Blu-ray
Must Own
4.5 stars
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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
5 Stars
HD Video Quality
5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
5 Stars
Supplements
2 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Must Own

Fargo: Year Two

Street Date:
February 23rd, 2016
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
March 22nd, 2016
Movie Release Year:
2015
Studio:
MGM/UA
Length:
532 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

When 'Fargo: Season One' debuted on the basic cable channel FX in 2014, I was immediately caught off-guard by it. I absolutely love the Coen brothers - even their movies that most people don't - but I didn't put much stock in the series; however, after watching it, I found that it was actually amazing. Each episode raised the bar higher and higher and, by the end, surprisingly, I personally deemed it "better than the movie." I certainly didn't see that coming. And even more to my surprise, "Year Two" is even better.

The creator of the television series has explained that he wants the show to flow like a singular grand story of crime in the mid-west. Characters, objects or events will link each of the stories (seasons) together to tell the grand nonlinear story of Fargo. In fact, one episode of Year Two even shows the book of Fargo (aka, "The History of True Crime in the Midwest"). Like the opening of 'Sleeping Beauty,' the episode kicks off with the physical book opening and pages turning with a voice-over narration that gets us up to speed with the specific episode. What we see is a mere fraction of what lies within the fictional book. One page references back to events that occurred in the 1800s, making me really hope that we get a full-blown western season by the time the series has run its course. In the grand plan of things, the movie falls right within the middle of the chronological order of the story, season one lies later in the book, and season two takes us back to 1979.

Season one primarily featured a link to the 1996 film 'Fargo' through the snow-buried briefcase and the red windshield scraper. The primary link to season two is through one of the characters: Lou Solverson. In season one, he's played by the Keith Carradine. In it, the seasoned old character is the ex-cop father of the Allison Tolman's good-willed leading police office character. In season two, his younger version is played by the always-good Patrick Wilson.

Season two gets even more complex than the first season – both is story and concept. The story follows two mob-like crime organizations fighting over territory. On one hand, there's the local family-run organization. And on the other, there's the corporate-style syndicate out of Kansas City. As expected, the Minnesota police are involved, as are those of North and South Dakota. A fairly dimwitted couple also becomes ignorantly entangled in the mix. Leading up to the "Massacre at Sioux Falls," which was much-teased in season one, and an extremely high body count.

On the conceptual side, it's just as complex and thought-out as the story. Unfortunately, unless you were around in the '70s-'80s transition or have a vast knowledge of American economics, the brilliant concept and symbolism won't mean as much. Fortunately, for those of us too young to know that part of the history books, we have excellent special features to walk us through the desirn of its thoughtful premise.

The season two ante is upped significantly over that of season one. First, there's only one character whose fate we know is safe: Deputy Solverson. Aside from him, no one is safe. Not his father-in-law/boss (Ted Danson). Not a single member of the local Gerhardt crime family (Jean Smart, Jeffrey Donovan, Angus Sampson, Kieran Culkin, Rachel Keller, Zahn McClarnon). Not the Kansas City boys (Bokeen Woodbine, Brad Garrett). And not the locals (Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst, Nick Offerman, Cristin Milioti). Anything and everything can happen – and I literally mean anything.

Everything that made season one perfect is still present in season two, and yet somehow it has been amplified. They took the perfection, added the lightning that they magically caught in a bottle, and churned out a second season that defies the odds and outdoes the flawless and magnificent first season. It has to be seen to believed – which is a very, very good thing.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'Fargo: Year Two' comes with Blu-ray package that matches the merits and aesthetics of 'The Complete First Season' – only without a cool keepsake. The three-disc Elite keepcase houses Region A BD-50s. Prior to the main menu, skippable trailers for other great TV series run.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Year Two' carries a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoding that's even stronger than that of the first season, yet completely different in visual style.

Although shot digitally like season one, vintage lenses were used to give 'Year Two' that classic '70s look. Filled with pale oranges and browns, the color palette matches the traditional look for the period – but combined with the period visual style is sharpness and texture that didn't exist back then. The amount of detail is so strong that the high quality of the costuming is abundantly evident. Facial/skin textures are clear. Hairs are always visible strand-by-strand.

