Fargo (TV series), Minnesota Nice meets Film Noir: a review

2014 Winter TCA Tour - Day 6

 

I just finished binge-watching this TV series. It was broadcasted on cable channel FX a few months ago, gathering digital dust on my over-stuffed PVR waiting for a lull in my schedule. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. It did wonders for getting me on the treadmill. If you like the Coen Brothers movie that this TV series is adapted from, then you will probably enjoy this anthology TV series. I am a Coen Brothers fan. That is not to say that I like all of their movies; I don’t. However, I appreciate and respect their films, even if they aren’t my cup of tea. Not unlike my experience with The Big Lebowski,  it took me a couple views to appreciate the beauty of and ultimately love the movie Fargo.

 

 

 

This TV series captured the tone and heart of the original movie in an uncanny fashion. It was a quirky fusion of Minnesota nice  and film noir. Over 10 highly cinematic episodes, I watched people as they committed terrible acts (none too graphic, thankfully) and followed the police as they tried to bring those responsible to justice. This was not a whodunit; rather, it is a will-they-get-away-with-it? It is not the same story as the movie but is linked to it in a small way.

The acting is stellar! What a surprise it was to learn that Martin Freeman could be so versatile. On this show he ditched the Britishness that I loved him for in Sherlock and was completely mesmerizing as Minnesotan, Lester Nygaard. Nygaard was a downtrodden insurance salesman who found himself in over his head after he met evil incarnate in the form of Lorne Malvo. Malvo was chillingly portrayed by Billy Bob Thornton. Newcomer Allison Tolman as Deputy Molly Solverson and Colin Hanks as officer Gus Grimly rounded out the main characters. And boy, did they hold their own in the company of Oliver Platt, Bob Odenkirk, Kate Walsh, Adam Goldberg, Keith Carradine. This was an awesome ensemble.

If the cast was not enticing enough, then consider the subtle humour, both physical and verbal. I especially liked the creative use of sign language by a deaf hitman. I enjoyed the balance between decency and heinousness. There was subtle romance that didn’t derail the narrative. I was thrilled that the smartest cop in town was a young woman that didn’t fit the typical Hollywood stereotype. I liked that the not so bright cops where not portrayed as buffoons. There was an undercurrent of kindness to this dark and twisted tale. I enjoyed every episode and found the ending satisfying. And yet, some aspects of the conclusion left me wondering, long after I stopped watching. For me, this is a good thing. To say more would risk spoiler territory. I was sad to learn that the next season would be an entirely different cast, setting and time period. I really grew fond of the characters in this season.

So if you liked the movie Fargo and wondered if you should watch this TV show, then my answer would be “you betcha.”

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