One Thing I Love Today is a daily column dedicated to putting a spotlight on some pop culture item worth your attention. After all, there's enough snark out there. Why not start every day with one quick shotgun blast of positivity?
Noah Hawley is a True Believer.
There is no reason whatsoever that a television show based on Fargo should work, but after finishing season two of the FX series, I am blown away by what he's accomplished and by the sheer force of his love for Joel and Ethan Coen.
Homage and inspiration are similar, but not the exact same things. Homage is fine, but I think you can only go so far with it. Inspiration, though, is something else. Real inspiration is a springboard to something new, something that is genuinely yours. One person looks at something and sees and processes it a certain way, and someone else sees it and is spent spiraling in a totally different direction. Hawley is the one guy out of a hundred who would have seen this series this way.
They even tried one time before this. There's a pilot from 2003 where Edie Falco played Marge Gunderson, the role that France McDormand won her Oscar for in the original movie. It made no sense, though, and as strange a comparison as this is, it's the same problem that exists with Die Hard movies. When the point of the original film is that you've got an ordinary person dropped into extraordinary circumstances, then you can't keep dropping them into new extraordinary circumstances over and over without it becoming mundane or without the person becoming a sort of superhero.
Instead of focusing on Marge Gunderson, Hawley focused on the type of story t hat was told. The use of “This story is true” in the film and in the TV show is delightful precisely because it's so blatantly, transparently false. And the more seriously they play it, the more ridiculous it is. The opening episode of the season features an appearance by a UFO, for god's sake. Hawley's not trying fool anyone. He's not trying to convince you that all of these things actually happened. He's telling you that the way people behave in these shows, that the way people make choices, is grounded in the truth of how people really behave. He's a magpie, pulling incidents from the news, form the work of the Coens, from other true crime stories, and he's remarkably good at taking all of this as a framework, then hanging his original characters onto this framework.
Ultimately, this season is not only a terrific crime story, but it's also a study in frustrated decency. There are a few characters here who are simply good people trying to do a good job, and Patrick Wilson emerges as one of the most interesting protagonists of last year, playing the younger version of the character played by Keith Carradine in the first season. Lou Solverson has a million reasons not to play hero once things start to go south, not the least of which is the cancer his wife is struggling to beat. He can't help himself, though, because he has sworn to do a job, and watching him struggle through an admittedly insane set of circumstances to try to figure out the insanity erupting around him becomes deeply moving by a certain point.
I can't get over how good Kirsten Dunst is in the show. As Peggy Blumquist, whose impulsively awful reaction to an accident kicks off the events in the series, she is walking a tightrope between being an idiot, a dreamer, and a woman who simply wants a better life and believes in the one she sees sold to her in magazines.