Fargo – Episode 1 Review

Anthony Stokes reviews the first episode of Fargo…

af473a33-ed87-4515-a622-8fbe3135e5fb_Fargo_CL_0872_firstlook1Like many people I was introduced to the Coen brothers through Fargo. A fun black comedy that kickstarted their career and inspired several other movies that followed. Fargo is probably my favorite Coen brothers movie, and one of the only ones I’ve entirely enjoyed. When it was announced that there would be an FX miniseries I was completely on board. FX has continued to make shows that are as good as AMC or HBO, but doesn’t even get half of the accolades. And I’m happy to say that the Fargo TV series reaches the bar set by the movie, along with other dramas such as True Detective.

The reason I like FX is that their shows don’t have the pretension of other network dramas. They get in and get done. As much as I love Breaking Bad or Boardwalk Empire, there are a lot of times that they’re filling out time until the big cliffhanger at the end of an episode. Fargo is a perfect companion to the movie. It revolves around a very light recreation of William H. Macy and Frances McDormand’s characters from the movie, but other than that it’s all completely original characters. This feels exactly like Fargo in tone and character. There’s even a few times a character says “ooo yah”. It does a good job of assimilating with the movie without ripping it off. Wide shots of snowy fields and the overall quaintness of scenes that don’t feature a murder really make you forget you’re watching the miniseries and not the actual movie.

The central character is Lester Nygaard, played by Martin Freeman, a nebbish insurance salesman and the psuedo H. Macy character, who encounters Lorne Malvo, played by Billy Bob Thorton. These two are clearly the meat of this miniseries and they’ve both never been better. Freeman plays the cliched down-on-his-luck wimp with a level of cynicism and patheticness that keeps him sympathetic. Billy Bob Thorton is probably the one who will get most of the attention though. He’s the character who’s one step ahead of everybody and has a chilling, reserved presence. He gets the best dialogue and delivers it very well.

Much like the movie it’s based upon, Fargo has a great comedic sensibilities, and all of the characters are either funny or charming in a really quirky way. This is definitely a show worth watching for fans of the movie, fans of television dramas, and even casual viewers who want something a little different. I’m a little sad that these characters will only be around for one season. With no real complaints, Fargo is definitely one of my new favorite shows to air this year. Between this and From Dusk Til Dawn, Hannibal and Bates Motel, I think expanding on iconic movies on television could be the way to go, and hopefully we’ll get more in the future.

Anthony Stokes is a blogger and independent filmmaker.

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