Over the course of Fargo’s second season on FX, central characters Ed and Peggy Blomquist have seen their lives dramatically interrupted. They began this cycle of episodes as, respectively, a butcher and a hairdresser. In short order and through extraordinary circumstances, they find themselves disposing of dead bodies and dodging both cops and gangsters alike. What does it all mean in the grand scheme of things? In a fascinating blog post called “Fargo, Camus, And Existing In An Absurd World,” writer Lynn Cinnamon posits that Ed and Peggy are facing the main challenge posed by existentialism: living a meaningful, satisfying life while accepting that death is inevitable and that humans are powerless to stop it.
Although existentialism has always been a part of the Fargo franchise, going back to the 1996 film by Joel and Ethan Coen, this season of the television show has introduced philosophy to the mix very directly in the form of Emily Haine’s character, Noreen Vanderslice, a young cashier who reads Camus behind the counter and advises coworker Ed to just kill himself and get it over with. But, as Lynn Cinnamon points out, even disaffected Noreen is forced to “cling to the bits of meaning that sustain her: flirting, religion, a will to survive and a basic reverence for the lives of others.”
Meanwhile, the pervasive violence and chaos of the series have arguably made the Blomquists’ marriage stronger, since they now have to “conspire together as the situation escalates, with present threats giving them an immediate goal.” Other Fargo characters have their own Sisyphean ordeals and their own struggles for meaning. In his relentless search for answers, cop Lou Solverson confronts candidate Ronald Reagan in a men’s room, only to hear more empty rhetoric. And Lou’s wife, Betsy, who has cancer, “is facing up to her death quietly and pragmatically.” For viewers who want to brush up on their existentialism, Fargo is a great place to start.