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Showrunner Noah Hawley shares that enthusiasm — “He’s great,” he says of Campbell — but he was just as excited to explore the idea of what Reagan, who was then campaigning for president, represented to people in 1979.
Allusions to Reagan, from campaign posters in the background to (fake) movies starring the man who would become the 40th president of the United States, have abounded in the early episodes. He finally shows up on screen in Monday’s show. The season won’t necessarily turn on Campbell’s appearance, but Hawley does think Reagan plays a key role in the show.
“One of the things that’s really interesting to me about trying to turn the time period in which the show is set into a crime story — which is not just a story set in that time period, it’s what can we do to dramatize what America was going through at the time. What was this moment, this sort of low point in modern American history?”
Several characters have expressed their frustrations with the time in which they live, whether it’s the hangover from Watergate, lines at gas stations, or general dissatisfaction with the world. As Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) puts it during a polite but tense face-off with Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) in episode two:
“Isn’t that a minor miracle, given the state of the world today and the level of conflict and misunderstanding, that two men could stand on a lonely road in winter and talk calmly and rationally, while all around them people are losing their minds?”
“The American narrative was so complicated,” Hawley says, “and then along came Reagan, and he said, ‘It’s not that complicated. We’re Americans,’ and sort of took everyone on this mental journey back to the ‘50s on some level.
“I don’t have a moral opinion on Reagan; that’s not part of the show. But the idea that 1979 is this last gasp of this time means that Reagan is out there. They didn’t know it at the time, but we know it now. This Beckett, Waiting for Godot-waiting for Reagan idea sort of hangs over the [season]. We have fun with it, but there’s definitely the sense of — and we also play with the death of the family business and the rise of corporate America. We have the hindsight, and I felt like if we could turn all those historical elements into a crime story, now we’re making something interesting to me.”
Fargo airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on FX.
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