Review: Fargo (TV Series)

Fargo: Why I Had Been Sleeping On It & Why You Should Wake Up On It


Having not known that Fargo is the mini-series adaptation to the 1996 critically acclaimed Coen Brothers movie of the same name, at the onset, I can’t say that the premise of Fargo had any kind of special draw to me. Instead, the appeal for me lied in its brilliant casting. Oftentimes, television is seen as the path for eventual movie stars to shine, however, Fargo is headlined by the already well-renowned Martin Freeman (Sherlock, The Hobbit) and Billy Bob Thornton, with supporting roles by Adam Goldberg, Bob Obdenkirk and Colin Hanks. Meanwhile, breakout star Allison Tolman’s performance is so authentic and captivating, it is hard to believe that this is her first real role as an actress.

I realised though, very early on in the 10 episode period, that I was very wrong in my expectation of what Fargo would be – an otherwise forgettable story that was graced with excellent performances. It consistently challenged my preconceived notion of the crime genre over the 10 hours with a unique blend of story and character development. Fargo is a show that is equal parts bizarre and completely ordinary, both serious and comedic, appalling yet pleasant – in essence, some concoction of elements that you would not expect to work well together, but oddly do.

For fans of the original Coen Brothers movie (which I ended up watching), don’t expect much similarity between the two dramas, aside from the dark humour laden throughout. Although the pace of the pilot starts slow, depicting the meek sheepish-looking Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) during a routine Minnesota winter in a small town, it very quickly transforms into a series of abhorrent actions that he is forced into doing to cover the tracks of his initial wrong-doing (you’ll have to watch it to find out). However, this fantastical caricature of a shy man turned killer is given credibility not just by Martin Freeman’s amazing performance of the role, but also by Thornton’s hired gun character who is riddled with mystique, and Tolman’s revelations into Lester’s psyche as the show progresses.

Although it is a full season long, it runs like a mini-series with no further continuation after the ten episodes, which has led to some cast members calling it a “10 hour movie”. This is very good news for those (like me) who value the fleshing out of characters and stories that isn’t as possible in traditional films. While the mini-series style certainly isn’t a new one, it is definitely becoming less niche and in this instance, has led to some comparisons to the hard-boiled crime drama “True Detective”, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. Although the type of narratives that the two shows follow are quite distinct, this sentiment holds true in one regard – both shows are entirely deserving of their praise. At the very least, Fargo will hold your interest in its entirety, and with its cocktail of dark humour and drama, it is unlikely not to satisfy regardless of whether you are a fan of the crime genre or not.

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