With the Act structure out of the way, our team moved on to determining what characters we wanted to focus on to fit the gaps of where they are during the story. This will involve an analysis of the characters from the context of the story such as their psychological traits – what their personality would allow them to do – in order to determine what they could be doing under ‘psychological realism’ ie. what are they expected to do. It’s likely a character isn’t going to do something that’s against their morals unless their personality is quirky or their sociopathic!
The map below (the choice of font keeps with the typography of Fargo’s marketing material), shows how all the characters interact with either other as well as suggesting their relationships. As it appears from this map, all the events of the film come back to the Hero Marge, who clearly needs to connect to everything in order for the conflict to be resolved. More interesting is that Jerry confirmed our view that he is a catalyst character. Despite not having much interaction with various characters, his simple action of paying two criminals to kidnap his wife changes the lives of most of the people on the map. All the deaths make their way back to Jerry.
We managed to list all the characters based around Vogler’s archetypes.
Carl can be seen as the Trickster as he serves as the apparent comic relief, if indeed dark. He is seen as the frustration of the audience due to the narrative’s attempt to delay the inevitable outcome, and as Vogler notes, Trickster’s are catalyst characters as they don’t change but effect everything around them. He becomes clumsy and his impaitents leads to the death of Wade and the abandonment of the money, resulting in his tragic outcome… cut up and put into a wood chipper (see video below).
The Coen Brothers are noted for giving Steve Buscami (Carl) and highly dialogue driven role due to his acclaim in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. The Coens eventually played with his archetype in The Big Lebowski by giving him a role where he has little input.
Gaear is the character whose hard to nail down. He’s quiet but also evidently violent. At this point, we see him as the Shadow as he is the major source of tension and fear. Interestingly, upon releasing the Death Penalty of North Dakota and Minnesota in order to figure out his outcome. It appears he would get life in prison for killing 5 people. The penalty of death was outlawed in 1973 in North Dakota and 1911 is Minnesota. The things you learn. Despite his mystery, we could eventually see him become the Shapeshifter because we never learn what he’s up to in the cabin except kill Jean and become addicted to daytime TV – when did he kill Jean? What’s his obsession with daytime TV? Is there something we’re missing???
Shep has become the Threshold Guardian because he’s not necessarily an antagonist, but does association with Gaear and Carl, the true evils of the film. We noted him as the ‘neuroses’ of the Hero because he’s the first character to lie to Marge and eventually the lies becomes the reason for Marge to return to solve the case.
Mike is the real question mark here. He’s not relevant to the plot except for acting as a ‘metaphorical prop’ (2012, pg. 72) in which he’s random appearance makes Marge realise the Shadows were lying to her… But that also makes him a Mentor as he is a source of enlightenment. If it wasn’t for him, Marge would have given up the case. Yet, his appearance cause change, making him a Herald in some respects. His mystery to us eventually led us to referring to him as the Shapeshifter since he comes of as deceptive but also of relevance to the Hero.
During this time, Rachel created a heightening chart which shows the increase of tension and drama throughout the film. Interestingly, as stated in an earlier blog, the biggest moments of drama come at the end of each Act.