Quick Rewind: Things Escalate Quickly on FX’s ‘Fargo’

Fargo: The Television Series
  • Editor Rating

  • Rated 4.5 stars
  • Outstanding

Review Summary:

Review of the new FX series "Fargo"

One of the most anticipated shows to debut this year is FX’s Fargo, and it debuted this past Tuesday night. The show is based on the 1996 cult classic of the same name. Joel and Ethan Coen, who wrote and directed the original movie, are executive producers on the television series, and are slated to write and direct a few episodes. Critical reception for the show has been nothing but positive, as it has a Metacritic review of 87 out of 100, and a 9.6 out of 10 on IMDb.

Myself, I was very excited for the series to debut. I, like many, am a big fan of the film. The film noir flipped-on-its-head was beautifully done by the Coen brothers. The quirky characters in small town Minnesota who are thrown into scenarios of murder and ransom. The light-hearted dialogue mixed with dark comedy led to one of the most well-reviewed and well-liked movie of the 90s, earning 2 Oscars and numerous nominations. So my hopes were high for the television series, especially since it airs on my favorite channel. Let’s dive in.

Some Spoilers Ahead

The show is set 10 years after the movie, and has the whole “Based on a True Story” shtick the original had. The beginning is also reminiscent of the film- as an abandoned car is found off the side of a snowy, lonesome road. The show begins with drifter Lorne Malvo (played mysteriously and darkly by Billy Bob Thornton) driving his car at night. He hits a deer, pulls over to check on it, and a half naked man escapes the trunk of his car and runs off into the distance. The first scene correctly sets the tone for the rest of the episode; humorously dark.


FargoBBTBilly Bob Thorton as Lorne Malvo

The show has parallels of characters from the film. Martin Freeman (The Hobbit Trilogy, Sherlock) plays Lester Nygaard, a husband and life-insurance salesman. His character is similar to the one played by William H. Macy  in the film version. But, instead of being a car salesman who sets up a kidnapping of his wife and essentially brings all the trouble onto himself (as Jerry Lundegaard did), Lester is just having a bad few years. His wife is disappointed in him, his younger brother is more successful and ashamed of Lester, and the guy who bullied him in high school continues to terrorize him. After an unfortunate run-in with Sam Hess, the aforementioned high school bully, and his two rotten kids, Lester goes to the hospital to treat his broken nose (caused by Sam scaring him, leading Lester to smash his face against a window). There, Lester meets Lorne. The two start talking, and Lester reveals to Lorne everything that Sam has done to Lester both recently and in the past (including putting Lester in a barrel and rolling him down the road, and some sexual encounters with Lester’s wife during high school. “My wife has soft hands.”) Lorne encourages Lester to get even, but then suggest that he just kill Sam Hess. Lester jokingly tells Lorne to kill Sam for him. And much to Lester’s chagrin, Lorne agrees.

And he does it. Lorne finds the man who bullied the stranger that he just met, and kills him. Brutally, I might add. The motive of Lorne is unknown, but more than likely blackmail and deception will be apart of it. The rest of the show is filled with misunderstanding and gruesome murders. Lester and Lorne become connected through these murders, and seem to be unlikely partners in crime going forward.


Fargo2Lester Nygaard and Lorne Malvo discussing Sam Hess’ bullying

The first episode left out some key characters who will soon enter the fray. Actors such as Oliver Platt (Frost/Nixon), Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key (Key and Peele), and Adam Goldberg (Saving Private Ryan). As I talked about before, the show’s characters have connections to characters from the film. Adam Goldberg will play Mr. Numbers, who will be close to the character Steve Buscemi played in the film, that of a hired gun. Other notable characters of the show are Sam Hess’s widow Gina Hess (Kate Walsh from Grey’s Anatomy), squeamish police officer Bill Olson (Bob Odenkirk from Breaking Bad), and Deputy Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks from Orange County, Dexter), whose scene at the end of the pilot with Lorne is absolutely riveting.

From most of the first episode one would gather that Lorne and Lester are the main characters, but my thinking is that Molly Solverson (played by Allison Tolman) will be the main focus. She will be heavily investigating all of the murders as one of the police officers on the scene of each of the main moments from the show. First impressions are that her character closely resembles that of Marge “Margie” Gunderson who was beloved in the film version and played excellently by Coen Brother’s favorite Frances McDormand. Look out for Molly to have a lot of character development throughout the series as she evolves from scared-rookie to full on Margie-feminine-hero.

Overalled, I loved the first episode and am all in for the series. The delightful Minnesota accents aren’t as thick, and the characters aren’t as cartoonish, but the dark comedy and intriguing suspense is there. Fans of the movie will surely enjoy the show. And even if you’ve never seen the movie or are not a fan, I highly recommend you check out the show. Good things are surely ahead, dontcha know.



Wonderfully dark humor, top-notch cast, intriguing storyline


Doesn't have the same charm as the movie did