On April 15, FX began airing their new series, Fargo. If you’re thinking to yourself, “Wait, is this a sequel to the Coen Brothers movie?” let me start first by addressing that. The answer is “No” despite that the series claims to have been based on the movie. That may be true in a way, but rather, this is a spin-off. The movie from 1996 was all about a crime committed in Fargo, Minnesota and the Fargo Police Department solving the case. It was a black comedy that wound up winning two Oscars, one of which was for Best Original Screenplay. Fargo the new TV series indeed carries many similarities to the movie but with a different crime (or set of crimes, rather) and different characters. Although despite being different from one another, they also manage to have many parallels, which you’ll spot as the show carries on.
Noah Hawley is the creator and one of the executive producers of the show, whose credits include creating and writing the short-lived TV series The Unusuals with Amber Tamblyn and Jeremy Renner and also writing several episodes of the series Bones. I don’t know if the idea for this show came from him having an idea for a Fargo spin-off or it was a story that would be best told if it had the same sort of tone as Fargo – a far-fetched fictional tale that would be even better if viewers believed it to be true. At the beginning of each episode we’re told the following:
“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.”
The same message that pops up before Fargo, the movie, but altered to fit the story for the series. If you know your Fargo movie facts, you’ll know that the message that was placed in front of their film was a complete and utter lie. The film was not based on any truth at all, and the gimmick just became into part of the charm of the film. I suspect that the story that takes place in the Fargo TV series is part of the same gimmick and despite telling us that it’s a true story, it’s far from it.
Despite the blatant lie that’s placed before us, Fargo is exactly what it claims to be and the spin-off captivates you from start to finish. Like so many shows that have started popping up on more channels than just HBO, Showtime and AMC, Fargo plays out like a movie. It doesn’t feel like a TV series due to the beautiful cinematography, the compelling story and the interesting assortment of characters played by great actors and actresses.
Fargo snagged actors like Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Colin Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Keith Carradine and young child star Joey King. Freeman and Thornton are our leading men while Allison Tolman takes on the supporting role of the female police officer, Molly Solverson, looking into the crimes taking place in her town and seemingly the one member of her team with any common sense. Freeman basically plays an American version of Bilbo Baggins before he goes off adventuring with dwarves and wizards. He’s a character stuck in his life and he more or less likes it that way. He doesn’t like change and he doesn’t much like confrontation or conflict. Thornton plays a more personable version of Javier Bardem’s character from No Country For Old Men, Anton Chigurh. While “more personable” he makes it very clear that you don’t want to mess with his character and be someone on his naughty list and overall, an exceptional casting choice by the Fargo team. Without spoiling the moment or the context to this, Thornton delivers a great quote that has already decided to stick with me:
“Some roads you just shouldn’t go down. Maps used to say there be dragons here but now they don’t. But that doesn’t mean that dragons aren’t there.”
That quote has sort of summed up the show for me so far – a show that I’m really enjoying. If you like dark crime comedies, you’ll like this show. If you like the Coen Brothers, you’ll like this show. If you like quirky characters, you’ll like this show. I’m very interested on seeing where it goes from here and which characters will make it out of this story alive, if any.