In Review of… Fargo (Season 1)
Historically, ‘All roads lead to Rome,’ is the famous saying, but in the world of entertainment, it should now be, “All Roads lead to Fargo.”
Released in 2014, Noah Hawley’s first tale, inspired by Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1996 Oscar-winning masterpiece of the same name, picks up the idle reins from that film and races away across the Minnesota landscape, taking with him many of the things that made the afore mention film so captivating.
It would be easy, of course, just to carry on in the same vein, perhaps fleshing out the characters from the original Coen Brothers movie, and explore that timeline a little further – but right from the dramatic opening shot, Hawley (the director and writer), stamps his intentions all over the stark landscape, underlined by the dramatic version of the harp/orchestral score from the film.
And the result is devilishly brilliant. Much like the film Fargo the show is inspired by (The Coen Brothers are Executive Producers here), Season 1 is the first of an anthology of tales set in the barren, cold Minnesotan and Dakotan landscapes.
So, without further ado, and getting lost in the swirling snow, let’s talk a little about the story in season 1, without giving anything away. Okay, then… Ready? Here we go, then.
‘This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 2006.
At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed.
Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.’
Honouring the opening credits of the eponymous film, this Emmy and Golden Globe winning show has you intrigued from the outset with its quirky, dark humour and story-telling, quickly drawing you into the lives of those who live in and around the sleepy town of Bemidji. Focussing mainly on events in Minnesota and North Dakota, a seemingly innocuous collision with a deer on a stormy, snow-swept road sets off a chain of events that leave the idling town awash with mayhem, and, as the title credits suggest, a great deal of blood.
It’s a cold January (and the cold is a recurring theme here) when, following a collision with the afore mentioned deer, Billy Bob Thornton’s character, who shall remain nameless for the purposes of this review, has a chance meeting with mild-mannered insurance salesman Lester Nygaard, as they sit in a hospital waiting room.
Lester, played Martin Freeman, has had a bad day so far. Belittled at every opportunity by his wife, belittled himself, seemingly, by having any or little ambition of his own, he has a run-in with the former college bully, and you immediately sympathise with him and his situation. Nursing a potential broken nose, he, too, waits to see a doctor.
If only they had not spoken…
The underlying theme in this wonderful show is the unsettling knowledge that events can always spin out of your control, despite your best efforts to put things right. But then, as the show asks you, what if you’re right and they are wrong?
With threads tying back to Fargo at every turn, and nods to other films from the Coen Brothers, this dark comedy/drama has as many laughs as it does shocks, but it stands head and shoulders above many other shows because of the writing and acting.
Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton steal the show, when together on screen, or apart – their paths forever intwined by that fateful, chance encounter in hospital.
Both actors clearly relished their roles, and with excellent dialect coaching, all of the cast may well have you believe that they live in the local area.
And it’s not just the two leads that shine – the cast around them are wonderful, an ensemble including the wonderful Allison Tollman as the sharp-eyed, keen-minded Deputy Molly Solverson, whose story is just as central to the unfolding plot as the two main leads. Unable to shake her concerns about Lester’s possible involment with events unfolding around the local area, and the mysterious man he met in the hospital, she pursues her intstincts relentlessly, despite the lack of support from her chief, Bill Oswalt, played by the always wonderful Bob Odenkirk.
Keith Carradine, Adam Goldberg, Shawn Doyle, Julie Ann Emerya, Oliver Platt and Colin Hanks all shine, and all add to what makes up for a wonderful first season of Fargo.
Every character seems to have been given a line you could quote back in years to come, but it has to be Billy Bob Thornton (who won a Golden Globe for his performance) who gets the cream of the crop. One particular scene involving Colin Hanks’s Officer Gus Grimly from neighbouring Duluth, Minnesota, will leave you with goosebumps on your arms.
To try and even hint at all the story threads and the characters that become tied up in them would be to spoil the enjoyment for you, and much of what happens and is mentioned in this first season, will, I suspect, have ties to future seasons, whichever year they may be set in. Nothing is tied up neatly, and much is left unsaid, which I love in a show.
Fargo has been made with much care and love, and this shines out from the wintery Minnesotan landscape. Freeman, Tollman and Thornton are just brilliant, but, with all that being said, the award for the standout star of the show, has to go to the shadowy precesnce that is Fargo, and all that happens and originates from there.
There is a lot more to come from Fargo, I suspect, and I look forward to discovering more about it in the future… or perhaps it will be the past? We shall have to wait and see, and if you haven’t seen this wonderful show yet, you really, really should.
Cue the haunting strings as the episode fades….
Fargo Season 1
Number of Espisodes: 10
My rating: 9/10
Watched on: Netflix