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Series / Fargo: Season Two

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"This is a true story. The events depicted took place in Minnesota in 1979. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occured."
— The text that opens each episode

Fargo (Season Two), which aired on October 12, 2015, takes the series back to 1979 to explore the infamous-yet-mysterious Sioux Falls incident that everyone insists on vaguely recalling in the first season.

Minnesota State Police trooper Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) and his father-in-law, Rock County Sheriff Hank Larsson (Ted Danson), investigate an Accidental Murder scene left behind by the ambitious Peggy Blumquist (Kirsten Dunst) and her small-town-minded husband, Ed (Jesse Plemons). Their attempts to avoid the law end up entangling them in the middle of a turf war against the Kansas City mafia, with Floyd Gerhardt (Jean Smart) leading the Gerhardt crime family in their struggle after her husband Otto suffers a crippling stroke.

The series also features Cristin Milioti, Jeffrey Donovan, Zahn McClarnon, Bokeem Woodbine, and Nick Offerman in supporting roles, among others.

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This series provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Dodd Gerhardt physically and verbally abuses his adult daughter Simone. He seems rather resentful of the fact that she is a girl, when he wanted a boy, even though she seems rather enthusiastic about entering the family business.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Constance Heck is strongly implied to be trying to seduce Peggy, though this is never confirmed. She's constantly undermining Peggy's relationship with Ed specifically and men in general. When she's first introduced, she gives Peggy a Male Gaze, looking down at her ass. When she drives Peggy home, she invites herself in and at one point brushes Peggy's hair behind her ear, though she's examining Peggy's shiner. At the hotel room she's to share with Peggy, Constance has lit romantic candles and put Chablis on ice while wearing a robe.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: The Kansas City mob seems to be a multiethnic corporation run predominantly by Jews. The Kitchen brothers wear wide-brimmed hats and beards, giving them a Jewish look. Hamish Broker is played by the very Jewish Adam Arkin. Joe Bulo (played by the Jewish Brad Garrett) drops a Yiddish expression and seems to have a very low opinion of Germans. Season Four reveals that Bulo was a member of the mob when it was still the Italian Mafia, though this doesn't necessarily prevent him from being Jewish.
  • Arc Words: “Okay, then.”
  • Armor-Piercing Response: Lou Solverson gives one in "Palindrome." Lou tells Peggy Blumquist that the desire to "be a wife and a mother and this self-made career woman, like there's 37 hours in a day" doesn't really matter in the moment, since "People are dead, Peggy", no matter what the reason is.
  • Artifact Title: Oddly inverted. The original movie takes place almost exclusively in Minnesota with only the opening scene in Fargo. The first season has a few scenes in Fargo. But the second season has much of it taking place there and is the home of the Gerhardts.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Hanzee steals hydrogen peroxide to disinfect his wounds. In reality, hydrogen peroxide slows down wound healing, but is often used on wounds due to a common misconception.
  • Assassin Outclassin': The Narrator of episode 9 confirms that The Undertaker and his men were sent to kill Mike for his failures. Mike and Gale surprise and kill them when they show up.
  • Ax-Crazy: Hanzee is prone to attacking and killing people for offending him or even just irritating him.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • The first episode seems to heavily tease that Rye Gerhardt, youngest of his clan, will one day grow up to become Carl Sholwater, one of the villains of the original Fargo feature film, played by Steve Buscemi. They seem to favour the same taste in jacket, haircut and facial hair, and Rye is established as having severe anger issues stemming from being bullied and belittled by his elder siblings and parents, which would conceivably provide a backstory for Carl's own poor impulse control. In the end, however, Rye is dead before the first episode is even over.
    • In episode 7, the mobsters bring in "The Undertaker," an infamous Mob "cleaner" who seems set to be the next Big Bad of the show. In their first meeting, Mike walks up, hand extended, and shoots the Undertaker in the head.
    • The second season, unlike previous installations, is actually set in the Fargo area in the 70s, and introduces three large, taciturn bearded white men (Bear Gerhardt and the Kitchen Brothers). Early fan speculation posited that any of them could eventually become Mr. Tripoli, the boss of the 2006 Fargo syndicate in the first season; a man who is also heavyset, bearded and generally quiet. Instead, by the end of the series all three are dead, and it is established that Ohanzee Dent, a skinny Native American man, undergoes plastic surgery and an identity change to become "Mr. Tripoli", and most likely put on weight as a result of years of success as a crime boss.
