A Misanthrope’s Guide to Television: Fargo


This week marked the premier of the new FX series, Fargo. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Fargo is a movie, not a TV show. The author of this post is wrong.” False, I am never wrong and FX is, in fact, airing a 10-episode miniseries based on the Coen Brothers’ film. This past Tuesday, the first one hour episode aired and it was about as dark as you’d expect.

First thing’s first: Fargo is NOT based on a true story. Bits and pieces of the plot were taken from a few real events, but this movie is fictional and if one more person tries to convince me its not, I’m going to force their body through a wood chipper (sorry, maybe spoilers?). Yes, at the beginning of the movie (and TV show), some words pop up on the screen and tell you that what you are about to see is based on real events. You know what other movie has a bunch of words that pop up on the screen at the beginning and tell you a bunch of “facts”? Star Wars. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe the only source worth believing: Wikianswers.

Anyways, the first thing to know about the series is that the cast is stacked. None of the original performers are back, but my guess is that that text conversation looked something like:

Frances McDormand: So sorry but I’m going to have to turn down the part. I just feel like the character evolved so much in the–

Studio Execs: Whatevs, we got Billy Bob Thornton, lol we don’t care. l8er.

Frances McDormand: I’m glad everything worked out.

Studio Execs: R U even in movies anymore? lol.

In addition to Billy Bob Thornton, the cast stars Martin Freeman, Bob Odenkirk (that’s right, Sal’s back), Glenn Howerton, Colin Hanks (yeah, that Hanks), and many more. The characters aren’t quite the same as in the movie and certain story-lines have been spread around to both freshen the plot and marginally allow the new performs the chance to avoid inevitable comparison to the original actors.

The first half of the pilot episode was strange and slow. Certain characters had been changed for the worse, and really any changes at all were distracting for someone who had ever watched the movie. Lester’s wife was basically a sociopath, which was a large divergence from the original movie, where she was a far less developed and more innocent victim. Billy Bob Thornton’s character was far more both random, and villainous than Buscemi’s, and Frances McDormand’s character was given far less competence or pregnancy.

But as the episode wore on, the comparisons stopped coming and the pace quickened. If the first half was there to establish the world, the second half was there to let you know that if you thought you knew the plot, you were wrong. While it may not be the best show for someone who dislikes the sight of blood, it is definitely unique enough for almost anyone else.

The best advice I have for someone who wants to watch the series is to rename it something else in your head. Call it Scary Little Minnesota Town or The Legend of Billy Bob Thornton, whatever you need to do to forget that it is supposed to be a spin-off of Fargo. It’s not the same, but its not really trying to be, and the constant comparisons will only hold a viewer back. 

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