Novelette Sale to Lightspeed

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I’m happy to announce that I just sold a novelette to Lightspeed! Keep an eye out for my dystopian mystery “An Inflexible Truth” sometime in the future.

To put it lightly, I’m stoked. Earlier this year, I published my first non-fiction piece at Lightspeed, and I’m beyond pleased that I’ll be making a fiction appearance there as well.

I tend to go a long time between sales, so I’m in serious celebration mode. I’ll let you know when it’s coming out, but in the meantime, please excuse my spontaneous funk dance!

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Novel: The Circle by Dave Eggers

circleGiven the quirky, unsettling nature of its worldbuilding, I suppose it’s appropriate I found something off about The Circle (2013) by Dave Eggers. It chronicles the journey of a young employee, Mae Holland, as she finds her way into the unique corporate culture of The Circle. A Big Data monolith in Silicon Valley, The Circle is basically Google: The Next Generation, easily the world’s most powerful company that has transformed the internet by rendering easier and more transparent. As Mae starts her modest new career in its Customer Experience department, it feels like a vast, shimmering Shangri-La of an ideal workplace, full of brilliant young co-workers and unimaginable luxury. But as Mae’s career progresses, she finds her very worldview challenged by The Circle’s cult-like community attitude toward the pursuit of knowledge, which accelerates inexorably toward an extreme goal: the utter eradication of privacy.

The Circle is certainly an interesting read. The thematic foundation of the novel is rock solid, and Eggers takes his idea and runs with it, extrapolating the “information wants to be free” cliche to its Orwellian extremes. It’s also a compelling read, more or less: Mae makes for an amusing viewpoint character through which to get acquainted with The Circle, which is a thinly veiled microcosm for data-hungry digital utopianism. Her experiences are entertaining, full of amusing encounters and personal struggles. Meanwhile the intriguing concepts of a sideways, slightly disturbing near future ricochet past her eyeballs.

That said, something about The Circle doesn’t quite work. Perhaps it’s Mae’s personality transformation, which seems artificially extreme to ensure the author’s point is made. Perhaps it’s the culture of The Circle, which seems far too homogenous in its zealous temperament and uniform mission — again, in service to the plot and theme. Indeed, on a broader level, perhaps it’s that the seams are showing: the motives of the characters, their decisions, the nature of the world-building are all tailored toward proving a particular point. This may be appropriate for a fantastical parable, which is a feel The Circle shoots for, but because the point is hammered home with such force, it comes across like a polemic…and as such, there’s not much surprise in its unfolding. The dark turns are telegraphed.

This hardly makes it unworthwhile, however. Eggers makes his point by getting deeply into the heads of its opponents — particularly through one of The Circle’s executives, Eamon Bailey, whose eloquent conversations with Mae about transparency are almost convincing enough to make the Kool-Aid she’s drinking go down smoothly. A gamified, quantified surveillance society almost sounds appealing, when it isn’t terrifying — and Eggers is determined to call our attention to how close we are to that already. It’s a terrific subject for a book, and Eggers certainly commits to it, executing with enthusiasm. But for me, anyway, The Circle treads awkwardly along the line between realistic extrapolation and comic exaggeration, lurching back and forth just enough to make me question the overall worldbuilding. Ultimately, somewhat questionable tactics undermine the important message.

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TV: Colony (Season 1)

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Not long ago I reviewed The Man in the High Castle and Occupied, two science fiction series that involve countries being taken over by occupying forces, for Lightspeed. In retrospect it’s a shame I wasn’t able to fold USA’s Colony into that review, because not only is it a perfect thematic fit, it does everything those two shows do, but better.

Taking place in a chilling near future, Colony depicts an Earth that’s been conquered and subjugated by a mysterious alien race. Few have seen the aliens, but their advanced technology is ubiquitous. Now, in the wake of a devastating invasion, they rule humanity with an iron fist, primarily through a hierarchy of human collaborators, who do their bidding in exchange for increased access to scarce goods and luxuries. The aliens, known as the “Raps,” have organized the surviving humans into strictly policed blocs, marking borders with enormous walls of weird alien tech. The collaborating Authority in each bloc is tasked with keeping law and order — and keeping the rabble in their place.

