FX rolls the dice on Fargo, a limited run ten episode series based on the 1996 film from the Coen brothers.
If you don’t know the Coen brothers excellent film, this is a problem you must correct immediately. While you don’t need to know the film to enjoy the show, I just can’t let anyone who hasn’t seen a movie as great as Fargo miss out.
Series writer and developer Noah Hawley (Bones) has an obvious nostalgic affinity for the source material, capturing the playful tone and darkness of the movie without it seeming derivative or an impression of the Coen’s style. The fact that Joel and Ethan Coen are credited as executive producers speaks volumes for their impressions of Hawley’s vision.
Set in 2006 in the small town of Bemidji, Minnesota, we meet the meek and downtrodden Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), a local insurance salesman. Lester’s lack of success and constant bullying from his wife and old high school “friends” sends Lester’s path crossing with that of Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton), a drifter who also happens to be a contract killer. Things begin a downward spiral from there that’s at once engaging and quirky without feeling contrived.
Fargo carries over the film’s portrait of the overly polite and glad handing Minnesota populace. There’s plenty of “Don’tcha knows” and accents to go around. We spend lots of time getting to know the mundane aspects of each character’s life. Fans of dark humor will have much to love with Fargo. There’s even plenty of nods to other films from the Coen catalog, such as Malvo’s uncanny similarities to Javier Bardem’s killer in No Country For Old Men or an advertisment for a White Russian special that would make The Dude thirsty. By capturing the tone and slower pace of the film, things do take a bit to get going in Fargo’s 90 minute premiere. However, once things get cooking at about the 55 minute mark, you’ll realize you’ve been hooked.
The overwhelming quirkiness of Fargo means it’ll take some adjustment for audiences that expect fast paced, twist packed television. Likewise, fans of the film may also face a disconnect initially if they’re expecting to see the film they love. But give Fargo a chance and some time, and I think you’re gonna like what ya see, don’tcha know?
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