“Fargo” (TV) Season 2: What On Earth Is All That UFO Stuff About?
Well, that was certainly meta.
As an aside — because I anticipate comments mentioning The Matrix — I have to say I hate how that particular (non-Coen) film became a douchebro manifesto. The idea in it was not new, not original, but perpetually intriguing: what if the whole world, with this life in it, is a constructed illusion? Can you deconstruct the illusion or escape it? Should you? Are there illusions-within-illusions, like Russian nesting dolls?
Now, imagine taking that thought experiment a step further and turning it on its head. Could it be that the events in a fictional story are on some level real, thrust into being simply by virtue of the story being told (or shown)? After all, the more you think about it (and even as you get into some aspects of science), what is or isn’t “real” seems increasingly like an elusive concept. And if fiction is “real,” then the author is a Creator, and fiction is history.
This is significant, because it goes back to the original Fargo joke about it being a true story and the TV series’ intense, obsessive insistence on the events depicted being true. This is dialed up to eleven in Season 2’s penultimate episode with its turgid mock-British narration and its reference to the story, for the first time, as not merely true, but as history. History is not simply something that really happened; in fact, it almost always is only a partial truth. Instead, it’s a product of selective memory and perspective; it becomes akin to The Odyssey and The Illiad, which the Ancient Greeks perceived as both truth and fiction simultaneously. History is part of an epic cycle that defines a particular place, gives it its character and personality.
It occurred to me after watching the first episode that the flying saucer is a comment on the voyeurism implicit in consuming fiction. We, the viewers (or the readers of that book on Midwest’s history of true crime) become unseen observers in every scene that’s shown to us. The book, with its childish pictures, is a vehicle, a primitive version of the flying saucer; but whether seen in a three-dimensional simulation of reality or a two-dimensional sketch, Ed and Peggy are being watched as they meander down the street of Luverne, arguing about money.
Episode 9 gives us a more definitive answer on what that alien ship is all about. There is a sticker inside the gas station convenience store whose owner Hanzee kills, that reads “The Future Is Here”. The Future. Not extraterrestrials. The alien ship is both the camera and the TV screen. The “aliens” are us.
But, you might ask, what about the fact that the ship intrudes into the story itself? Rye is killed, in part, because he’s distracted by the UFO. If the UFO did not hover so closely over the South Dakota motel at the critical moment, the shoot-out may have worked out differently. That is perfectly true — but then, historians too mold history, and it is at history’s most dramatic moments that the supposedly disinterested observers are most emotionally invested in the outcome.
Bonus, in appreciation for reaching the bottom of this lengthy comment: In the racist bar in Episode 8, where Hanzee finally loses it, weird hieroglyphic-like symbols appear in a string just underneath the ceiling. They are the same symbols that pepper Hank’s study. I guess white supremacists are into this whole Universal Language thing too — but in their case, the purpose is to promote hate and to decode what they believe are subhumans’ conspiracies against the White Race. (The Nazis were keenly interested in the occult and mysticism, including the mystic traditions of the very people they strove to exterminate.) Hank is, unfortunately, wrong. The problem behind man’s brutality to man isn’t simple miscommunication. More often than not, existential enemies understand each other perfectly well. No, the roots of violent conflict are greed and lust for power, and in the case of existential conflicts among large groups of people, a fundamental difference in values. Alas, none of that can be solved with pictograms.