  • Beauty Inversion: Jean Smart has long had "real woman" good looks and has aged gracefully. In this series, she looks like an old woman of the prairie who has strongly led a crime family.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: During the montage of all the dead Gerhardts, Otto, Dodd, and Bear look terrible with holes in their heads. Yet Floyd is lying gracefully with a pool of blood on her sweater and Simone only has a bloodstain on her dress.
  • Big Bad: By the end of the season, it's clear that Hanzee fits the bill.
  • Bittersweet Ending: It's pretty apparent that Lou's wife and father-in-law aren't long for this world, leaving him to raise Molly without them. The Gerhardt criminal empire is destroyed and all its members are dead save Charlie, who is in jail and will likely be convicted of attempted murder, ruining his father's hopes of a better life for his son. Mike is doomed to a life of mediocrity as some nameless office schmo, and Hanzee loses his entire identity, himself resigned to a lifestyle he's come to despise, and is Doomed by Canon. Ed's dead, having never gotten the simple life that he wanted, Ben and Hank are clearly affected by the events of the season, and Peggy is downright certifiable, not to mention carted off to prison. The body count of the season is tremendous, but even so, Lou seems to take everything in stride and goes on to live his life, getting to see his daughter grow up and start a loving family of her own.
  • Book Ends: The final episode ends the same way as the first episode - with Lou and Betsy going to bed and bidding each other good night.
    Betsy: Good night, Mr. Solverson.
    Lou: Good night, Mrs. Solverson. And all the ships at sea.
  • The Butcher: Ed is an actual butcher, but when he gets wrapped up in a Mob War, people assume he's some sort of contract killer. He's frequently referred to as "the butcher," and he eventually uses this to his advantage, calling himself the Butcher of Luverne.
  • Call-Back:
    • In the first episode, Hank jokes he'll come to dinner "in a suit of armor," referring to Betsy's disastrous souffle. In the penultimate episode, he says he'll come to dinner "in a suit of armor," referring to having just been shot.
    • Ben Schmidt says "FUBAR" in his first and last conversation with Lou.
  • Call-Forward:
    • Hanzee, who through many years of plastic surgery and hard work will become Moses Tripoli, the boss of the Fargo syndicate, will be wiped out by Malvo by season one, which is 30 some odd years from the events of season two. During his conversation with his associate, he talks about building a kingdom, though he is reminded that it, too, will eventually fall into the ocean.
    • First season protagonists Molly and Gus, as well as an older Lou and Greta show up in the opening of the series finale.
    • Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers are the kids Hanzee helps out in the 10th episode. It helps that Hanzee is going to become Moses Tripoli, the mob boss of the Fargo syndicate.
  • Cassandra Truth: In "The Castle", Lou tries to warn Captain Cheney against setting up a sting operation with the Blumquists as bait, telling him that the Kansas City mobsters (who he has faced several times at this point) are too smart to fall for it. Cheney not only calls him a coward, but has one of his deputies escort him out of the state. Lou turns out to be right about the plan being a terrible idea, but the real danger comes from the Gerhardt family, not the Kansas City mobsters.
  • Character Development: Ben Schmidt is a pretty lousy cop who is cowardly about facing the Gerhardts and wants to push responsibility to others. In the end, however, he manages to drop two of the Gerhardts' goons and, even though he's cold-cocked by Peggy, he's still the only person who goes with Lou to hunt them down. In the end, he's grown a lot.
  • The Cloud Cuckoo Lander Was Right: Lou's conspiracy theorist friend Karl says that the Powers That Be are behind the events at the Waffle Hut. Lou tells him it's just a shooting in the middle of Minnesota, not a presidential assassination. Karl tells him to just watch, this thing is going to snowball. This being Fargo, he turns out to be right.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Karl Weathers is frequently holding court on a wide range of conspiracy theories that were popular in the 1970s and 80s.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Hamish Broker, middle manager for the Kansas City crime syndicate.
  • Credits Gag: The first episode has one in the style of the 70s MGM logo.
  • Cute and Psycho: Peggy
  • Decoy Protagonist: After killing three people in the Waffle Hut, Rye seems set up to be the Lester Nygaard of Season 2 (an impulsive murderer trying to stay ahead as the police close in on him), only for him to be killed off by Peggy and Ed by the end of the premiere.
