As Gold Rush: Alaska season 2 began, it quickly became apparent that this was not the same series that captivated audiences during its first season. In many ways, it had become much more.
Instead of simply focusing on the Hoffman crew's endeavors at their new claim, the Jim Nail Placer mine, Gold Rush season 2 brought in two additional, concurrent stories that wonderfully supplemented the compelling tales of a mining season: the Big Nugget mine with Parker Schnabel and the Quartz Creek with "Dakota" Fred.
Transitioning itself from a single tale of the Hoffman crew attempting to provide for their families by striking it rich from mining gold into three concurrent stories, the amount of earnest storytelling that Gold Rush was able to achieve during season 2 is truly awe-inspiring - especially for a reality series.
By revealing the many levels of growth that one goes through in their lifetime, the challenges and complications that the three groups faced while attempting to mine gold served to elevate the series beyond any "get rich quick" stigma that it may have been given during its first season.
The Hoffman Crew
For the Hoffman crew, their second season attempt at gold mining provided audiences with an earnest tale of remaining resolute against all odds. With "Dakota" Fred taking over the mine that the Hoffmans used during the first season, the amateur gold miners were forced to start over.
Beginning the mining season behind schedule, though with new-found knowledge, Gold Rush season 2 reveals the immense work and dedication that the Hoffmans had to put in to their mining efforts, and what exactly it takes to reach the goals they set for themselves, not matter what challenges may arise.
"Dakota" Fred, like many things in life, is a complicated tale. Initially portrayed as an antagonist figure during the start of season 2, the true story of "Dakota" Fred was slowly revealed through the season. Arguably receiving the least amount of on air time when compared to the rest of the groups, the "mining expert" that "Dakota" Fred was presented as during the first season was soon replaced by the notion that he's simply a man that needs to succeed, perhaps more so than the Hoffmans.
That being said, the full story of "Dakota" Fred is not truly revealed until the final moments of the Gold Rush season 2 finale, in which "Dakota" Fred tells his son that he appreciates what he has done, even if he never said it. This moment, while easily looked over by audiences wanting to choose sides more than wanting to be told a story, conveys the complicated nature of "Dakota" Fred – a nature that many may negatively label, but one that almost everyone is familiar with in their own life.
For all intents and purposes, Parker Schnabel could be seen as the breakout figure in the entirety of the series. What began as an interesting tale of a 17 year-old attempting to take over his grandfather's mine quickly became one of the most beautiful coming-of-age stories that television has seen.
With the constant backing of his always loving grandfather John Schnabel, who mirrors his grandson's excitement and enthusiasm (even at the age of 91), Parker experienced the complications, difficulties and mistakes that one not only goes through while attempting to mine gold, but by also growing up.
From the moments of uncertainty as to what to do next, to dealing with the pressures of making his grandfather's gold mine profitable, to regretting certain conversations with various family members, Parker Schnabel had to grow up on camera, with the entire world watching and judging him – something that most would never want to happen.
But with his grandfather always there to support him, no matter what the problem may be, Parker was able to persevere this year's rough season of mining and set up a potentially profitable mining season next year. As John Schnabel says, "I don't care about the money, because I can't take it with me – I might as well spend it here."
In the end, all three groups were successful, even if it wasn't monetarily. While both the Hoffmans and "Dakota" Fred were able to turn a profit and Parker Schnabel came up a little short, the story that was presented in each of the three groups provided the growth and foundation that everyone needed to help make them successful (or even more so) in the future.
And while it won't be another year until we find out whether or not the groups see success next year in Alaska, one can only hope that Gold Rush, as a series, continues to grow and evolve itself as much as the people that they document have.
Gold Rush: Alaska season 3 premieres Fall 2012
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