Dark, Twisted 'Fargo' TV Drama Breathes New Life Into Coen Brothers' Classic
When Fargo hit theaters in 1996, viewers couldn't help but get sucked into the film that centered on the lives of small-town folks, gruesome murders and a whole lot of Upper Midwestern "you betchas." Although FX's new crime drama with the same name bears a resemblance to the Coen brothers classic, it stands on its own.
The 10-episode dark comedy written by Noah Hawley (Bones' scribe) that premieres tonight has received a stamp of approval from executive producers Joel and Ethan Coen, who wrote, directed and produced the original film. It continues in the same vein as anthology series like True Detective and American Horror Story—shows that wrap up within a season and start anew in the next, sometimes with new actors.
This limited-series style allowed big-name stars like Martin Freeman (The Hobbit) and Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, Intolerable Cruelty) to be able to shoot this show. After all, Freeman is already busy also filming Sherlock. "When am I going to see my kids?" he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer when asked about his concerns with long-running shows.
The new series still takes place over vast, snowy landscapes, but this time in Bemidji, Minnesota. Everyone speaks in a strong Minnesotan accent peppered with "aw, jeez!". Even Brit actor Freeman takes a stab at the accent, which is shaky at first but improves as the show progresses. The series, which uses a similar tagline, "This is a true story," in the opening credits follows a whole new story with new characters that takes place in 2006.
Freeman portrays milquetoast Lester Nygaard, a meek insurance salesman frustrated with his disapproving wife. His character is cut from the same fabric as William H. Macy's struggling car salesman role in the film. Like Macy's salesman, Lester also gets involved with some sketchy characters.
After Lester has a run-in with his high school bully, he meets Lorne Malvo (Thornton); this chance meeting launches a series of events that changes Lester's life forever. Lorne is a cold but quirky hitman who loves getting people to do depraved things and doesn't flinch at the thought of his grisly killings. He possesses the power to give someone a stare that will send them quivering. Oh, and he also has a horrible haircut with short bangs.
Lester and Lorne make up the core of Fargo; however, Allison Tolman's portrayal of Bemidji deputy Molly Solverson shines. She's a bashful rookie learning the ropes and is ambitious and clever in her own right. Molly is only slightly comparable to the film's Marge Gunderson (played Frances McDormand) in that they're both strong female cop leads. While Marge was pregnant and had a family, Molly is lonely and single, though she does have her father (played by Keith Carradine) to keep her company at times. Colin Hanks, in one of his best roles ever, is a timid Duluth police officer and single dad named Gus Grimly who gets involved in solving Bemidji murders.
Hawley succeeds in writing characters that reflect the Coen Brothers touch—that is, introducing small-town folks who aren't the sharpest tools in the shed. Bob Odenkirk (who will also soon star in Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul) is Molly's dim-witted boss, who comes up with cockamamie ideas to solve homicide cases. Oliver Platt plays a paranoid supermarket king and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Glenn Howerton as a slow physical trainer.
What Fargo offers us is a inside glimpse into a rural town largely unfamiliar to a lot of folks outside of the Midwest. LAist watched the first four episodes and hopes the last six will unfold in the same, addictive manner. Fargo starts off as a slow burn—it takes a bit to get used to this world these characters live in. Think of it more like a 10-hour movie. New side mysteries play out and flashbacks give us insight into the characters; it's all alluring to the viewer. It shows mild-mannered and polite Bemidji residents put in some dark situations that test human nature—and it's hard to look away.
Fargo premieres on FX on April 15 at 10 p.m. ET/PT