  • Deus ex Machina: In "The Castle", Lou, Ed, and Peggy are in lethal danger when all of a sudden an UFO appears and hovers over the motel. They use the distraction to save themselves.
  • Disappointing Promotion: After claiming credit for destroying the Gerhardt crime family, Mike Milligan returns to the Kansas City Syndicate expecting his star to rise in the organization (even proclaiming himself a king and with ideas to form his own crew). The Syndicate indeed believes he should be rewarded for his efforts... with a promotion to a paltry middle management position, complete with a tiny office. Milligan is completely crestfallen to see how little his war has gotten him.
  • Dramatic Irony: Two members of the Gerhardt outfit are on their way to assassinate Ed and anyone who witnesses the murder. We then cut to the butcher shop, where Noreen starts talking to Ed about the inevitability of death. When he goes into the back room, Noreen jokes that she might be dead when he returns.
  • The Dreaded:
    • The Gerhardt family has a nasty reputation in Fargo. Ben Schmidt tells Lou that he would rather confess to the murders himself and go to jail than have to take on the Gerhardts.
    • Episode 7 has "The Undertaker," an infamous enforcer sent to clean up the mess Mike makes. Mike ends up shooting him dead in their first meeting.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Betsy manages to see her daughter as she grows old, even her child with Gus and an older Lou in the 10th episode.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Rye is introduced whining about his lack of respect to his condescending older brothers.
    • Karl Weathers spouts conspiracy theories to Sonny while berating him for being slow on the uptake, but also shows righteous indignation over perceived institutional racism and Betsy's struggle with cancer.
    • Ben Schmidt is introduced getting distracted by a woman walking by while Lou is trying to talk shop with him, establishing him as a pretty poor cop.
    • When Constance is first introduced, she surreptitiously glances down at Peggy's butt when her back is turned and then starts urging her to think independently of her husband, establishing her an Ambiguously Gay suitor.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: All of the Gerhardts are killed except for Charlie, and he is going to jail. Hanzee, Betsy, and Hank are all Doomed by Canon even though they survived the season. Ed Blumquist and quite a few other supporting characters don't survive the season as well.
  • Fake Guest Star: Zahn McClarnon as Hanzee Dent, Jeffrey Donovan as Dodd Gerhardt, Bokeem Woodbine as Mike Milligan, and Cristin Milioti as Betsy Solverson.
  • Fictional Document: A History of True Crime in the Midwest, seen being plucked from a bookshelf at the start of "The Castle" and heard being read by Martin Freeman.
  • For Want Of A Nail:
    • To ensure that they aren't implicated in the killing, Peggy and Ed fake an accident. Which leads to Hanzee Dent discovering the car in a local auto shop and tracking them down. Which also leads Lou to the same conclusion.
    • Had Peggy driven Rye to the hospital instead of going home, the war between the Gerhardts and Kansas City would've played out a lot differently and a lot of the collateral deaths likely wouldn't have happened.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In "Waiting For Dutch", Otto, the Gerhardt patriarch is threatening "I'll grind their bones to make my bread" when he has a stroke; bread is also a recurring symbol of Gerhardt family stability in early episodes. In the next episode, Rye has his bones ground in a meat grinder; from then on, no bread and peace, just meat and war.
    • In "Did You Do This? No, You Did It!", Ed calls the Gerhardts and Mike Milligan from a phonebooth that has a game of hangman on the wall. Later, Dodd fails to kill him by stringing him up in a noose. The letters that are filled in are S_O_X F_LL_, which makes Sioux Falls the obvious answer.
    • Lou's first scene with his family has him reading a book to his daughter. The book seems to be portraying a very family-unfriendly scene, which causes Lou to become increasingly disturbed. This establishes a feeling of vague unease before the bodies start dropping.
    • The UFO arrival is foreshadowed in a few scenes, with both Rye and Hanzee seeing strange lights in the trees several episodes before its appearance. The newspaper featuring Hanzee's mugshot includes a headline about the UFOs. The gas station by the lake has several UFO posters on its walls.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: If you pause during "The History of True Crime in the Midwest" in "The Castle", you can see spoilers for the episode. Namely, that Hanzee sets up and murders the surviving Gerhardts in the Sioux Falls Massacre.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Lou Solverson says as much in the "Palindrome" episode. Peggy is going on about her desire to "be a wife and a mother and this self-made career woman, like there's 37 hours in a day". Lou's Armor-Piercing Response is "People are dead, Peggy". Essentially, Lou doesn't care why those people died; it was still murder, and nothing excuses that.
