FX’s ‘Fargo’ is the year’s best new show
“This is a true story. The events depicted took place in Minnesota in 2006. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.”
The preceding grim disclaimer starts off each episode of FX’s new series “Fargo,” writer Noah Hawley’s brilliant follow-up to the Academy Award-winning dark comedy of the same name by Joel and Ethan Coen, the extraordinary filmmaking team behind such films as “No Country for Old Men,” “The Big Lebowski” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
While the film followed the story of a sad sack car salesman who is so desperate for money that he hires two criminals to kidnap his wife, Hawley takes his “Fargo” in an exciting new direction.
In FX’s “Fargo,” Martin Freeman (“The Hobbit” trilogy and “Sherlock”) stars as Lester Nygaard, a bumbling insurance salesman who is desperate to prove himself after an encounter with an old bully from high school leaves him in the hospital with a broken nose.
As he waits for treatment, Lester meets Lorne Malvo (a perfect Billy Bob Thornton), a mysterious hitman who takes an interest in Lester and his situation. After a throwaway comment is taken too seriously, Lester embarks on a shocking journey that turns the town of Bemidji, Minn., as well as the lives of an idealistic deputy (newcomer Allison Tolman) and a Duluth police officer and single father, upside down.
Hawley’s “Fargo,” which received the blessing of the Coen Brothers after they read the script for the pilot and signed on as executive producers, may have a vastly different story than the original film, but it also bears numerous similarities.
Like the film, the series is set in various towns in Minnesota, despite being named for a city in North Dakota. The show also retains the film’s “aw jeez,” Minnesota Nice demeanor, which both adds a layer to the show’s dark and brilliant sense of humor and gives the show a warm personality.
The show’s look, courtesy of Adam Bernstein’s great direction and Matthew J. Lloyd’s gorgeously bleak cinematography, also pays homage to the original film, as does Jeff Russo’s stirring music.
The re-imagining of “Fargo” also features an exceptional cast. As the mysterious Lorne Malvo, who may just be the angel of darkness (or is he an agent of grace?), Billy Bob Thornton gives a wonderfully understated performance, perfectly conveying the attitude who derives a sick sense of glee from the havoc that he wreaks.
As Lester, Martin Freeman continues his hot streak with a beautifully nuanced performance that shows off his great versatility. Freeman also nails Lester’s bumbling demeanor and the difficult Minnesota accent.
Allison Tolman gives an excellent performance as Deputy Molly Solverson, who is probably the show’s closest equivalent to the film’s legendary female protagonist Marge Gunderson, while Colin Hanks is great as the officer haunted by his encounter with Lorne.
The show’s supporting cast also features Bob Odenkirk as a deputy who can’t stand grisly images (which the show is full of), Kate Walsh as a widow who isn’t exactly grieving the loss of her husband and Keith Carradine as Molly’s father, a former cop-turned-diner owner.
Highlighted by a brilliant cast and a fantastic script that pays homage to the Coen Brothers’ film, FX’s “Fargo” is the year’s best new show. Airing Tuesdays at 10 p.m. as a limited series (with any future seasons revolving around a different story with new characters), “Fargo” is a show that deserves to be seen.