The show follows a married couple in the Los Angeles bloc, the Bowmans. Will (Josh Holloway) is a run-of-the-mill mechanic, and his wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies) is a former pub owner. Both are opposed to the new alien regime, which separated them from one of their three children, who is thought to be in the neighboring Santa Monica bloc. While they resent the human collaborators, they’re putting their family first and staying above the fray. But their neutrality is challenged when Will’s secret — that he used to be an FBI agent who specialized in tracking down fugitives — reaches the ears of the scheming proxy who runs the bloc, Alan Snyder (Peter Jacobson). Snyder pressures Will into working for him, promising a deal: if Will helps shut down the troublesome resistance cells within his bloc, Snyder will work to reunite him with his missing son. Reluctantly Will takes the deal, not realizing that Katie is a full-fledged member of the very resistance cell he’s targeting…and that his access to privileged information has made her an important resource to her fellow rebels.

Like The Man in the High Castle and Occupied, Colony is science fiction as political metaphor, exploring what seems to be a mounting fear in modern western society: the fear of occupation and subjugation by a foreign power. But Colony is far more interesting than High Castle, and its narrative is considerably more energetic and well structured than Occupied’s. Thanks to perfectly clocked writing and nuanced performances from Holloway and Callies, the show does a superb job of rendering sympathetic both sides of a thorny argument: how far is too far to go in the name of your ideals? Will’s pragmatism and compromise, as he works to limit violence within the bloc and rescue his son, is thoroughly understandable, but so is Katie’s disgust with the officious powers that be, and her drive to tear them down. Cleverly the ugly new reality the alien invasion has caused is actually a scary, exaggerated extension of the society we all live in now: one where a privileged elite live above it all (literally, here, in the “Green Zone” mountains north of LA), enjoying enormous power and wealth, while a huge, barely subsisting rabble lives under the thumb of a violent, oppressive police state. If you remove the alien element, the dark scenario is a chilling reflection of the present, commenting shrewdly on the ugly inequities of our systems. Do you throw in with the collaborators to protect your own, or roll the dice on resisting, and try to bring the oppressive system down? Those questions, to a less extreme degree, largely frame much of our present political debate; Colony takes them to the next level and explores them with intelligence argument.

In terms of production, Colony leverages a modest budget to exceptional effect, transforming its Los Angeles locations into a desolate, underpopulated war zone. Massive walls surround each bloc, shattered buildings blight the horizon, and deadly, frightening alien drones patrol the skies; great visual and sound effects go a long way to transform the footage and sell the future worldbuilding. But the true success of the show stems from strong writing and acting. Holloway continues to display his action hero chops, while Callies is exceptional as an increasingly committed, and yet conflicted, rebel. Both characters are faced with difficult decisions, tricky scenes where they’re forced to play both sides, and both actors do a terrific job enacting those internal struggles, words clashing with motives. There’s outstanding support, particularly from Jacobson, whose shifty villainy gradually reveals layers of complexity, and Carl Weathers, as Will’s lazy, likeable partner Beau.

I do have some reservations about Colony. There’s a creeping, subtle little subplot involving religion that raises red flags that a Lost– or Battlestar Galactica-style narrative implosion might be possible. (One of Colony’s creators is Lost scribe Carlton Cuse.) The show also makes some troubling decisions about which characters to kill off, when. Also, shows that rely this heavily on worldbuilding mythology can often lose their magic when more information comes to light — or lose their momentum when their stories are artificially extended. But so far, these potential pitfalls haven’t yet materialized, and this first season is a nicely clocked, gripping entertainment, successful both as thought-provoking science fiction and taut, suspenseful spy thriller.

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TV: The Night Manager

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Written in the wake of the Cold War’s end, at a time when the spy novel’s relevance was still in doubt, John le Carré’s 1993 novel The Night Manager takes as its subject the international arms trade. As such it proves that very relevance, spinning a timeless tale of greed and corruption that updates effortlessly to the modern era for the latest BBC adaptation of le Carré’s work.

