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Shrewsbury, Massachusetts- Even after 18 years, Fargo is still regarded as one of the greatest films of the Coen Brothers. Its gruesome violence juxtaposed with the niceties of the Midwest make it a longstanding American classic. Now FX has decided to be so bold as to develop a television show based off of the Coen’s work, a venture that has been attempted before with little success. However, Noah Hawley and Adam Bernstein have decided to trek forth anyway, with the Coen’s blessing, into the great white unknown.
In 2006, a drifter by the name of Lorne Malvo makes his way into the town of Bemidji, Minnesota. In town he comes across Lester Nygaard, a lowly insurance salesman who lets people treat him like a doormat. Malvo suggests that Nygaard take control of his life by hurting those who do wrong. This sets forth a chain of events that involve a ransom, mobsters, and murder that threatens to tear the order of the whole town to the ground.
Fargo is an incredible service to the original source, keeping in spirit with the film while simultaneously spinning a unique yarn of its own. Hawley and co. have created a world teetering over the edge of corruption and on the verge of falling apart. There’s a lot of establishing to be done in the first pair of episodes, but the writers set it up tremendously and Matthew J. Lloyd’s cinematography adds to it to create a visually arresting style reminiscent of Roger Deakins.
The cast is filled with incredible talent who are committing tenfold to the characters they are tasked with. Martin Freeman is terrific as Lester Nygaard and his typical British snark is completely gone here in favor of an incompetent criminal. Billy Bob Thorton is the Coen vetern of the cast and so his performance as Lorne Malvo is done with such ease that he commands the scenes he is in. Bob Odenkirk is hilariously frustrating as the incompetent chief of police. Colin Hanks and “newcomer” Alison Tolman are wonderful as our good officers Gus Grimley and Molly Solverson. Tolman has a lot of work to do being a virtual unknown and essentially filling in Frances McDormand’s shoes, but she does so with grace and we fall in love with her as fast as we did Marge Gunderson.
Fargo is a remarkable piece of television. From the opening moments of the pilot, you get engrossed in the world of the story. The characters are well drawn, the violence is stark, and it’s hysterical in all the right ways. It’s sad to know that this is only planned to be a limited series, but also comforting to know that it’s going somewhere. Finally we get the closest thing to a Coen Brothers television show, and it is a wonder to behold.
Fargo is on Tuesdays @ 10 pm on FX.