Fargo – Season 2 – Top Ten Most Bizarre Moments: Part the Third

Episode three of this season of Fargo was a lot less humorous than the previous two.  I mean, yikes – the standoff, that ending – great television but not much for a humorous “bizarre moments” post.  Fear not, Fargo fans, we’ll be digging deep here.  But first, videos:

10. Mean, but Polite

Perhaps no line in television history has best summarized passive-aggressive upper midwest behavior like, “It’s the way you’re unfriendly, you’re so polite about it.  Like you’re doing me a favor.”

9. Dead Rabbits

And not the street gang for Martin Scorsese’s under-appreciated Gangs of New York (2002).  But an actual dead rabbit.  Eaten raw.  Yum!

8. Paladin?

Peggy (Kirsten Dunst) has a bit of a vocabulary.  Who knew?

7. Seminars!

FX shows set in this time period apparently love self-help seminars.  Self-help seminars were a major player in the plot of season three of The Americans, and looks like we’ll be attending one in this season of Fargo.

6. UFO’s

Someone call Kang and Kodos?

5. Half a Car

Yeah, I don’t think the KC mob is going to go for a piece of the Gerhardt business either.  There’s going to be some shit going down for sure.

4. But Pa!

I can help!  I don’t need no schooling!  The exchange in the kitchen between middle Gerhardt child/goon and his son reminded me of the little known Henry Fonda vehicle Spencer’s Mountain (1963).

3. Squirrelly Guy

The understatement of the show so far.

2. Squirrelly Guy Morghulis

Here’s what I don’t get.  Other than the sadistic joy, why kill squirrelly guy?  Maybe he goes to the cops, but you can’t just shoot him in the head and then dump the blacktop on him?

1. Worst Cop Ever

What else was the Fargo cop thinking?  Maybe, “I’d rather stab myself with hot pokers than do my job.  Why I’m so scared of these crooks, man.  Maybe I should have listened to my dad and become a circus clown.”

(c) 2015 D.G. McCabe

Fargo – Season 2, Episode 2

Episode two, wherein everyone is looking for the dead guy.  Oh Rye Gerhardt is dead, so very, very dead.  Anyway, let’s jump into our top ten most bizarre moments of the week:

10. Floor Fingers

Who else is doubtful that Ed (Jesse Plemmons) will find all of those fingers?  I predict one or two turn up later in the season.

9. Blue Eye Shadow

It’s everywhere!  Old ladies, young ladies, I think even that dog in the first scene.

8. Fun Dog Food

Speaking of which, that dog got a nice treat, right?  I mean, human ears don’t have much meat or nutritional value, but yum, yum, right?

7. Eat this Bread

C’mon.  Share some bread with your momma.  Sure it looks like a hard, lumpy monstrosity, but it’s delicious.  Also, I’m in charge.  Don’t forget that.

6. Toilet Paper Theft is a Huge Turn-On

Oh yeah, steal that toilet paper, you dirty girl.  Imagine what she’d do if she found out about the frozen gangster corpse.

5. Never Trust a Sea Creature

Can’t eat those clams.  It’ll make you sick.  And by clams I mean don’t marry a psychopath who will make you dispose of a dead gangster and then call in sick.

4. Everyone Really Wants that Dead Gangster

We now embark upon our pointless chase for Rye Gerhardt.  First, we should check our local frozen food aisle…

3. Tie Paper

Need to intimidate a schmuck and write a complaint letter at the same time?  Look no further than authentic, 100% tie paper.  Guaranteed to reveal absolutely no useful information whatsoever!

2. What’s Your Shoe-size?

Easily the weirdest “show-down” line ever uttered on television.  It was a great scene though, and Bokeem Woodbine was great all episode as Mike Milligan.

1. Molly Solverson

As they say on The Wire, Molly Solverson is already a real murder police.  She’s finding murder weapons while she’s still in diapers!

(c) 2015 D.G. McCabe

Fargo and Fargo: The Style of the Coen Brothers

When FX first announced the Fargo miniseries, I was interested, but skeptical.  Fargo (1996) is a pretty unique film even by Coen Brothers standards.  The Coens have certainly used weather effects to their advantage and infused their films with a delicate balance of violence and dark comedy – but Fargo takes these elements to their creative peak.  It isn’t unique in the Coen’s filmography because it contains any element of particular Coen style – it’s unique because it masters all of them.

Additionally, Fargo the movie is heavily driven by the performances of its cast.  Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, and Steve Buscemi each give performances ranked among their very best, which is high praise considering the accomplishments of these three actors.  Any adaptation of the film, especially a “tone” adaptation, would have to be buoyed by equally strong performances.

Let’s explore each element of the movie’s style and how the TV show has handled those elements so far.

Acting and Accents

Fortunately, the first season of Fargo had an excellent cast.  After one episode, the second season seems up to the task as well.  That being said, the variety of circumstances that lead to great casting are really a tale of inside-Hollywood baseball that only a select few will really get to know about.

