It’s amazing to see how different the Dakotas look in “Blood & Oil” and “Fargo.”
In one, prosperity is just around the corner. In the other, it’s buried under a snow bank. Both, however, thrive on hope – hope for a better life, hope for justice, hope for a way out.
“Blood & Oil” is just as slick as “Dallas” or “Dynasty.” But “Fargo” is about as brutally honest as the place itself.
In the new season of “Fargo,” the clock has been turned back to the 1970s. Americans are tired of conserving oil and cutting back; Ronald Reagan is seen as the beacon of hope. Even in Luverne, Minnesota, there are dreams of something more. A young hairdresser (Kirsten Dunst) thinks a seminar can jumpstart her life; a small-time businessman believes an electric typewriter can bring him a fortune.
A cop (Patrick Wilson) hopes his wife can beat cancer; the head of a family syndicate (Jean Smart) insists she can overcome the advances of a Kansas City mob.
Swirl in judges and crooks, waitresses and patrons and the table is set for action.
Writer Noah Hawley begins the series with what looks like a trailer for a B movie starring Ronald Reagan. It’s called “Massacre at Sioux Falls” and it’s really just outtakes of a day of filming. A Native American chief stands, waiting for Reagan to show up.
The “real” massacre occurs in The Waffle Hut in Luverne. There, a two-bit crook (played nicely by Kieran Culkin) is determined to get justice from a judge who doesn’t want to expedite his scheme.
Meanwhile, the Blumquists (Dunst and and an unrecognizable Jesse Plemons) are elsewhere planning their future. She believes they need to leave the Midwest to realize their dreams. He contends there’s no place like home.
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Culkin’s mother (Jean Smart) has problems of her own – her husband drops over and she’s left to run the family business.
Together, they’re all part of this disparate hot dish of problems that’s served up at the diner.
By the end of the first episode, you’ll know what the “massacre” means and how it turns up the heat on all of the residents’ lives.
For those looking for a connection to the first season, there’s Wilson’s Lou Solverson. He’s the younger version of Keith Carradine’s character. And, if you listened carefully during the season, you’ll realize he mentioned the massacre.
While the first episode won’t give you much of a sense of the characters, you will realize Smart and Dunst have done their homework. They sound like Midwestern women; they go beyond the “you betchas” one might associate with “Fargo.”
Both aren’t as glamorous as the women on “Blood & Oil,” but they are more complex and worthy of attention. They know just what’s at stake and they aren’t afraid to react in their own best interests. Look for both to figure into next year's Emmy race.
At the end of the first episode – which airs Monday on FX – you’ll get a good sense of where this is headed and who’s most at risk. Because it doesn’t have to deal with the looming specter of the film, Season Two can go places you never imagined.
It’s involving – and just the series to keep your mind off the snow that's lurking. "Fargo's" still a prime TV destination.
"Fargo" airs at 9 p.m. Monday on FX.