  • Friend or Foe?: Dodd Gerhardt accidentally shoots one of his own men during their search of the Blomquists' house.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Hank and Lou agree that they left out the U.F.O. incident from their official reports, knowing that no one would believe it.
  • Guttural Growler: Bear speaks with a voice that will shake the fillings out of your teeth.
  • Historical Domain Character: Ronald Reagan, played by Bruce Campbell of all people.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Dodd complains to Ed that women lack the ability to think rationally. All the while he's engaging in some major Bond Villain Stupidity by not either getting the hell out of there or finishing off Peggy.
    • Karl says that RFK's assassination was falsely blamed on an "Ay-Rab," then calls the perpetrators racist.
  • Ironic Name: Peggy wants to go to a seminar in Sioux Falls called "Lifesprings," but ends up in the middle of a bloodbath instead.
  • Irony:
    • In "Myth of Sisyphus" Bear insists that he and Dodd will dictate what happens to their own children - Bear for his son Charlie, Dodd for his daughter Simone. By the end of the story, Dodd has roped Charlie into his scheme, landing him in jail, while Bear takes it upon himself to execute Simone for her betrayal.
    • In "The Gift of the Magi", Mike Milligan justifies Kansas City's war against the Gerhardt family by saying "we can't leave because we're the future, and they're the past. The past can no more become the future than the future can become the past." After the Gerhardts are destroyed, Mike expects to be the new kingpin, just like in "the old days", but instead his only reward is a boring 9-to-5 desk job, where the less glamorous but more profitable future of organized crime lies. In the end, he was just as unprepared for the changing times as the Gerhardts were.
  • It's All About Me: Peggy's primary characterization is that she's utterly self-absorbed. She constantly prioritizes "being the best me" above all other practical concerns. She kicks off the plot by refusing to take responsibility for hitting Rye out of fear for the consequences it will have on her. Even when she and Ed on are on the lam and Ed is strategizing how to survive, Peggy blathers on about her latest self-improvement epiphany.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: The crimes take place in three different states and four different jurisdictions. Lou and Hank, being competent officers as well as family, are only to happy to work together. The Fargo PD play nice with the Minnesota State Troopers, but Ben Schmidt resists doing anything to upset the Gerhardts. In the final episodes, however, when the Rock County Sheriff, Minnesota State Troopers, Fargo Police Department and South Dakota State Troopers all must work together, friction comes to a boil, mostly due to the South Dakota Troopers insisting on running the show and making bad calls. When Lou objects to their handling of it, he's petulantly ejected from the state. Even when Lou stumbles on a murder scene, the troopers ignore his observations and kick him out.
  • Karma Houdini: After multiple episodes of murdering innocent bystanders, Ohanzee has managed to elude police capture at the end of the season. He'll eventually be killed by Malvo, but not before reigning as the head of the Fargo mob.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty:
    • Peggy and Ed skirt the edge of escape and justice for a majority of the season, but once they flee from the Sioux Falls massacre in "The Castle," Ed ends up dead and Peggy awaiting trial.
    • An interesting Subverted example ends up happening with Hanzee. As stated above, he ends up washing himself clean from any involvement in the crimes of the season in the finale "Palindrome". He also, however, adopts the fake identity of Moses Tripoli, who Malvo killed back in season one, so his ultimate fate is revealed to be Laser-Guided Karma.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Mike Milligan's long-awaited promotion to kingpin of the North Dakota underworld turns out to be nothing more than a dull nine-to-five job in a cramped office building.
  • Kitchen Sink Included: Peggy uses a loose sink to smash one of Dodd's men in the head.
  • Kosher Nostra: The Kansas City mob is an Ambiguously Jewish crime outfit. Many of the mobsters have Jewish mannerisms and drop Yiddish phrases, and the enterprise as a whole is noticeably businesslike and profit-driven, which is reminiscent of stereotypical Jewish avarice above all other concerns. This is complicated in Season Four, where it is revealed that the KC mob evolved from the Italian Mafia, and Joe Bulo was a member before their transition.