That isn’t to say that casting this project was easy, I doubt it was.  Even the some of the portrayals of Upper Midwesterners in the movie are bit off-base.  William H. Macy is a legend and his performance in the movie is fantastic – except for the fact that people in the Twin Cities typically don’t speak with such heavy accents.

Likewise, Martin Freeman has a very distinct, very English way of speaking.  Unfortunately this means that his Northern Minnesota accent sounds a bit like a Kermit the Frog impression.  Good performance otherwise, but the accent holds it back a little.

So far the second season seems to have toned down the accents.  I think that’s a good decision.  Part of the movie’s quirkiness and charm were the accents, but if the TV show is going to keep telling murder tales of the frozen north, it is going to have to dispense with some of the trappings of the movie that didn’t really work in the first season of the show.

Weather Effects

The Coen Brothers love utilizing weather effects in their films, and season one of Fargo not only paid homage to that, but surpassed the movie in its use of weather.

The movie takes full advantage of the frigid winters of the Upper Midwest to set its tone.  The best example is the fateful traffic stop that causes Marge Gunderson to get out of bed in the middle of the night.  The brutal murder scene contrasts with the snow-covered field.  When before there was a peaceful winter landscape there is now a window into the abyss.

The first season of the show took that a step further.  It similarly uses white landscapes and snow-covered trees as a peaceful contrast to the show’s brutal violence, but takes that a step further.  The shootout in blizzard conditions halfway through the season resembles the fog scenes in Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (1958) as much as it does any of the Coen Brothers’ movies – paying homage to three legendary filmmakers.

Dark Comedy and Brutal Violence

Fargo is one of the Coen Brothers’ funniest movies, mostly thanks to the talents of its phenomenal cast and its fantastic writing.  Who can forget the part where Marge Gunderson interviews the most awkward hookers in all the land?  Only the people who remember mostly the wood-chipper scene – yikes.

The first season of Fargo has its share of dark comedy.  A few of the characters are kind of dimwits, like Bob Odenkirk’s well-meaning Chief Bill Oswalt – which is at once frustrating and hilarious.  Overall, the movie is funnier than the series, but a two-hour movie needs more comic relief to keep the audience’s attention than an hour-long show does (at least in my opinion).

There’s no wood-chipper in season one of Fargo.  There is, however, Billy Bob Thornton’s monstrous Malvo – a villain of the first-rate.  So far, there’s no one quite so terrifying in season two, but the season is young.

(c) 2015 D.G. McCabe

Fargo – Season 2 – Top Ten Most Bizarre Moments: Part the First

Fargo – Season 2

Episode One: Waiting for Dutch

With Game of Thrones on hold until April, new television discussion is in order.  What better show to discuss than FX’s “Fargo?”  I was skeptical about the idea at first, but Season One was incredible.  Anyway, like the film Fargo (1996), and anything else in the style of the Coen Brothers, Noah Hawley’s world has plenty of bizarre moments.  Let’s take a look at the top ten from this week’s excellent season premiere:

10. Ziggy!

Is it just me, or did Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin) seem a lot like Ziggy from Season Two of the Wire (James Ransone)?  Too bad he got whacked (twice!) before he could buy a pet duck.

9. Don’t Touch Those Magazines!

At first I thought Peggy Bloomquist (Kirsten Dunst) was a hoarder.  I loved how the episode brought it around by showing the magazines in the car after she ran down Rye.

8. Old Timey Kids Books I Reckon

The book Lou was reading to young Molly is “The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.”  It was published in 1886 (yay public domain!) so you can view it online in several locations.  And yes, it does say, “”Dear me!” ejaculated Mrs. Pepper.”

7. Kansas City Mob Corporate Retreat

Apparently the KC Mob operates a lot like a Fortune 500 company – complete with sales presentations.  Who knew?

6. Oh Those IBM Typewriters

People actually collect these damn things – the cheapest you’ll find online is about $500.  Yikes!

5. Tree Shoe

Ah nothing screams Chekov’s gun like that shoe in a tree.  How did it get there?  What does it mean?  This being a Coen inspired world, the answers could be “who knows” and “who cares.”  I’m suspecting there is more to this shoe tree than meets the eye.

4. Frying Pan?  Really?

You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.  You sure as shit don’t bring a frying pan.  Unless that frying pan is filled with scalding bacon grease, and even then, it’s a 50/50 proposition at best.

3. Casseroles on Fire

For more interesting uses of a culinary torch, check out this fun guide to Creative Uses for a Culinary Torch, from Williams-Sonoma, hawkers of expensive crap.

2. Keep the Camera Rolling?

I loved the cold open – especially the effect of keeping the camera rolling while waiting for Ronald Reagan to get ready.  They probably wouldn’t have wasted precious celluloid like that on the set of a B-movie of that era, but who cares?  The effect was a great setup.

1. Why Didn’t You Call the Cops?

Yes – why didn’t you, Peggy?  You’re a maniac that’s why.  But are you a Malvo or a Lester?

(c) 2015 D.G. McCabe