I vividly remember the first time I saw the film version of Fargo. Mesmerized by the acting, aesthetic, story, and gore, I was hooked on Coen brother movies. (Up until that point in my young movie loving life, I didn’t really know the filmmakers outside of Raising Arizona.)
I had never been so engaged by a “detective style” movie that had no real mystery. While we primarily followed around Frances McDormand’s Marge Gunerson (an Oscar winner for that role), she doesn’t enter the movie until a good chunk of time into the film. All this time is spent letting the audience know who-done-it already. We watch Marge put the puzzle together, even though we see the finished picture and, as I stated earlier, it’s mesmerizing. The most important scene is a conversation in a hotel restaurant!
So, I needed to give you a quick background check because due to my very high opinion of the film I was highly skeptical of the TV show. Even with the stellar cast, I was still uneasy about the need to revisit anything related to the 1996 masterpiece. Then I watched the pilot.
Based solely on this extended hour, I am overjoyed to be back in the land of endless snow. Here we are treated to a new story with new characters based in the world and cinema aesthetic that Joel and Ethan Coen created. The gore is most definitely there too. When the calm, but ruthless, killer Lorne Malvo (an excellent Billy Bob Thorton) is stranded in Minnesota, timid Lester Nygaard’s (Martin Freeman) life is flipped upside down. (That’s more or less the basics of it all, but you know how many plot lines there are in any given show.)
From the opening shot to the last, Fargo recreates the same feel of the movie, but still stands on its own. The performances are excellent, especially Thornton, Freeman (regardless of his in-n-out accent), and Allison Tollman as cop Molly Solverson. (Solverson… Hmmmmm, I wonder if she’ll SOLVE it…) This show has so much potential and I hope it explores that in it’s ten episode run.
While the bloody, well choreographed, life-changing sequence near the end of the episode was what turned my Fargo interest into investment, I was most captivated by all of the conversations. Highlighted by Malvo’s traffic stop with Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks), every character interaction was always packed with a great sense of character and even mystery. Tension used for the good of the show is always a good thing.
Drawing parallels to the movie isn’t particularly hard (obviously Lester is supposed to evoke Jerry Lundegaard–even both of their last names have double ‘aa’s!), but it’s the newness that feels right about the show. If it continues this first episode’s trend of feeling, theme, characterization, and gore it will be another great addition to the current TV canon. We know the who-done-it, now bring on the bloody, wacky road to the finish line! #woodchipper?
Keep on Watchin’!