Film and Book Reviews

Profound insight behind black comedy of new season of Fargo


November 8 2015Hollywood producers the Coen brothers have spent their career teaching us to chuckle at crime. Triumphs like The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou, Fargo and now its small-screen spin-off have set audiences rolling. But their black comedy isn’t a perversion of morality so much as a profound insight. Evil is, in the final analysis, a laughing matter.

In Fargo’s second series State Trooper Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) teams up with Sheriff Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) to investigate a triple homicide. What looks like robbery is actually a bungled attempt at intimidation by Rye Gerhardt, the youngest son of South Dakota’s leading crime family. However before Rye can escape he is distracted by an apparent UFO and hit by beautician Peggy Blumquist’s car. Afraid the accident will spoil her plans for the future, Peggy drives home with Rye’s body embedded in the windscreen. Unfortunately Rye’s not dead. So begins the series of bloody incidents that build out this season’s Fargo farce.

Hollywood regularly sells stories about criminal masterminds, but years as a court reporter taught me their real-life lives rarely measured up to the myth. Firstly, we usually hear their stories because some failing led to their discovery, and what often follows is a sordid tale of frustration and foolishness because these criminals never exercise as much control as they claim – as Fargo teases out. Which is exactly why God laughs at evil.

The most chilling sort of laughter the Bible mentions is that which God directs towards those who think they can set aside His laws or plans. Take Psalm 2 for example:

The One enthroned
in heaven laughs;

the Lord scoffs at them.

He rebukes them in his anger

and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,

“I have installed my king

on Zion, my holy mountain.”

The wicked are as ridiculous as toddlers who don’t realise their father is watching. The all-powerful Gerhardt family members dig a deeper hole even as they think they’re shoring up their empire. That’s not to say they won’t cause a great deal of sadness along the way, just as real-life rebels do. However their fortress of cards is doomed to come crashing down as everyone from Al Capone to Adolf Hitler has discovered.

Fargo’s tantalising truth is that it’s not just mobsters who can make the mistake of building their house on sinking sand. As the law closes in on the Gerhardts, spare a thought for Peggy whose attempts to avoid justice are just as juvenile as ours might be. God has decided who His king is. Any decision to reject Jesus, however powerfully argued or well intentioned, is going to look pretty silly on the last day.

Rated, M. SBS 9.30pm Wednesdays