Seeing Cinema in a New Light: Criticism, Essays and Observations about Classic Cinema

1990s Movies, Crime Drama, Film Criticism and Analysis, Overrated

Why Very Few People Got the Mike Yanagita Plot Point in Fargo (1996)

Mike Yanagita from Fargo (1996)

Mike Yanagita from Fargo (1996)

Problem #4: The Scene Contradicts Both Marge’s Investigation and Her Personality

On top of all the issues I discussed, there is another reason why Marge’s rendezvous with Yanagita was poorly set up for the epiphany she is supposed to have had later regarding Jerry. It directly contradicts how her character was portrayed prior to this scene, in addition to how her criminal investigation was going.

Let’s talk about her personality first. Right from the start, Fargo establishes that Marge is as sharp as a tack and, in fact, the smartest and most observant character in the movie. She knew right away how the first set of victims were killed on the highway and that there were two perps involved. She knew right away that the “DLR” on the license plates referred to dealership plates. She had enough to go on to somehow know that Shep Proudfoot was involved with these completely random highway murders, and that somehow, Jerry’s dealership played a part.

Plus, there were many moments when she showed that she wasn’t easily fooled by people’s bullshit. In fact, the movie made it a point to show that with her confrontation with Shep Proudfoot that she was nobody’s fool. Shep could’ve babbled all he wanted that he had no idea who called him in the dead of night, but she knew he was full of crap; she even read him the riot act and had him so rattled, he immediately took his rage out on Carl because he knew that she had seen right through him and had him by the balls.

If Marge was set up to be so perceptive as to see through a poker-faced character like Shep, audiences naturally assumed that she’d figure Jerry out in due time. There is no way that audiences would’ve assumed that she absolutely believed him the first time. This problem is why no one understood what Mike Yanagita was all about. Very few people were thinking–by the time Marge’s friend revealed the truth about him–that she had also believed Jerry.

What’s so frustrating about all this is that there was a very easy way to set this epiphany plot point up and still have Marge be super smart. All that needed to be done was to have her investigation go very well, but then get stymied because of this one specific character flaw–she was provincial. For example, imagine that Marge does amazingly well figuring out details of the murder when they don’t involve locals, but as soon as details point to Jerry, she develops a blind spot. Imagine that to a provincial gal like Marge, a local like Jerry would be the last type to be involved in a triple homicide, because Minnesotans are “decent town folk.” Establishing that Marge has an issue assuming that locals like Mike and Jerry are pure as the driven snow would’ve made the epiphany plot point easier to grasp.

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