Jul 24, 2014

[TV] Fargo: Season 1

I had quite enjoyed the movie Fargo back in the day. It was a jarring story that didn't really seem to have a truly happy ending. If anything, the movie really was a somewhat drawn-out celebration of tragedy, but done in a manner that was oddly funny and yet deathly serious at the same time. It was quite the brilliant film and it helped make the Coen Brothers become more widely known in entertainment circles.

I had learned about the Fargo TV series rather late in the production process and soon enough it was already on the air. But the annoyances of the real world delayed our efforts to watch this series, but we finally finished the final episode just yesterday. And while I normally try to wait a bit before writing a full review for a TV series, I figured that this particular show was worth rushing to my computer for.

It was that good.

And while I can understand how not everyone may immediately get into a show with this sort of tone and pacing, for those who invest the time to watch, I'm sure you'll come to understand why this series has left me feeling rather fulfilled.

Synopsis: Fargo is an FX dark comedy crime drama series created by Noah Hawley as inspired by the 1996 movie of the same name. The Coen Brothers, who made the original movie, serve as executive producers for this show. It is not based on a true story, but every episode includes the statement that it is in keeping with the spirit of the original movie.

The story begins with a man that we come to know as Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) crashing his car on some snow-covered highway in rural Minnesota. Malvo has a slight head injury from the crash and is unable to prevent the nearly man from getting out of his trunk and running off into the woods. He eventually encounters Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) at a nearby hospital where Lorne was getting treated for his head injury while Lester on the other hand had a broken nose. Lester had been injured in a bit of an altercation with his old high school bully, Sam Hess (Kevin O'Grady).

While the two sit in the waiting room, Lorne suggests to Lester that he should kill Sam. And while Lester neither agrees nor disagrees with this notion in any visible, Lorne sees something in him in this moment. And this sets in place a chain of events that includes many deaths, organized crime, FBI agents, a bit of romance, and a really good slice of cherry pie. And at the center of all this is Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman), who tries to trace the complicated interconnections between all the players in this story and hopefully survive.

Given my lack of knowledge regarding what this should would be about, I have to admit that I initially expected some sort of extended adaptation of the original movie as stretched out across the ten episodes of this first season. But instead, we got a completely different story that was in the same spirit of the movie but involving a new cast of characters. And this shift resulted in a brand new tale of tragedy and woe and all quite brilliantly done.

The show had quite the interesting look and feel all throughout that was fairly consistent. And this was rather impressive given that the episodes were directed by five different individuals - Adam Bernstein, Randall Einhorn, Colin Bucksey, Scot Winant, and Matt Shakman. But you don't feel like there were five different perspectives bringing this story to life. If anything, it felt like a really good movie, even as it spanned pretty much a mini-series.

In the original Fargo, Frances McDormand played a pretty intelligent and quite confident police chief who quickly pieces things together and spends a fair amount of the movie hot on the trail of her suspects. In this series we have Allison Tolman playing Deputy Molly Solverson, who starts as a clever officer but still in the shadow of her police chief Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk). Thus despite a lot of her initial deductions being perfectly spot on with the truth, she's often ignored and even put down and thus this delays any true efforts of catching the guilty parties. But her growth across the span of the series is quite inspiring and by the end we see her fully in her element and determined to see her case through. She may not be 100% confident just yet like some Hollywood movie twist, but she is certainly a stronger character by the end.

Martin Freeman is consistent in his fine acting ability and I particularly liked the range that he presents in this series. He two starts as a rather frail, insecure insurance salesman. But his encounter with Lorne Malvo and the various events in the series changes him quite significantly as well - but perhaps not for the better. And his contrast with Billy Bob Thornton made for some great scenes. I don't always enjoy Thornton's performances in various endeavors, but they really made good use of his talents in this particular venture.

The whole series was just brilliant - a unique television experience that you don't come across often. It was good enough to have me worried that a second season may not live up to how good this first series had turned out.

Fargo is definitely one of the more compelling crime dramas to come out of US television and one that still manages to balance the complex tones of dark comedy without diminishing the core narrative at its heart. And so I think it's pretty obvious that I rate this first season a full 5 instances of "oh geez" being said in a panic out of 5.

No comments:

Post a Comment