Fargo “Waiting for Dutch” Review (Season 2 Premiere)

Fargo (FX) "Waiting for Dutch" Season 2 Premiere 2015 (2)

On the season premiere of “Fargo,” it was time to see if the show could replicate the surprising success of the first season or go the route of, say, “True Detective” season two. Thankfully, despite the fact that the show is set in a different time than season one and features none of the actors from that season, at least thus far, it manages to essentially replicate the vibe of the first season while bringing an entirely new vibe of its own courtesy of the new time setting, which is in 1979.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the opening few minutes, a seemingly disconnected clip from the set of the old MGM movie “Massacre at Sioux Falls,” starring none other than then-future president Ronald Reagan and “Betty LaPlage,” which is a name I assume will come into play at some point. Not sure what this had to do with anything, but it definitely fit the bill of the Coen Brothers’ deadpan sense of humor coupled with their fascination with old Hollywood. We saw a crew not-so-patiently waiting on “Dutch” Reagan- hence the title- as he prepared for a big scene, and not much else, beyond some banter between a New Jersey “Indian” and what one assumes was the director of the film.

After that, we move into a montage of where we are in time and what was going on in the late 70’s, with footage of then-president Jimmy Carter, and newsreel footage of people like John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy and Jim Jones, who, for those who don’t know, are all mass murderers/serial killers, as Fleetwood Mac’s classic “Oh Well” plays on the soundtrack. The scene set for the time we’re in, we then move into the place, which is Minnesota, where we begin the show proper.

We meet the crime family syndicate the Gerhardts, led by Otto (Michael Hogan, “Teen Wolf”), who will have suffered a stroke by the end of the episode, which essentially sidelines him for good, leaving a void in the leadership of the family business which the rest of his family will no doubt scramble to fill. Looking to capitalize on this temporary lack of leadership is a shadowy organization in Kansas City, who plot an “Northern Expansion,” led by Joe Bulo (Brad Garrett, “Everybody Loves Raymond”), who gets an okay from an unseen figure to take a stab at acquiring the Gerhardts organization- or to “liquidate,” if need be. In other words, buy it or wipe it out.

If what we see is any indication, most of the remaining Gerhardts aren’t exactly a brain trust, save maybe the matriarch of the family, Floyd (Jean Smart, “24”), who Joe dismisses as “tough, but, you know, a girl.” I’m guessing this is selling her considerably short, but that remains to be seen. What we do see more of is her ne’er-do well sons, including the hot-tempered Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan, “Burn Notice”), gruff Bear (Angus Sampson, the “Insidious” series), and the weasely youngest son, Rye (Kieran Culkin, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”), all of whom want a bigger slice of the family pie already. To make matters worse, their finances are coming up considerably short, leading Otto to suspect foul play on someone’s behalf.

Fargo (FX) "Waiting for Dutch" Season 2 Premiere 2015 (4)

The likeliest suspect is Rye, who has a bit of side action going on in the form of trying to get the sole rights to hawk a then-new-fangled electric typewriter with all the bells-and-whistles. In order to do so, he needs to make the vendor’s gambling debts go away by convincing a judge (Ann Cusack, “Nightcrawler”) to drop the case. He follows her from work to a Waffle Hut, where he confronts her about it, and she promptly sprays him in the face with pesticide. This leads to his shooting her in cold blood, and then having to also kill the cook and waitress on the scene, in order to eliminate witnesses. To say that this doesn’t go well is putting it mildly, as first the judge gets up and stabs him in the back, while dealing with the cook, and then the waitress gets up and makes a break for it, forcing him to give chase after her and shoot her again, as with the judge.