Since the story at hand isn't set in the dead of winter like the film and first season, fleshtones are warmed up here. The only times they're made life-less is in a few of the sub-zero settings and whenever one side character finishes chemotherapy treatment. Whites aren't as blinding as they are in the first season, but the black levels are just as perfectly inky and rich.

No traces of noise, bands, aliasing or artifacts appear, making this a flawless and noteworthy mix.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

'Fargo: Year Two' comes with a flawless and superb 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that plays a major leading role in the season. While season one was full of score and music, the second season features even more. The sweeping score returns with even greater grandeur. For those who love, appreciate and collect original scores, this is one that you'll want to pick up when released in a couple weeks. The amount of love put into mixing the classic '70s rock and R&B track is equal to that of the score. The two music styles sound brilliant as they're strewn across the channels with great clarity.

The vocal track plays loud and clear. Its range spans the spectrum as needed. In many instances it's mixed like a sound effect, popping up in surround channels as the scenes and shots warrant. The effects mixing packs quite a bold punch – even more than it did in the first season. There's a lot more gunplay in season two, so there are more instances for it to shine. Many shots come quickly and unexpectedly, causing a bassy and resonant thumping sensation. The moments of downtime are accented by environmental effects that function with smooth subtlety. Public settings feature fluid imaging sounds of rolling-by vehicles.

Not a single thing could have been done to make this mix better. It's outstanding.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

    • Waffles and Bullet Holes: A Return to Sioux Falls (HD, 44:38) – Viewable in two parts or as a single collective 45-minute making-of, this strong feature highlights the differences in the two television seasons, breaks down the character dynamics, explores the topical subtext and symbolism, explains the role of costuming and design, talks about how the '70s style was achieved, and points out some of the many visual and thematic Coen Brothers Easter Eggs embedded within it. The solid feature matches the greatness of that contained in the season one set.

    • The Films of Ronald Reagan with Audio Commentary by Bruce Campbell (HD, 8:07) – Fun, but not that special, this feature shows all of the season's Reagan material back-to-back. Since Campbell played the cameo role of Reagan within the season, he narrates the entire feature in character.

    • Lou on Lou: A Conversation with Noah Hawley, Keith Carradine and Patrick Wilson (HD, 15:39) – The title of this feature is somewhat deceptive, as it's not really a conversation with the three, but a behind-the-scenes feature that breaks down the character's multi-season development via clips, a true conversation between Hawley and Carradine, and personal interview footage with Wilson. This feature is very much worth checking out.

    • The History of True Crime in the Midwest (HD, 3:45) – With each season playing a chapter in a fictional book that strings all of the tales of 'Fargo' together, Hawley walks us through the concept and explains how the physical book was designed for 'Year Two.'

    • Skip Sprang TV Commercial (HD, :59) – Presented in the period's hideous low-def video tape style, watch a commercial for the character's yet-to-open typewriter store.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no HD bonus features.

Final Thoughts

The second season of 'Fargo,' also known as 'Year Two,' does the impossible. It takes everything great from the first season, amplifies it and ends up with a final product that is inexplicably even better than the five-star first season. The story and writing grow in intelligent complexity. The characters are even stronger. With only one safe character and an ever-growing body count, the tension and action is upped exponentially. The result is an unpredictably bombastic journey that delivers the goods non-stop. The video and audio qualities are also upped. The only real disappointment season-over-season is the lack of included deleted scenes. Season one of 'Fargo' was a must-see, but 'Year Two' is a must-own.

Technical Specs

  • 3-Disc Blu-ray (Region A, BD-50)

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, French, Spanish

Supplements

  • Lou on Lou: A Conversation with Patrick Wilson, Keith Carradine and Noah Hawley
  • Waffles and Bullet Holes: A Return to Sioux Falls
  • The Films of Ronald Reagan with Audio Commentary by Bruce Campbell
  • The History of True Crime in the Midwest
  • Skip Sprang TV Commercial

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