank offers little resistance aside from questioning how Rye's shoe managed to hang on the tree. This calculated approach from Lou creates an uneasy tension because he has no idea how huge this murder scene is in its relevance to the impending crime family war in the Midwest hinted at the conclusion of the episode.
Finally, the complicated storyline of Fargo manages to reach innocent married couple Peggy and Ed, played by Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemmons, respectively. Something dubious resonated int he atmosphere because Peggy clearly acted strangely at the dinner table. At first, Ed's talk of settling down as owner of the butcher shop with multiple children upset Peggy, perhaps, because Peggy is not fully invested in heir marriage. However, further patience revealed that Rye was indeed still alive in the garage after Peggy rammed him with the car. The struggle between Ed and Rye really worked well because the viewers already understand why each man is fighting to the death. Ed wants to protect his vision for his family while Rye constantly tries to prove his value, as his brother mentions earlier, as man who can handle a larger role in his family's business. Ed kills the heavily wounded Rye with many questions to ask Peggy. However, Peggy is mind-numbingly naive as she really struggles to explain the situation to her husband, but a series of different shots discloses that Peggy was totally calm with her knowledge about Rye. She desires change in her life, so she uses this murder event as a means to persuade Ed to move out West but to no avail. Consequently, she convinces Ed to cover up the murder. Her decision to hide the body reinforces the notion that she wants some type of change in her life, but, unfortunately, Peggy and Ed are not prepared to handle the severe consequences of Rye's death and the horrible events surely to follow.
Overall, this episode somehow exceeded every aspect of the first season in terms of humor, suspense, direction, atmosphere, etc. Season 2 surely looks to be a treat for viewers everywhere. Touching on the final scene very briefly, Joe Bulo's cold and calculating presentation to the head members of the rival crime syndicate produced such an exciting yet chilling vibe for the show due to the men in the room. Each man reflects Joe Bulo: cold, calculating, efficient. This meeting is a highly organized business attempting to tear down the mom and pop crime family of the Gerhardts. Hawley mentioned how big corporations invading mom and pop businesses will play a significant role in the story. This scene might be related to Hawley's tease. Fargo Season 2 is more complicated but better than the first and will be great for the next 9 weeks on FX.
As always, thanks for reading. Write down your thoughts on the episode in the comment section. Look back here for a new review next week. Follow me on Twitter @mlozano2 and the site @nerdcavenetwork.