Nor does it end there. After getting understandably distracted by what would seem to be a UFO (!), Rye is hit by a car, who then proceeds to drive all the way home with him still embedded in the windshield! The driver in question is Peggy Blomquist (Kirsten Dunst, the original “Spider-Man” trilogy), who acts at first as if nothing is awry when her butcher husband, Ed (Jesse Plemons, “Friday Night Lights”) gets home, but then has to lie when it turns out Rye isn’t as dead as he seemed and starts to raise a ruckus in the garage. She tells Ed it’s a deer, but that lie is exposed when Rye attacks him and Ed is forced to stab him to death, for real this time.

In typical “Fargo” fashion, the two compound the situation by opting to cover it up, dumping Rye in the freezer in the garage for the time being. If the past season and the movie are any indication, this will come to bite them in the butts later on. And so we have the traditional comedy-of-errors style set-up firmly in place, leading to the authorities getting involved to try and puzzle this mess out over the course of the season.

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In that corner we have Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson, also of the “Insidious” series), a State sheriff, and Hank Larsson (Ted Danson, multi-tasking on this and “CSI: Cyber”), a local one. The former declares it a matter for the latter, but, as we already know, such won’t be the case for long, as the crime at hand involves non-locals for the most part. However, with Rye missing from the scene and presumed on the run, they don’t know it yet just how big of a mess this all really is. I’m guessing they will find out soon enough.

So, what we have here is a solid enough set-up for an even bigger mess, as the Gerhardts will no doubt be looking for Rye and probably thinking he’s the one stealing from them, while Bulo and his crew try to take advantage of the power vacuum and move in on their territory. How much you want to bet that the Gerhardts end up thinking that Bulo and company are the ones responsible for Rye’s mysterious disappearance at some point, leading to a messy clusterf*ck?

All in all, I like the vibe of the show thus far just fine, even though the crew from the first season will be missed. Of course, we know that Lou ends up being Keith Carradine’s character from season one, while his daughter Molly (Raven Stewart) ends up carrying on the family tradition by becoming a cop herself, in the part played by Allison Tolman, so there is that through-line, as well as the knowledge that both of those characters will be safe, no matter what happens.

I also seem to recall the Gerhardt name cropping up in season one as well, so it’s probably safe to assume that at least one of them will be left standing as well, or at least one of their kids, if they have any. The rest remains to be seen. I really like the retro vibe of the show. It genuinely seemed to be right out of the 70’s, down to the slightly hyper-colorized film stock and the groovy soundtrack and clothes, and yet, it still feels like the “Fargo” brand, despite the time leap. As before, the story is allegedly based on real events, with the names changed to protect the innocent- and the guilty- and the crime itself is entertainingly convoluted. (That bit with the UFO was particularly unexpected, to say the least!)

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The cast is solid down the line, also including “Parks and Recreation”-vet Nick Offerman as a conspiracy theorist and pal of Lou’s, Cristin Milioti (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) as Lou’s wife, who is suffering from cancer, and Adam Arkin (“Sons of Anarchy”) as Hamish Broker. Reportedly, the cast will also go onto include other notable actors, including- be still my heart- Bruce Campbell (the “Evil Dead” series) as Ronald Reagan! Now THAT should be something to see!

So, while it’s too soon to call it just yet, it does seem like all the proper elements are in place for another great season. Season one was a pleasant surprise, as many doubted that the Coen Brothers vibe could lend itself to a TV series, but the results were not only firmly keeping with the film version, but more than the sum of its parts overall, becoming its own beast- one that this season looks to be sustaining. Hard to say if the show has it in it to be an ongoing thing, changing time periods willy-nilly a la “American Horror Story,” but so far, so good. I’m in.

What did you think of the season premiere of “Fargo”? Were you pleasantly surprised that the vibe was still largely intact? Did you like the gambit of having younger versions of some of the characters from the first season? Did the main case grip you or did you find it lacking? Do you think the elements are all in place for things to spiral out of control in the best of ways, like the movie and first season? Did you catch any nods to the other season- or the movie for that matter- that I missed? Did you like the new cast? Sound off down below in the comment section, and join me for a check-in later in the season!