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Viewers need not have seen season one of Fargo to understand season two — it’s an anthology series, and the story premiering Monday on FX stands very much on its own.
They are, however, connected. Season two is a prequel of sorts to the first season, focusing on Minnesota state trooper Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) and a horrific crime in Sioux Falls, S.D. in 1979, in which he gets caught up. An older Lou (Keith Carradine) and other characters refer to it several times in season one.
Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley says that though he referenced whatever happened in Sioux Falls several times in season one, he didn’t hit on making it the story for season two until near the end of the writing process.
“I had introduced this story about Sioux Falls … mostly as a way to give Keith Carradine’s character a way to relate to his daughter [Molly, played by Allison Tolman] and say, ‘You know, I saw something when I was a cop that this seems very similar to. If I’m right, you may not want to go down this road.’ Then because I thought it was funny, I had Gus Grimly’s [Colin Hanks] boss say, ‘It’s Sioux Falls all over again,’ and that there was some joint task force rodeo they were both part of.”
At the time he wrote that line, Hawley didn’t intend to go into any greater detail: “I sort of like sometimes when you throw stories in that you never explain,” he says.
As he was working on the final scripts, however, “I started to think if we did another one of these, it might be kind of interesting to set it up on some level. So in the ninth and 10th hour I added a couple more allusions to the year.”
So just what do all the Sioux Falls references in season one add up to? Not a ton, but enough to give the audience a sense of where the new story might go. Here’s a rundown of each mention of 1979 in Fargo season one — as well as one thing that’s not likely to be part of the new season.
Episode 2: ‘The Rooster Prince’
Lou doesn’t mention Sioux Falls, but in hindsight he’s clearly talking about it when, near the end of the episode, he and Molly talk over her frustrations with her current case and her boss, Bemidji Police Chief Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk).
“There’s the kind of things a schoolteacher gets exposed to — truancy and the like,” Lou says. “Then there’s the stuff a cop sees — murder, violence, general scofflawery. Then there’s the kind of deal you’re looking at now.”
“Which is?” Molly asks.
“Which is, if I’m right, savagery, pure and simple,” Lou replies. “Slaughter, hatred, devils with dead eyes and shark smiles.”
This episode also features a detail about Lou that likely won’t be part of the new season. Molly tells the widow (Julie Ann Emery) of Bill’s predecessor, who was killed on duty, about the time Lou was shot. It was during a traffic stop, she says, and they pulled her out of algebra class to tell her about it.
Molly is 4 years old in season two. Unless she goes to a very advanced preschool, it’s unlikely she’ll be doing algebra. Fargo isn’t shy about moving around in time, but it’s probably a safe bet that Lou’s shooting isn’t related to Sioux Falls.
Episode 3: ‘A Muddy Road’
When it becomes apparent that Gus botched a chance to bring Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) into custody, his boss in the Duluth PD, Lt. Ben Schmidt (Peter Breitmayer), gets more than a little upset. “It’s goddam Sioux Falls all over again,” he mutters darkly.
Later, when Lou meets Gus for the first time, he sees his Duluth uniform and asks if Gus knows Schmidt. “Kind of a prick,” he says. “That’s the one,” Gus replies.
“We had a deal together once in Sioux Falls,” Lou says. “Joint task force situation. Boy, that was a rodeo.”
So whatever happened in Sioux Falls was A) really bad; and B) caused Lou to think Schmidt (who will be played by Keir O’Donnell in season two) was a jerk. Interesting …
Episode 9: ‘A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage’
Lou goes into somewhat greater detail about Sioux Falls when Malvo comes into his restaurant looking for Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), whose chance meeting with Malvo kicked off the entire bloody season.
“Had a case once, back in ’79. I’d tell you the details, but it’d sound like I made ’em up. Madness, really?”
“Bodies?” a curious Malvo asks.
“Yessir. One after another. Probably if you stacked ’em high, you could’ve climbed to the second floor. I saw something that year I ain’t ever seen — before or since. I’d call it animal, except … animals only kill for food. This was … Sioux Falls. Ever been?”
Episode 10: ‘Morton’s Fork’
Lou sits on Molly and Gus’ porch with a shotgun, waiting for any trouble that may come from Malvo. Gus’ daughter Greta (Joey King) joins him and asks about his days as a cop. He brings up being shot again, noting that he retired with a full pension after 18 years (further suggesting that the incident happens well after 1979).
Greta also asks if he had ever stood guard like he is now. In the winter of 1979, Lou says, he sat on his own porch “from dusk till dawn” while 4-year-old Molly slept inside. “Who did you think was coming?” Greta wonders.
“It wasn’t a question of who. More like what,” Lou answers. Whatever it was didn’t come that night, he adds, “but soon after.”
Whatever else viewers may learn about Lou in season two, it’s safe to say that he’s not someone prone to overstating things. Which means it’s also safe to say that dark times are ahead for the younger version of Lou in 1979. Fargo premieres at 10 p.m. PST Monday on FX.
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