Fri. Feb 3rd, 2023
Minnesota street lights are simply captivating.

Minnesota street lights are simply captivating.

FX

Warning: This piece contains minor spoilers for several episodes of the show.

By now everyone knows from Fargo famous disclaimer: “This is a true story.” The 1996 Coen Brothers classic begins the same way as every episode of the TV series that inspired FX, but only because something is WHERE doesn’t mean it can’t get a little blurry or downright weird. And the currently-ongoing season two plays with pop culture’s favorite idiosyncrasy: aliens. UFOs, technically.

Once again, were there UFOs in the penultimate episode of this season last Monday? The cop (Lou Solverson, played by Patrick Wilson), the villain (Angus Sampson as Bear Gerhardt), and everyone in between certainly seemed to stop mid-fire to stare at something, but only the beautician overhead (Kirsten Dunst as Peggy Blumquist) said it all, “It’s just a flying saucer, honey.” This is the same person who hallucinated a Lifespring coach in her basement a week earlier.

Fargoof course not a true story. The people are made up, the intercity travel times are made up, the Midwest accents exaggerated. But part of what makes the current season a great one is that the brand of aliens feels different. Instead of having scientific or nefarious purposes or creature-like appearances, from Fargo aliens are… a mystery. That makes this season the most realistic depiction of alien life in pop culture to date.

A dose of reality

Fargo S2 is set in the late 1970s around Luverne, Minnesota. And this time and place is a huge reason for his alien success. One of the most famous real-life UFO sightings in the United States occurred in exactly the same setting, when a sheriff deputy named Val Johnson saw a strange light and crashed his service vehicle near the Minnesota-North Dakota border in 1979. The excellent Minnesota Public Radio’s Aw Jeez podcast recently caught up with Johnson, and to this day he somehow refuses to say whether he encountered an alien that night. He will only describe the incident:

“I saw this very bright light in the distance – maybe a semi with engine trouble or a plane struggling to land on a straight stretch of road… after I accelerated to investigate the situation, the light came near me in the car and it hit me like a 200 pound pillow.” (Johnson woke up 30 minutes later in a ditch.)

The car is now in a local culture museum (labeled “UFO car”), and this incident remains one of “the top 10 most influential UFO encounters in history,” according to the author of The UFO Encyclopedia. That’s because both are talked about and has physical evidence that can be examined, including the damaged car, Johnson’s injuries, and strange details, such as the coincidence that his watch and car clock were both 14 minutes behind. (We tried to contact the Hynek Center for UFO Studies, a Chicago research team investigating the Johnson case, for this piece. They were harder to reach than extraterrestrial life.)

Even if Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley doesn’t borrow directly from the Johnson saga, it’s an undeniable influence. This entire season kicks off when the youngest son of a crime syndicate sees an unusual light and is hit by a car experiencing the same thing. And in a subsequent episode investigating this crime scene, a light flashes and pushes the Mafia detective (an American Indian named Hanzee Dent, played by Zahn McClarnon) to look at his pocket watch. Time sped up strangely.

“In a year or two after that Star Wars and Close encounters came out, and after Watergate, a lot of that late ’70s paranoia was about feeling watched and not even being able to trust the sky,” Hawley said. The Hollywood Reporter. He also repeated this feeling at Hitfix. “The idea is that the American story was so complicated in 1979 after Watergate and Vietnam and there’s this conspiracy mentality, which turned out to be true. Conspiracy went all the way to the top and there were layers within layers, and it really fueled the idea that we can’t trust anything and that we’re being watched.” So it can’t be one WHERE story, but it is definitely based on reality.

It’s all in the atmosphere

That’s probably why, to date with only one episode left, no one has actually done that seen up a stranger Fargo. After all, real life observations are just that, observations. An eyewitness sees something, but usually can’t confirm exactly what, and supporting evidence is simply not available. Stephen Hawking (no magic carbon layers) may suggest the possibility of extraterrestrial existence, but many people firmly believe that these situations on Earth are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. For example, the Welsh government responds to such questions in Klingon.

Fargo seems to be aiming for this. The show is a crime story, not science fiction. As such, it can’t introduce little green men without abruptly knocking the audience out of the show’s universe to say “WTF?” Call it the Signs problem, as that movie similarly built up a level of creepiness and suspense during its first two acts before showing a physical alien manifestation that ruined the movie for some.

If you don’t go show aliens, however, it takes more than a few lens flares to get the point across. This is true Fargo has really excelled – it has created an atmosphere where there is the possibility of the paranormal feels real.

The Fargo universe is famously quirky and full of non-essential but “true” events (think Mike Yanagita in the movie). Hawley carefully laid breadcrumbs of alien life from the start; just enough for plausibility, but not so much to turn into sci-fi. For starters, there was the soundtrack. In an episode early in the season, dialogue from The War of the Worlds is read aloud about two characters disposing of a body. And the first two songs Hawley requested for his series, according to MPR music supervisor Marguerite Phillips, were the not-so-subtle “Children of the Sun” and “The Eve of the War.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgIuUyAUxaw

The earliest character to acknowledge extraterrestrial life was also painted like many real spotters – or so it seemed only off a bit. A man at a gas station tells Solverson about these visitors in episode three, speaking in a weird pentameter unlike anything before or since in the series.

“Some round, some oval…circular patterns, unnatural. Floating in the air, they only come in the odd months, the visitors, always in sets of three. One night like that was two nights gone,” Mankato reports to Vermillion. above, some say they take you to the ship and examine you in places you don’t want to name, I think their purposes are more auspicious, as caretaker of the zoo. Strange happenings happen, they are close by.”

(And since main characters seemingly have encounters, most deny and refuse to acknowledge anything. Only Peggy Blumquist has said anything out loud at this point in the season.)

Still, the real piece of resistance has probably been the otherworldly kinks in the margins of the show. Thematically, existentialism comes up again and again. A shopkeeper reads Camus, episode titles refer to Sisyphus. All of this plays into big questions where aliens pop up, namely what is the purpose of life and is there anything else.

For the non-philosophical majors, there are also physical references to extraterrestrial life. Solverson’s daughter draws a picture of her family, but when a coffee cup is placed on it, the sun’s coffee stain suddenly turns into a UFO. Local convenience stores have “We Are Not Alone” stickers on the wall and sell local newspapers stating “Satellite registration begins in Antarctica”. (The store notes unusually warm weather, as this record keeping has helped show climate change over time, but Antarctica has also become a hotbed for alleged extraterrestrial activity with “evidence” via satellite imagery.) And we catch a quick glimpse of Solverson’s fellow cop/father-in-law’s lair, which appears to be an entire room dedicated to decoding some sort of alien language.

Perhaps best of all, the spatial backdrop perfectly mirrors what happens in this season’s human storylines. So far, the crazy guy from the gas station has really been right about all UFO events (if they’re real, of course) – they’re not good or bad, they’re just outsiders affecting this community. And from the only black employee of the Kansas City mafia to the Minnesota cop who works in North Dakota, the American Indian tracker to the suburban housewife involved in big mischief, this season is driven by outsiders who are no good. or be bad. It’s a fitting and even more compelling idea, as daily NPR reports remind us of a “Western world concerned about outsiders.”

In total, the alien content within this season is from Fargo probably a total of less than 15 minutes of screen time. But hints of it have flavored the entire storyline and sparked many sleuthing Reddit threads (my favorite is this one centered around a YouTube clip showing a supposed alien in the Blumquist basement from episode one). Anyone can put some space creatures in their story, it takes a lot more research and care to get the Fargo route. Don’t know the series is much better for it.

By akfire1

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