  • Last Chance to Quit: Lou offers this to the Blomquist couple in the closing minutes of "Fear and Trembling".
  • Late to the Party: Mike Milligan arrives a few minutes after the Sioux Falls Massacre has ended and wisely decides to just get into his car and drive off.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Hanzee sets up the Gerhardts to start a firefight with the South Dakota cops, hoping that both sides wipe each other out and he can then kill Ed and Peggy.
  • Literary Allusion Title:
  • Longing for Fictionland: Peggy convinces herself that her situation with Ed in "Palindrome" is just like a romantic movie she had recently seen, because if they were like the two lead characters, Ed would still want to be married to her.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: When Peggy hits him with her car, one of Rye's shoes flies off and ends up caught on a tree branch. Since Peggy drives off with him lodged in her windshield, the presence of the phantom shoe initially confuses Lou and Hank.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: In "Palindrome," Ed admits that while he still loves Peggy, their personalities and aspirations are too different for their marriage to work. Peggy's brain responds by hallucinating smoke coming through the vent so that she can pretend that their situation is like a movie she had recently watched with a similar setup where the heroine was saved from a perilous situation by the hero who wanted to be with her.

  • Made of Iron: The Gerhardt men are notoriously hard to kill.
    • In 1951, it apparently took 19 bullets to do in Dieter Gerhardt.
    • In 1979, his grandson Rye was beaten, stabbed, run over by a car, bled out for several hours, and still had enough strength left in him to attack Ed before finally being put down via yet another stabbing.
    • Dodd needs to be tasered with a cattle prod no less than three times before Peggy can be sure he is not getting up. He also withstands being stabbed multiple times and being hit in the back of the head with a fireplace tool before being taken down with a headshot by Hanzee.
    • Bear is shot in the head and twice in the chest, and still managed to almost strangle Lou to death. He's only stopped by the massive distraction of the UFO, at which point a shot to the head puts him down.
  • Magic Plastic Surgery: Hanzee is revealed to have changed his appearance between seasons one and two to become the head of the Fargo mob. Somehow, he was able to make himself a white, bearded man with crooked teeth.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • After last season's subtly Biblical themes, this season is more overtly sci-fi. UFOs and extraterrestrials are referred to by minor characters and the soundtrack; both Rye and Ohanzee Dent separately see strange bright lights in the sky outside the Waffle Hut. The latter even loses about two hours of time without realizing, judging by his pocket watch. And then a UFO shows up at the motel massacre.
    • Betsy has a vision of the future when she sleeps that is too accurate to be a normal dream.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Rye threatened the judge in the Waffle Hut, he told her it wasn't "one of those optional, check-A-or-B scenarios." Later, when Hank asks Peggy to explain why she continued driving after hitting Rye, she replied that it wasn't a test where you could check A or B.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: Mike Milligan wins the war against the Gerhardts, but his reward is a tedious desk job.
  • Mêlée à Trois: The Mob War escalates into a conflict between the Gerhardt family, the Kansas City Syndicate, and the state police (mainly Hank and Lou) who are trying to stop them both. This conflict is particularly complicated since the first two factions are trying to kill each other without killing any cops, since neither can handle dealing with police heat in the middle of a Mob War, and the police are likewise trying to avoid getting into a shootout with either side. Hanzee Dent exploits this to wipe out the Gerhardt family by tricking them into thinking a bunch of out-of-state cops not wearing their uniforms are Kansas City men holding Dodd hostage. It doesn't end well for either the Gerhardts or the police.
  • Minnesota Nice: Discussed and deconstructed by Mike Milligan, who claims that people in the Midwest are not really that nice, but are just very good at using politeness to disguise the fact that they are actually unfriendly and hostile to someone.
  • Mob War: One of the main plot points of the season is the fight between the Gerhardt Crime Family and the Kansas City Mafia. In the end, Kansas City wins because of Hanzee Dent's betrayal and the Gerhardts' internal strife. It culminates in the mythic Sioux Falls Massacre, and, with around 60 deaths total, has, as Lou said in Season 1, bodies stacked up to the second floor.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: Luverne, being in southwest Minnesota, is a prairie town in Real Life. The show, however, regularly portrays Luverne with lots of pine forests — a feature of the northeastern part of the state.