The Night Manager follows the exploits of Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), a former British soldier who, as the story opens, serves as the night manager of a posh hotel in Cairo. Pine is drawn into international intrigue when a guest at the hotel, Sophie (Aure Atika) — who also happens to be the mistress of a ruthless local criminal — passes him incriminating documents about a major, illicit arms deal that may be targeted toward quashing the Arab Spring in Egypt. Pine’s efforts to tip off British intelligence and save Sophie meet with disaster. But years later, when working at a different hotel in Switzerland, Pine sees a way to redeem himself when the powerful, respected businessman behind the arms deal, Richard Onslow Roper (Hugh Laurie), checks into his hotel. Reaching out to the director of a minor British enforcement agency named Angela Burr (Olivia Colman), Pine embarks on an elaborate operation to take down Roper, whose ruthless, avaricious opportunism spreads misery all across the planet.

The Night Manager is a first-rate, beautifully shot production running to six episodes, and fans of the spy genre will find more than enough to relish in its stunning international scenery, taut suspense, and involved plotting. Hiddleston is quite accessible as the inscrutably charming Pine, but far more interesting is the viper’s nest of shady characters into which he inserts himself — especially, of course, Laurie, who couldn’t be more properly cast as a devious leader of industry who also happens to be something of a debonair sociopath. But there’s also Roper’s conflicted mistress Jed (Elizabeth Debicki), suspicious right-hand man Corky (Tom Hollander, in a spirited outing), and more posh villainy contributing to the intrigue. And then in Pine’s corner is Angela Burr, brought to scrappy life by Olivia Colman. Burr spearheads the intelligence world’s assault on Roper, whose secret connections in the British and American establishment turn her struggle into a David versus Goliath battle of wits.

Helmed confidently by Susanne Bier, The Night Manager is a lavish, well clocked entertainment that holds up among the best spy series of recent years, rating right alongside The Honourable Woman. Le Carré’s novels continue to translate powerfully to the screen; here’s hoping the trend continues.

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Novel: Version Control by Dexter Palmer

Until now, I’ve never had so much difficulty writing about something I absolutely loved. But in the case of Dexter Palmer’s Version Control (2016), I suppose that’s only thematically fitting. Imagining all the different ways this review could go, faced with infinite possibilities, I’ve been afflicted by a paralysis of choice. Well, I’ve finally found my way into the review, so I guess you’ll have to settle for it — meaning, the review I wrote in this reality. But I’m sure the versions I wrote in alternate timelines are similarly effusive, because this is a magnificent science fiction novel.

Version Control enlivens a pair of classic SF tropes — time travel and alternate worlds — with an inventive, insightful near-future backdrop. It chronicles the experiences of Rebecca Wright, a woman whose marriage to quirky physicist Philip has been challenged by a tragedy from which she’s still recovering. The day-after-tomorrow scenario Rebecca lives in is a vivid, next-gen iteration of our present, where technological change has blurred the very nature of reality. It’s a world rife with shifty social networking interactions, artificial intelligence constructs so real they almost pass for human, and world-shaping statistical manipulation by the Big Data industry. That’s one layer of the “versioning” going on in the novel’s metatext, but there’s also Philip’s experiment: the creation of a “causality violation” device, which may be subtly, strangely revising history. While it doesn’t appear that Philip’s time travel experiments are working at first, there may be more going on than can be perceived…and it’s Rebecca who may ultimately  be the unlikely key to proving Philip’s theories and revealing the true nature of the multiverse.

Version Control is one of those huge, heavy novels full of robust paragraphs, and it looks like a daunting read at first, but I practically flew through it on the strength of its humor, heart, sharp insight, and nifty concepts. Palmer populates his narrative with tangents and digressions and color, largely in the name of exploring ideas and theme, which will no doubt read as over-writing to certain readers. I’m not one of them: the well-drawn characters and their involved conversations, set against this eye-poppingly imagined futuristic backdrop, are highly entertaining and often fascinating, so much so that I learned to trust Palmer’s instincts whenever he wandered away from the beats of his greater plot. And as the early sections of the novel, which code like a Black Mirror-esque reflection on the world-shaping technological challenges of our present, give way to the latter stages, where the causality violation premise becomes mindbendingly literal, Palmer’s grand strategy pays off. This isn’t a novel strictly about fraught decision points and major life changes; it’s also about the day-to-day, about simply getting through, about wonder and and regret and hope and fear and potential. Life is full of speculation on past decisions and future outcomes, and that theme is encoded into Version Control‘s winding, thoughtful passages, its quiet moments and its “throwaway” scenes. The cumulative effect is remarkably thought-provoking.

