The Significance of the UFO in Fargo Season 2

September last year saw the release of the fourth season of Noah Hawley’s hit TV show Fargo, with anticipation having reached fever pitch given over three years had passed since its third season. Game of Thrones fans never had to wait that long…though perhaps now they wish they had! Much like Game of Thrones’ disappointing final season, Fargo’s Season 4, according to audiences at least, failed to live up to the quality of its previous seasons, though I admittedly have yet to see it for myself.
Whatever the case, what does seem clear is that Season 4 is a notable departure from series norms (if you could call them that), not just in its execution and reception, but also in its shooting location.
This is the first season that is not shot in Alberta, or anywhere in Canada for that matter. Given its strong ties to the Canadian film industry, I ranked each season of Fargo last year, with Season 2 topping my list, where I praised every last element of what is an unforgettable masterpiece of television. To the bafflement of some, I even praised the execution of the season’s most divisive narrative element: the UFOs.
A user by the name of Pete inquired as to why I believe the presence of UFOs in Season 2 ultimately works, and midway through my response I realised that in order to answer that question, to truly justify what is, on paper, a pretty batshit concept, I would need to go way beyond the character count of our comments section. It is a tricky topic, one that has melted my brain on more than one occasion, but much like the raining fish in Season 1, it does not escape explanation…or, at least not within the logical boundaries Fargo sets for itself.
Don’t believe me? Then take it from Fargo’s creator and showrunner, Noah Hawley.
When asked by a fan at a 2016 Q&A to explain the inclusion of UFOs, Hawley initially dodged the question, saying that, like the aforementioned downpour of fish, “these things happen”, until House of Cards creator Beau Willimon, who shared the stage with him, pushed him for a more substantial answer. Hawley reluctantly elaborated, “Well, it was part of the moment. Post-Vietnam, it was that both the political paranoia and the conspiracy theories went all the way to the top — with Watergate; that sense that people were feeling paranoid on some level”, before going on to say that Fargo, by its nature, needs “those random, odd, truth-is-stranger-than-fiction elements.”
While this might not be the most satisfactory of answers, it is certainly a fair one, in that his narrative framing lends to the time period he was trying to encapsulate. Moreover, his clear hesitancy is quite understandable, given that attaching too much objective meaning to something like this removes much of its power, while failing to stimulate debate in the fan community. Heck, I would not even be writing this article if the answers were so black and white.
Nonetheless, for Pete, and likely his sanity, I will explain what I have taken away from Hawley’s use of UFOs in the series.
The one thing that is for certain about Season 2’s UFO phenomenon is that it is observing the ongoing actions of the central characters, but whether the consequences resulting from its two separate sightings by characters are intended is infinitely debatable. What is not debatable is the significance of its role in the narrative.
In the season’s opening episode, Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin), after murdering three people in a diner, is struck by Peggy Blumquist’s (Kirsten Dunst) car while distracted his brief UFO sighting, setting in motion the tragic series of events that would be the undoing of Peggy and her husband Ed (Jesse Plemons). This would ultimately lead to the violent encounter between the Gerhardts and police officials at Sioux Falls in the penultimate episode, which was frequently alluded to in Season 1. Here lies the second, more significant UFO encounter, and the source of most dispute.
In this instance, the UFO craft, in what is an unquestionably deliberate act, makes its presence known to all still alive at the Sioux Falls motel, bringing the bloodshed to a grinding halt. Season 2 spends a great deal of time ruminating on the brutal nature of violence being perpetrated throughout, and with the sudden appearance of a discernibly higher presence, the violence not only stops dead in its track, but it also renders the violence as utterly senseless on an unfathomably cosmic scale.
The question we should be asking, though, is why would the UFO make such a spectacle of itself there and then when it had previously gone to great lengths to remain a fly on the wall? To me, the answer is simple: it had enough of the violence. Fascination turned to exacerbation, and it used the most extreme nonviolent method at its disposal to express as much.
Of course, all this is purely objective. There is surely a thematic foundation somewhere here, and you would be right, but this also veers further into the realm of speculation in which Hawley would have us all reside.
Considering that the UFO makes its presence known with a great light beaming from the sky, while those present look up with a sense of awe and incomprehension, there is certainly something biblical to its appearance, which raises questions of divine intervention on some level. Is the UFO that has higher power, or is there something greater than that? Again, no answers are readily available, but what we can determine is that there are immense ramifications to its appearance, both narratively and thematically. This wholly deliberate act saves the life of the virtuous Lou Solverson, but ends the life of sinner Bear Gerhardt, all the while allowing the escape of Peggy and Ed, whose actions throughout the season were morally murky at best, but still earned their head start and a fighting chance against death incarnate, Hanzee Dent (Zahn McClarnon), who is beyond the confines of divine power.
Obviously, this is my own personal brand of speculation, and there are undoubtedly arguments to be made for and against my theories, which, again, all comes back to the way in which Hawley wants audiences to engage with his work.
What do you think of all this? Is there something I’m missing? Perhaps you have insights of your own. Be sure to let us know in the comments and help put Pete’s mind to rest.

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