What do Fargo’s Episode Titles Mean? (Season Two)

I’ve received quite a few comments requesting a season 2 update. There is already a short and dirty description on Reddit, but I’ve written my own longer version down below. While Season one’s title meanings revolved around riddles, season two is drawn from Modernist literature and art. I just realized that Season 2 is available on Amazon so I’ll be periodically updating the descriptions below as I belatedly work my way through the series.

Fargo: Season 1 is now available on Amazon. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you definitely should!

Episode List

Season Two
Episode 1: Waiting for Dutch
Episode 2: Before the Law
Episode 3: The Myth of Sisyphus

Episode 1: Waiting for Dutch

Waiting for Dutch is a reference for Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot (spoiler alert: Godot never shows up and the two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain. Dutch is a nickname for Ronald Reagan, who coincidentally also fails to show up. His father gave him the nickname soon after he was born, because he looked like “a fat little Dutchman.” Reagan has also said that his father gave him the nickname because of the popular “Dutch boy” haircut, that his mother gave him when he was a toddler.

It may also be a reference to the Coen Brother’s film Raising Arizona. Nicholas Cage’s character, H.I. McDunnough, says, “Better hurry it up, I’m in dutch with the wife.” Dutch is used as slang for trouble here.

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Episode 2: Before the Law

Before the Law” (German: “Vor dem Gesetz”) is a parable contained in the novel The Trial (German: Der Prozess), by Franz Kafka.

A man from the country seeks the law and wishes to gain entry to the law through an open doorway, but the doorkeeper tells the man that he cannot go through at the present time. The man asks if he can ever go through, and the doorkeeper says that it is possible but “not just yet” (“jetzt aber nicht”). The man waits by the door for years, bribing the doorkeeper with everything he has. The doorkeeper accepts the bribes, but tells the man that he accepts them “so that you do not think you have failed to do anything.” The man does not attempt to murder or hurt the doorkeeper to gain the law, but waits at the door until he is about to die. Right before his death, he asks the doorkeeper why even though everyone seeks the law, no one else has come in all the years. The doorkeeper answers “No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it.”

Oddly enough, Before the Law was published in Kafka’s lifetime in a weekly, but The Trial, a novel that contains the parable, was only published after his death.

Episode 3: The Myth of Sisyphus

In Greek mythology Sisyphus was a king, who was punished by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, repeating this action for eternity. And before you feel too sorry for Sisyphus, he was a cunning jerk who murdered people in such a way to evade punishment and also tried to cheat death by locking up Hades (or Thanatos in other versions) in the underworld.

Wikipedia notes that

The maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for King Sisyphus due to his hubristic belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus himself. Zeus accordingly displayed his own cleverness by enchanting the boulder into rolling away from King Sisyphus before he reached the top which ended up consigning Sisyphus to an eternity of useless efforts and unending frustration. Thus it came to pass that pointless or interminable activities are sometimes described as Sisyphean.

Albert Camus, in his 1942 essay The Myth of Sisyphus, saw Sisyphus as personifying the absurdity of human life and re-cast him as an absurdist hero.

Søren Kierkegaard saw the myth as pertaining to anything a person loves too much: “It is comic that a mentally disordered man picks up any piece of granite and carries it around because he thinks it is money, and in the same way it is comic that Don Juan has 1,003 mistresses, for the number simply indicates that they have no value. Therefore, one should stay within one’s means in the use of the word “love.” Friedrich Welcker suggested that he symbolizes the vain struggle of man in the pursuit of knowledge.

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