Science fictionally, the minutiae is just as engaging as the high-concept, sense of wonder premise. Palmer’s future is a compelling blend of just-around-the-corner speculation and Philip K. Dickian irreality, which would have been more than enough to sell me. But this is also a novel about the past, and about now…the novel is concerned, much as the characters are, with fear and hope and possibility. This creates a a powerful, dramatic resonance  — a nice bonus, layered as it is atop neat skiffy details and witty humor and likeable characters and heartfelt sentiment. Version Control was, for me, an impulse purchase that practically leaped off the shelf into my hands — and I pity the alternate versions of myself who didn’t get to read it, because it’s an absolute triumph.

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TV: Grace and Frankie (Season 2)

325440id1_GraceAndFrankie_S2_24w_x_26h_4b4p_1200.inddSeason one of Grace and Frankie is kind of like 7-Up: easy enough to drink, sort of blandly refreshing. Its mix of progressive subject matter, familiar sitcom shenanigans, and focus on elderly protagonists combine to inspire warmth, if not passion. Fortunately, in season two the writers stir in some whiskey, adding more flavor and kick, and making everything a touch funnier. It makes for a considerably improved, much more satisfying show.

At the center of the show’s premise is the shock of betrayal: the fact that the husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) of two women (Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin) were secretly having a twenty-year love affair behind their wives’ backs. The show does well to put that shock behind it in season two, which allows it to lean into the complicated new camaraderie of its female leads. Fonda’s stuck-up, buttoned-down Grace has the more fraught and interesting journey this year, as her divorce forces her to come to terms with her distorted perception of herself over the years — not to mention her reliance on alcohol and an unresolved romance with old flame Phil (Sam Elliott). Fonda brings her A game, providing more manic energy and dramatic heft to the stage. But as Frankie, Tomlin drives some of the more broadly comic storylines, especially her deal with Grace’s daughter Brianna (June Diane Raphael) to market a yam-based vaginal lube to the family cosmetics company. It’s the kind of zany conflict that wouldn’t be out of place in seventies sitcoms, but the jokes land more frequently, giving the quirky dysfunctional family more chances to shine. Waterson, Raphael, and Baron Vaughn (as one of Frankie’s adopted sons, Bud, who serves as the exasperated family peacemaker) all stand out with some exceptional deliveries this year.

Structurally, Grace and Frankie isn’t exactly changing the face of television comedy, but it does refreshingly serve an under-represented demographic with heart, humor, and honesty, and I’m glad I stuck around to watch it improve.

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Novel: Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet

It’s tempting to say Lydia Millet’s done it again with her novel Sweet Lamb of Heaven (2016), but that wouldn’t be entirely true. She’s written a differently great book: just as lyrical and haunting, but angrier, more despairing, and much more tightly wound. It’s a taut and disturbing psychological thriller tinged with existential horror, and it packs a mean punch.

It chronicles the ordeal of Anna, a thirtysomething woman who, with her young daughter Lena, leaves an ill-fated marriage when it becomes clear that her calculated, philandering husband Ned has no interest in her or in fatherhood. From Alaska she flees to the coast of Maine, where she takes refuge in a modest motel populated by curious, lonely characters with whom she develops a quirky rapport. This peaceful, transient life doesn’t last, however. When Ned decides to run for political office, he needs to rewrite his public narrative, and that includes having a subservient wife and smiling daughter by his side. Ned’s angling selfishness soon reveals itself as dangerous sociopathy, and Anna’s new friends may not be an adequate line of defense against what he has in store for her.

Millet has long been an astute critic of the American zeitgeist’s uglier aspects, but usually lightens her insights with snarky, smart humor. By contrast, Sweet Lamb of Heaven is unmitigated: tense, disturbing, and laced with creeping menace. It opens quietly, beautifully, as she invests the reader in Anna’s plight and Lena’s charms, but as Ned becomes more and more present in the story — even offstage, he oozes threat — the story turns into a gut-wrenching tale of suspense. It’s a convincing depiction of a psychologically abusive relationship, the kind of narrative you power through in the hopes the protagonist will experience some kind of relief. But above that layer of personal oppression is another, political one: Ned is emblematic of the corruption and money and callous power dynamics that drive American government, and the more he leverages his clout against Anna, the more horrifying it gets. It’s a piercing metaphor for political helplessness, and Millet leans into it with an unusually fierce despair.

