By Ben Lane
Fargo is a film that took the world by storm in 1996. Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, the film was a perplexing crime drama that deftly blended comedy with an inky black tone that resonated oh so well. I thought it strange when I heard FX would be airing a series of the same name, based on the film. I was worried. When I heard that the Coens would serve as executive producers, I gained a little more hope. Then when I heard it would be a 10 episode limited series, I became excited. And now that “The Crocodile’s Dilemma” has aired, I am very, very, very pleased to say that this, my friends, was sensational television!
No spoilers in this review. I just want my first thoughts on this new series to be known to my followers out there, and maybe those just stopping by for some insight. So I will start off by simply saying that this episode blew me away. I expected the show to be good, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t expect what I got. I loved it. Part of that is my love for the original film. It should be known that when it is said that this show is based on the movie, it only means that it takes place in the same area and has the same tone. The characters are different and the story is different, but from the start of this premiere you can feel the Coens’ fingerprints all over it.
The lighting in this show is beautiful, capturing the snowy terrain with irrefutable appeal. The tone that made the film such a hit lingers here as well, thankfully. You should all know that this is a bit of a brutal show, without spoiling anything. But there is just enough humor and well written cleverness in the backdrop of it all that it’s hard to turn away from. This episode had so many effects tonally, each so different but all feeling so Coen-esque. In regard to the writing, some of these characters have very brief scenes of back story, but it’s just enough to make you care about them and worry when they find themselves in certain situations. It’s kind of miraculous.
The aspect of this episode that I adored so much was not only the acting but the characters in general, specifically those of Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) and Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman). I’ve been wanting to say this since I started writing this article, and here it is: Billy Bob is back! I have always loved Billy Bob Thornton. He was the best part of Armageddon, absolutely hysterical in Bad Santa, and almost equally funny in Bad News Bears. He’s just one of those actors that no matter what kind of crap he’s in I still find him entertaining. But really, what all has he been in lately of merit? Nothing. At. All. Now he’s scoring big with Fargo. I’m not jumping on any bandwagon here. I really think this character has massive potential. I’m not going to say he’s going to reach Walter White territory yet, but if this character remains as fascinating and dynamic as he was in this episode, he could reach the same ballpark for sure. Not too far behind him, and maybe even right there with him, is Martin Freeman’s Lester. I loved this character so much. I didn’t know much about what this show was going to be about, so some of the plot elements really surprised me throughout this episode, and Martin Freeman was stellar, rocking the Minnesota accent and nailing the humor… and drama. He’s great as Bilbo Baggins. He’s great as John Watson. And this is looking promising already. Also, Colin Hanks has a smaller role toward the end of the episode that doesn’t allow him to do much, but I’m sure the series will change that, and Allison Tolman is very good as the McDormand-esque character. Also, it was nice to see Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul!!) in a smaller role as well.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Fargo opened up it’s limited 10 episode season with incredible skill. This episode was shocking, violent, hilarious, beautiful, and very well acted. If the rest of the series remains as brilliant as “The Crocodile’s Dilemma,” we may have ourselves a new television classic.
10 / 10