Let’s Talk About the Aliens on ‘Fargo’

As the show wrapped up its second season, we look back at one of the strangest things to happen.

If you blinked you may have missed the opening shot in Fargo’s penultimate episode that hinted at the aliens to come. The camera focused on a pair of keys hanging below a bumper sticker that read “We Are Not Alone.” It seemed innocuous enough, but anyone who has seen the anthology series that focuses on small Midwestern towns and the horrific fictional crimes that occur there knows that nothing in any shot is accidental.

Although that episode picks up where the groundwork for aliens was first laid eight episodes back, it flows seamlessly. If you recall, the war between crime families began because Rye Gerhart was distracted by lights in the sky, lights that would cause him to be hit with a car and set the entire conflict into motion. We finally have an explanation for what those lights were as the highlight of this season exploded onto our screens. While the Gerharts and the rest of the cast do battle at a seedy motel, the only thing stopping them is a UFO emerging out of the darkness. It is only through this act of sheer luck and absurdity that Peggy and Ed Blumquist are able to escape the fray unharmed. At first, it seemed like this was just a random plot device the showrunners were using to throw audiences through a loop, but then again, this has always been a show that relies on luck to keep characters alive.

For instance, it’s only been because of luck that Peggy and Ed have survived this far into the season. In the previous episode, it was only luck that allowed the police to save them in time after Peggy betrayed Hanzee and stabbed him with her cutting shears. It’s through sheer luck that any of the characters barrel into each other in this narrative like they do. And in a show that explores how deep the consequences of one’s actions run, aliens seemed like a plot device thrown in to remind us even more firmly and randomness and fragility of life.

But perhaps there is a more literary explanation for aliens cropping in a show that is solely rooted in the gritty realness of power, both the people who have it and the men who try and take it. Throughout the season we’ve witnessed the mental devolution of every character. From the small-town cop who becomes entangled in a grisly battle, to the homely couple who are just trying to self-actualize, these humans become undone by their own hands; perhaps the aliens represent the solid break in their humanity. It’s the final culmination of the bloodshed and how it affected their psyches. In the episode’s finale, the characters face a massive shootout with an incomprehensible body count. With the arrival of the aliens, which had previously only been alluded to, it announced the finality of the characters’ break with reality. Finally they are realizing that what they have set into motion is bigger than themselves. And, after all, isn’t the biggest fear that aliens are out that that we may not be as important to ourselves and the universe as we thought?

On Monday night, Fargo’s second season came to a close with the “Palindrome,” an episode that opened with those mysterious and luminous aliens casting light on the bodies of the previously fallen. The idea of insanity does come back into play, though, with Peggy believing a building is on fire — although in reality, it’s perfectly intact. It’s later revealed that she suffered a psychotic break after being chased down by Hanzee and losing her husband — but this can’t explain away aliens that the entire cast witnessed.

If there is an overt reason that the Fargo creators put aliens into their well-crafted and highly polished television show it is this: to remind the characters that they’re finite, and to remind us that there is nothing in this world keeping us alive besides the randomness of the universe.