Which isn’t to say there isn’t hope: there is, and it’s emotionally sustaining. It comes through the novel’s unexpected genre element, a kind of magic realist connection between Anna and her oddball companions that adds another layer of surreal mystery to the proceedings. This element is understated but masterful, infusing the world with a mesmerizing ambience in the vein of Philip K. Dick. It gives the novel heart, and ultimately contributes to satisfying, brow-mopping closure.

I’ve been singing Millet’s praises for years now, but this may be her most impressive work to date: a sharp, thematically rich, nerve-wracking read that smolders with suspense and blazes with insight.

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Novel: iD by Madeline Ashby

Madeline Ashby’s iD (2013) is the idea-filled sequel to her first Machine Dynasty novel, vN, and it’s another kinetic, transgressive, and mind-expanding read. As it begins, rogue Von Neumann machines Amy and Javier have taken refuge on their own private island, where they’ve created a sanctuary for human-like machines from a world increasingly hostile to them. Unfortunately there are malicious forces at work, and when the island comes under attack, Javier must go on the run, both to save Amy, and to save all vN from the cold-hearted plans of their human adversaries.

Ashby writes vivid, fast-paced prose that’s also fearless and edgy, and those qualities speed iD along its way. Underlying the inventive action is thoughtful speculation on the possible consequences of cavalierly integrating lifelike robots into society, asking penetrating questions the way I wish the show Humans, for example, had done more frequently. Javier’s programming and lack of free will lead him down dark, exploited paths, making him a particularly sympathetic protagonist, and Ashby isn’t afraid to shine bright lights on the more disgusting proclivities of her human villains. Alas, the plot occasionally lacks smooth cause and effect, leading to confusing transitions, but ultimately the vigorous narrative energy, the skiffy invention, and the deft handling of big ideas carried this one home for me, leaving me hungry for more of the author’s work.

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TV: River

RiverIt’s not often I’ll watch a great season of television only to hope it doesn’t get renewed. But that’s precisely my reaction to River, a grim but endearing British crime series that ends so perfectly that to extend it further would do it a disservice. It’s the story of Detective Inspector John River (Stellan Skarsgård), a peculiar but effective London police officer who has a high clearance rate…and who speaks regularly to the voices in his head. River’s mental illness makes life a challenge in the best of times, but these times are worse than usual: his partner Jacqueline “Stevie” Stevenson (Nicola Walker), who for many years helped him cope with his condition, was murdered right in front of him. River’s obsessed with solving the mystery of her death, but with his judgement impaired by grief and his condition more exposed than usual, he may not last long enough in his job to realize that goal. However with the patient help of his new partner Ira (Adeel Akhtar), his superior Chrissie (Lesley Manville), and his therapist Rosa (Georgina Rich), he transcends his issues to delve into Stevie’s past to unearth the circumstances that led to her grizzly end — all while visions of her, and of other dead people, haunt his every waking moment.

River is based largely around the visual spectacle of its protagonist having conversations with dead people — an idea that goes back at least as far as other shows that deal with grief, like Six Feet Under and Rescue Me. But writer/creator Abi Morgan seems more mindful of the mental health issues involved than most, and handles River’s plight sensitively. River’s not a great detective because he’s ill, but despite it, and his journey is very much one of coping with a condition, a struggle greatly intensified by grief. It’s a unique look at the plight of an outsider, and there’s another layer to that; River’s an immigrant. Even though he’s lived in London for most of his life, his Swedish upbringing informs his view of the world — and adds another layer of uncomfortable pretense to his existence. He doesn’t belong, and knows he doesn’t belong, and sees the world — and ultimately the case — in a different light because of it. All these circumstances combine in a penetrating character study.

But it’s also an absorbing mystery. Stevie’s brutal death, replaying mercilessly on CCTV footage throughout, is worthy of a trigger warning, but the script brilliantly builds intrigue around that horrible moment. Even as we’re getting to know River, we’re getting to know Stevie…but only through River’s visions and recollections. Her mysterious death has filled him with doubts, and he’s not sure he’s imagining the real Stevie, or creating uncomfortable new versions of her.

It makes for gripping viewing, the intelligently detailed script enhanced by terrific performances from the two leads. Skarsgård’s subdued, touching persona is ingratiating, and Walker provides lively, winning support; together they share an entrancing chemistry that only grows as the mystery progresses. Their relationship in particular is worth the price of admission, sad and bleak, but also charming and beautiful. And River’s search for closure ends on just the right note: hopeful, but realistic, and very, very satisfying.

