Fargo: Season 1 created by Noah Hawley (MGM Productions, FX Productions)

Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks, Martin Freeman, Bob Odenkirk, Keith Carradine.

Paying Homage

The mini-series is a current trend on the television landscape. A one-and-done season allows showrunners to woo bigger stars, enticing them with the promise of a few episodes and minimal time. True Detective earned rave reviews, not only for pristine writing, but also the performances from Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.

Fargo uses the same blend with pristine results.

Adapting the sensibility of the Coen Brothers, and using their world from the film, Fargo, Fargo the television series approaches the dichotomy of good and evil through the rough tundra of northern Minnesota.

Characters of Good and Evil

The show begins with the introduction of Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), a down-on-his-luck insurance salesman with a nagging wife (Kelly Holden Bashar). Living in Bemidgji—the kind of place you never leave—an old high school nemesis  (Kevin O’Grady) happens upon Lester on the street and sucker punches him for good measure.

While waiting in the hospital, Lester meets Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton), a hit man by trade but mostly just an anarchist living for chaos in all things. Ultimately, Malvo wants to make an animal out of everyone he touches and Lester becomes his prime target.

Obtaining the story behind Lester’s shiner, Malvo says he’ll go kill the guy. Lester, in his typical Midwest not-wanting-to-offend-anyone demeanor, doesn’t outright say no.

A murder and many more after that create havoc in this sleepy Minnesota town. What’s left is an engaging pursuit where forces of good in Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) and Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) battle against a difficult, evil foe in Malvo.

Dichotomy

The beauty of Fargo lies in its dichotomy. At its core, the show is about the forces of good and evil and the eternal battle between the two. At a more practical level, it asks the question whether we can make the world just a little bit better even though we see unspeakable evil daily.

For this reason, rural Minnesota is a brilliant choice for a setting. Much like the movie on which it’s based, Fargo illustrates pastoral winter beauty and the good-natured culture of the Midwest.

Even more, Fargo represents a fascinating case study for the concept of “based on.” Writer Noah Hawley’s task is replication. Charged with bringing the Coen brothers to the small screen, Hawley needed the story to pace close enough to the original and yet be its own thing. On one hand, people needed to see Fargo in Fargo. On the other hand, the story needs its own surprises.

On all accounts, Hawley succeeds with flying colors. Fargo is well worth your time, both due to its miniseries nature and because of the star power it offers!

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5

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