  • Mugging the Monster: A bunch of racist barflies in Sioux Falls try to pick a fight with Hanzee. A few minutes later, they, the bartender, and a pair of cops are dead or dying on the ground.
  • Mythology Gag: The Coen Brothers were inspired to make the original film by imagining a big book chronicling true crime in the Midwest. This season is revealed to be another story in just such a book, which is read by a narrator.
  • The Narrator: "The Castle" features excerpts from a Midwest true crime book being read over the action. Narrated by Martin Freeman, no less!
  • Never My Fault: The self-absorbed Peggy never takes responsibility for anything. When speaking of her hit-and-run, she only ever blames the victim for being in the road. In the end, she blames male patriarchy for all of her poor decisions instead of her own failings.
  • New Old West: Well, Midwest, but it borrows heavily from this genre. Lou and Hank are stoic but noble lawmen of the sort who would be played by John Wayne or Gary Cooper in a classic Western, the Gerhardts basically a frontier bandit gang complete with a Badass Native enforcer, the Kansas City mob are emblematic of the relentless march of civilization that eventually brought the Wild West to an end, and their conflict with the Gerhardts is practically a Genre Throwback to deconstructionist Westerns like The Wild Bunch.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The Judge was truly surprised when Rye pulled a gun on her.
    • Ed, Peggy, and Hanzee all have this reaction at the end of "Loplop", when they see Lou and Hank approaching the cabin.
  • Opening Monologue: Freeman's voice-over narration prefaces the penultimate episode.
  • Papa Wolf: (Ironically) Bear. He was really upset when he found out that Dodd sent his son to make the hit on the Butcher and then would stop at nothing to free him from jail. Ultimately, he gives in to reason when Karl convinces him that breaking him out will be much worse for him than letting him go to trial. It's obvious he does not want his son involved in the family business and will go to great lengths to make sure he accomplishes legitimate things. He also calls Simone out before he executes her for showing no concern for her cousin's situation.
  • Police Are Useless: Every cop except Lou and Hank are pretty useless. Ben and the Fargo police are too afraid of the Gerhardts to do anything about their criminal empire to be much good. The South Dakota cops are too obsessed with Jurisdiction Friction to listen to reason. When Lou calls in a murder, the South Dakota trooper who arrives ignores it and insists on following his previous orders to escort Lou out of the state.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Lou and Betsy have very conservative views on gender. Betsy tells Lou to feed more than what he had on fishing trips as a child because "she's a girl" and Lou's speech to Peggy at the end is subtly sexist, albeit not in a condescending way.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The cops at the motel in Sioux Falls turned off their radio, so Lou can't warn them of the Gerhardt family's approach.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: The trope is Zigzagged throughout.
    • It's played straight in episode 8 with Dodd who's shot through the head, and while the exit wound is bigger than the entry wound, it's a small clean hole through and through.
    • Episode 9 averts this with Bear, who's shot through the chin, and a good chunk of his skull is taken off when the bullet exits.
  • Product Placement: Whenever someone drinks a beer, it's a can of Miller Lite. Fittingly, the old branding used in 1979 was reintroduced by Miller in the 2010s.
  • Really Dead Montage: All the Gerhardts that died are shown in the opening of the 10th episode.
  • Riddle for the Ages: According to The Narrator, no one ever found out what caused Hanzee to betray the Gerhardts or even if it was a spur-of-the-moment decision or something that has been brewing for decades.
  • "Rise and Fall" Gangster Arc: Mike Milligan is a lieutenant for the Kansas City Mafia, sent to assist his boss Joe Bulo with handling the Gearhardt crime family. After Bulo's decapitation, Milligan seizes the reins and wades into a full-scale war with the Gearhardts. After he wins, he seems poised to rise in the organization... which never happens. Milligan's only reward is a tiny office and a 9-to-5 job.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Hank's office full of symbols. The reason is more eccentric than crazy: he's trying to create a more effective language based on pictures.
  • Running Gag: A series-wide one. In the first season, when things start turning bloody, Ben Schmidt says, "It's Sioux Falls all over again!" as a Noodle Incident. In this season, when things start turning bloody at Sioux Falls, Ben says, "It's Rapids City all over again!" as a Noodle Incident even further back in time.