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TV: Fargo (Season 2)

fargo 2Season one of Fargo was damn near a comic noir masterpiece, but it turns out this show has another gear, and season two shifts right the hell into it. Journeying back to the late 1970s, it delves into the past of the Solverson family to further flesh out the complex criminal landscape of the series’ bizarre world. The results are explosive, and evolve the show into a decades-spanning chronicle of legendary “false crime,” a sideways secret history of the upper midwest.

In season one, retired policeman Lou Solverson (Keith Carradine) makes several dark references to a traumatic, violent series of long-ago events in Sioux Falls. Season two dramatizes these events, which turn out to be even bloodier and stranger than he ever intimated. The primary conflict involves the Gerhardt family, a minor organized crime operation controlling distribution from their modest Fargo HQ. The Gerhardt criminal empire has lasted for decades, but their territory is jeopardized when patriarch Otto (Michael Hogan) has a stroke. Left to keep the business running are his wife Floyd (Jean Smart) and three sons: the raging Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan), the simmering Bear (Angus Sampson), and the runt of the litter, Rye (Kieran Culkin). As if losing Otto weren’t enough, the Gerhardts are about to be confronted by the Kansas City mafia — represented by enforcer Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) — who want to absorb their business. Their struggle is further complicated by Rye’s ill-fated attempt to prove himself: taking on a solo mission to intimidate a judge, he sets loose a bloody chain of events that entangles the saddest married couple of all time, Peggy and Ed Blumquist (Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons). As the mayhem escalates into all-out war between vying criminal organizations, the law enforcement mess falls largely to young Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson, doing an exceptional job channeling Carradine’s character) and his father-in-law Hank Larsson (Ted Danson).

As with the previous season, Fargo’s second year is a gripping, brilliantly suspenseful, bloody spectacle, mitigating its pitch-black subject matter with incongruous humor and the kind-hearted behavior of its heroes — in this case, Solverson, Larsson, and their created family, which includes Lou’s stoic wife Betsy (Cristin Milioti) and a boozing local barrister, Karl Weathers (Nick Offerman, in brilliant comic form). The masterful world-building continues here as well, the first season’s legacy given additional color by the period detail: the specter of Viet Nam hangs over the proceedings, even as the Reagan era looms, and these greater circumstances inform both the characters and the themes.

And it’s thematically, I think, that season two rises above its predecessor. The first season often felt like standard antihero fare, glorifying the exploits of its criminal element. While that sense doesn’t entirely vanish in season two, it feels like part of a greater tapestry, a more thorough social critique. If season one examined the criminal hiding inside us, season two is more interested in the environment that inspires that criminal urge: the circumstances that reward corruption, the value systems that encourage me-first attitudes, striving for notoreity, and the desperate need to win at all costs. This is most noticeable in the tragically clueless Blumquist couple, but also in the aspirations of the criminals. By critiquing the greedy, economic empire-building of the Gerhardts and the Kansas City mob, Fargo is also critiquing the American dream — a dream that, at this point in history, is about to be irrevocably mutated by Reaganism. If that message is occasionally on the nose in the season finale, it still moves the show into strong new thematic territory.

Season two also addresses another of my complaints: it provides strong, memorable female characters. Aside from Dunst’s ditzy, accidental criminal and Smart’s steely mob boss, season two gives us Milioti’s Betsy, struggling to cope with a bleak cancer diagnosis; Dodd’s treacherous daughter Simone (Rachel Keller); Peggy’s closeted lesbian friend Constance (Elizabeth Marvel); and Ed’s teenaged bookworm co-worker Noreen (Emily Haine). The women have more agency and depth, and the sexism that felt like accidental subtext in season one is called out and addressed. Yes, the playing field is still tilted male, driven largely by the violent subject matter; but the improvement is significant.

Be forewarned: this season of Fargo is an intense bloodbath. But it’s also a gripping, powerful, darkly funny entertainment full of propulsive narrative, confident filmic craft, and at least one brilliant WTF moment. Proving Fargo has more and different types of stories tell, season two builds impressively on the franchise legacy, and has pushed the series well up the charts on my all-time favorites list.

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