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Fargo – First Impressions

Fargo is the light-hearted tale of a boy and his pet butterfly on their quest to find the Smile King…naah! Fargo is dark, brutal and full of intrigue. For most movie buffs, the town of Fargo brings back memories of the excellent Coen brothers flick of the same name. Such acting powerhouses as Steve Buschemi, Frances McDormand, William H. Macy and Peter Stormare chewed up the scenery in the sleepy North Dakota town. Some very dark comedy is mixed in with the gritty crime drama for one helluva flick. Well, eighteen years have passed since Fargo hit the big screen and FX felt that the time was right for a dark comedy of their own. Fargo, the series, aired on FX just a couple of weeks ago to some serious critical acclaim. I’ve watched it…here’s what I think.
Fargo on FX features some heavy hitters in the acting department as well. Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton and Colin Hanks are all present and accounted for in this dark comedy. Billy Bob Thornton portrays Lorne Malvo, a stone cold hitman with his own agenda who happens upon the hapless Lester Nygaar (Freeman). Lester is a bumbling insurance salesman who hates his job and his wife belittles him every chance she gets. Thornton delivers on what is a typical assassin’s demeanor, but he does it in a very methodical, sinister way. Freeman’s turn as a bumbling, hapless insurance salesman is both funny and tragically sad. I will say that seeing Freeman act without his trademark accent (he’s from England, by-the-by); it takes some getting used to but Freeman is a pro and does it well.

 

Even though he doesn't look it, Lorne Malvo is a stone cold killer and uber intimidating

Even though he doesn’t look it, Lorne Malvo is a stone cold killer and uber intimidating

Prior to each show taking place, there is an informative script that says that the events are true; I haven’t been able to find anything that would point to this fact but I’m guessing, based off of the crazy amounts of brutality that takes place in the first two episodes, this isn’t the case. The show takes place in an even smaller town than Fargo called Bemedji, Minnesota but matches the dark, gritty atmosphere that made the movie such a memorable event.
Malvo is going through town on “business” when he gets attacked by a gang of menacing deer and crashes his car. Shortly thereafter, a mostly naked man jumps out of the truck and heads off into the woods. If you were wondering, yes he dies of exposure. While all of this is transpiring, Lester gets harassed by his former high school bully, Sam Hess, and his kids. Hapless Lester, always the point of jokes and the ire of his wife, gets spooked and smashes his face into a door while trying to get away. This is where the story starts to get interesting; while waiting in the emergency room to fix his smashed face, Lester meets the uber-creepy Malvo. During their conversation, Lester mentions how he wishes his bully was dead and that maybe Malvo should kill him. Malvo replies, in his oh-so-stone faced way, “So. You’re asking me to kill this man.” and “One word. Yes or no”…sheesh! After sizing up Lester’s bully, it’s only a matter of time before Malvo tosses a knife into the back of his head. Now we’re cooking!

 

Lester Nygaard has been on a tear of bad luck...for about the entirety of his life

Lester Nygaard has been on a tear of bad luck…for about the entirety of his life

 

Malvo is not afraid to get his hands dirty and he puts his skills as an expert baddie to good use. Malvo is a stone cold killer but he is also as smart as they come. After the second episode, you know that Malvo is an opportunist at heart and will scheme if it’s in his best interest. Now that Sam the bully is dead, there are some criminal elements that are looking for the jabroney who ended his life. You see, Sam was running guns for some mob type guys through his trucking company…and these guys want vengeance! There will be some serious crap to go down between the two bruisers and Malvo and I can’t wait!

To me, there is nothing about this show that I don’t like. The cast, in particular Billy Bob Thornton, is so good and is some of the best you’ll find on television. I will warn you that the pacing is slow but very relevant to the overall theme of the show, especially if you’ve ever seen the movie. Lester Nygaard is such a bumbling loser, it’s hard to not root for him regardless of how deep in his own crap he’s in. Also, Colin Hanks, even though he hasn’t shown his importance to the overall storyarch yet, does a good turn as an everyman’s policeman. His first scene with Malvo is super tense and very dark; this relationship will come back…I guarantee it. Oliver Platt, Glen Howerton and Bob Odenkirk also play strong cameos in more of a comedic role.

The overall feel of the show is very dark and gritty. There are some moments that you feel so bad for most of the characters involved (especially Lester) and there are just some brutal, horrifying deaths and that’s just in two episodes! I will say that the way that the show breaks up the darkness of the plot with comedy is genius. There is a scene where Malvo is trying to find out what the rules of the motor lodge is that is just plain hysterical. But then the story goes dark again and someone gets dropped into a hole in a frozen lake. It’s amazing.

 

The relationship between Lester and Malvo is interesting to say the least

The relationship between Lester and Malvo is interesting to say the least

So, in a nutshell, this show is amazing. The way that the show runners mix dark plot points and comedy is genius and the actors fully embrace all of their roles to an amazing degree. The setting also fits the overall feel of the show perfectly. I am also very intrigued to see where the story goes and what happens to Martin Freeman’s character (who shows obvious homages to William H. Macy’s character from the Fargo movie). I have a feeling that the remainder of this series will be just as stellar as the first two episodes and will probably get even more tense and crazy than what has already happened…which is saying something. The show is produced by the Coen brothers and will run a ten episode season. Nothing has been announced concerning any more seasons of the show, but I can see some side stories that would connect to the setting.  WATCH THIS SHOW!

argo is the light-hearted tale of a boy and his pet butterfly on their quest to find the Smile King...naah! Fargo is dark, brutal and full of intrigue. For most movie buffs, the town of Fargo brings back memories of the excellent Coen brothers flick of the same name. Such acting powerhouses as Steve Buschemi, Frances McDormand, William H. Macy and Peter Stormare chewed up the scenery in the sleepy North Dakota town. Some very dark comedy is mixed in with the gritty crime drama for one helluva flick. Well, eighteen years have passed since Fargo hit the big screen…

Review Overview

Fargo - First Impressions - 9.5

9.5

Exceptional

Summary : Fargo, FX's newest blockbuster drama series, brings all of the dark, gritty drama that made the movie such a critical and commercial success. Billy Bob Thornton's turn as hitman Lorne Malvo steals the show in every scene he's in. The writing is top notch and the actors give standout performances all around. Go watch this show. Now!

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About Chuck Nalley

Chuck Nalley
Father of two, husband of over ten years and unapologetic UK Wildcats fan, Chuck has been involved in Geekdom for...well, a long time. Chuck spends his free time playing games, watching movies and TV, performing in live theater, pimping hoes and juggling geese. No really, baby geese. Goslings. They are juggled... Fun Fact: Chuck hasn't had a soda since 2003.