  • Scary Black Man: Mike Milligan, who some early reviewers compared to Shaft.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: In "The Castle", the various cops talk about where the best place to piss is while playing poker.
  • The '70s: '79, to be precise. There are references to Jimmy Carter ("the peanut farmer"), Reagan's presidential campaign, and the gas crisis.
  • Shown Their Work: The Gerhardts are proud German-Americans, having left the Weimar Republic for America. Their home features what is apparently the Gerhardt family crest, which features the Bundesadler insignia, the black eagle featured in the German coat of arms, having been re-introduced by the Weimar Republic.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Ed Blomquist becomes this to most of the Gerhardt family because of Dodd's fabrications and his sheer luck. By the time Hank tries to explain to Floyd that "The Butcher of Luverne" is not a hitman, she's convinced he's some sort of Sleeper Agent.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: While Peggy delivers her Motive Rant to Lou, he shuts her up pretty quickly by stating firmly, "People are dead, Peggy."
  • A Simple Plan: Rye just wanted to extort the judge to get a few more bucks. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • The Blomquists' actions completely disrupt the plans of both the Gerhardt Family and the Kansas City Syndicate.
    • Hanzee's scheme to get Ed and Peggy derails the police, the Kansas City Mob, and the Gerhardts' plans.
  • Stealth Sequel: Aside from the obvious, non-stealthy ways in which this is a prequel to Season 1, Moses Tripoli, the boss of the Fargo syndicate, is the identity assumed by Hanzee Dent at the end of the season. He also has an encounter with Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench, who are children at the time.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Whenever Skip is giving his sales pitch for electric typewriters, he asserts, "They're not just for women anymore!"
  • Take That!: Reagan gets a pretty scathing representation. After asking Lou about his military service, Reagan starts recalling the war movies he filmed as if it's on the same level as Lou's experience. He also mixes up the details, foreshadowing his infamous memory lapses during his presidency. When Lou presses him on how he's going to fix the problems in the nation, Reagan just pats him on the shoulder and walks away without responding.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Dieter Gerhardt apparently took 19 bullets to the head in 1951.
  • This Is Going to Be Huge: Skip is trying to reopen his electric keyboard store and states confidently that they will soon be everywhere. Of course, we know now that personal computers were the real future of word processing. The Apple II series was already available to the public in 1979.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Peggy tells Ed she was a total mess after running down Rye and couldn't think straight. However, we see her being cool and collected as she cleans herself up and takes time to do regular chores.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: During the long-awaited Massacre at Sioux Falls, a Flying Saucer appears out of nowhere directly above them, and everyone drops what they're doing. Everyone except Peggy, who says, "It's just a flying saucer. Come on, Ed, we've gotta move!"
  • Verbal Tic: Lou says "Yup" when he spots a clue, as if confirming a suspicion he'd already formed.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: While this season isn't a "true story" any more than the film or first season, Peggy's hit-and-run is based on the murder of Gregory Glen Biggs. Lou also relates the real life story of Ba Van Nguyen's chinook rescue.
  • Wham Episode: "The Castle" depicts the infamous Sioux Falls Massacre, set up in season 1 and foreshadowed all season. But even that event of huge importance is almost completely overshadowed by the UFO descending above the massacre and being seen by Lou, Bear, Hanzee, Ed, and Peggy.
  • Wham Line:
    • In "Fear and Trembling", Constance mentions the seminar she and Peggy plan on attending is in Sioux Falls, which, according to Lou in Season 1 and foreshadowed throughout Season 2, becomes the site of a massacre.
    • In the season finale "Palindrome", Hanzee, having just received his new identity of "Moses Tripoli," tells his associate of his policy toward rivals, "Kill or be killed. Head in a bag. (in Sioux) That's the message." This reveals Hanzee to be the true identity of Mr. Tripoli, the Fargo boss Malvo kills back in season 1. When Tripoli is told that the killing of Sam Hess was likely personal and not related to the business, he responds with almost the same words.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • While Charlie's incarcerated, his final fate after is never shown as the season concludes.
    • Gale, the surviving Kitchen brother (the one with the red trench coat), is not seen after he and Mike Milligan stroll around the Gerhardt house and kill one of their hired thugs.
  • Your Mom: Lou, of all people.
    Mike Milligan: So, where'd you say you saw ol' Skip?
    Lou Solverson: At your mother's house. I think goin' in the back door.