In moving forward, “Fargo” is going backward.
The Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning FX mystery-drama series inspired by the Coen brothers’ Oscar-winning 1996 movie starts its second season Monday (Oct. 12), but it continues in the form of a newly cast prequel to the first round’s events. A major link is Lou Solverson, played as a retired lawman in Season 1 by Keith Carradine, but now seen in his younger incarnation –- portrayed by Patrick Wilson (“Insidious”) — as a Vietnam veteran working as a Midwestern state trooper in the late 1970s.
He becomes enmeshed in a case connecting several states as well as mobsters, smaller-time crooks and a young couple (Kirsten Dunst and “Friday Night Lights” alum Jesse Plemons). Numerous other characters factor in, represented by an impressive ensemble that also includes Ted Danson, Jean Smart, Brad Garrett (“Everybody Loves Raymond”), Jeffrey Donovan (“Burn Notice”), Bokeem Woodbine, Nick Offerman (“Parks and Recreation”), Adam Arkin and Kieran Culkin.
In adding South Dakota to Minnesota as a location this season, executive producer Noah Hawley tells Zap2it that North Dakota was used sparingly in the original movie, “but they call it ‘Fargo,’ in my mind, because the word itself is so evocative of a place … the sort of tundra where civilization meets the wilderness. So, the name Fargo is not only evocative of a place, it’s evocative of a kind of story — a true crime story that isn’t true, where truth is stranger than fiction.”
Familiar with Minnesota via her many relatives who hail from it, Dunst (in her first series role since “ER” almost 20 years ago) introduces her “Fargo” alter ego Peggy Blumquist as a small-town beautician with simple wants and needs. However, she ultimately reinforces the franchise’s message that not everything is necessarily what it seems.
“Peggy has set goals for herself, and nothing is going to stop her,” Dunst explains, “and I don’t think [her persona is] about being smart or oblivious. I don’t want to call her a little delusional, but she has such a zeroed-in path of what she wants to do and what she wants to be, and then there is this other part that’s stopping her.
“She does come from a small town, and she could live that life and just have kids, and then this wrench is thrown in the middle of it. And I think that it wakes her up to the possibility of not fulfilling any of those things.”
Whether viewers of “Fargo’s” Season 2 are returnees from the first season or newcomers, Hawley — also a director of the series now — is pleased the continuation is “a complete reinvention. It is a completely new story that in the end, I think, evokes the same feelings that you have both at the end of the movie and hopefully at the end of our first year. But otherwise, it tells a story in a very different way. It is a much bigger story, kind of an American epic.”