The Coen brothers’ classic 1996 black comedy, Fargo has been adapted for television by Noah Hawley. What could have been a disaster has been diverted into an engaging and fresh story. Hawley has not made a direct clone of the Coens’ classic but rather taken the core aspects and made them his own. It is essentially a story of what happens when a nice unassuming person is pushed too far. The violence is made all the more vivid by the backdrop of “Minnesota nice” like blood in the snow that appears to permanently blanket the town.
Martin Freeman has to be commended for his take on the downtrodden 40 year old Lester Nygaard who spends most of the first episode being belittled not only by his high school bully but also by those closest around him from his wife to his brother. A fateful meeting with Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo ratchets up the pace taking us towards a gory and inevitable conclusion to this week’s instalment.
Freeman’s Minnesotan accent does not falter (certainly not to my ears) and it has been reported that he stayed within his voice persona throughout the shooting of the series surprising cast and crew when it wrapped by reverting back to his English accent. Many, including myself, were sceptical when it was announced that a television show was in the works and even more so when they announced Freeman’s casting. Do not get me wrong, I think Freeman is perfect as Watson, Bilbo Baggins, etc but just could not see him in Fargo. I am glad to say that it was a completely and utterly incorrect of my initial despair as Freeman, whilst not completely out of his comfort zone in terms of playing the nice guy, gives a great performance. I get the feeling that soon he will as the series progresses reach different new levels.
It was also a pleasure to see Billy Bob Thornton back in a major production and Malvo, as a hit man for hire, is a wonderfully malevolent agent of chaos – a sort of Loki-like figure with a great understanding of human nature. The remainder of the cast cannot be overlooked from relative newcomer Allison Tolman to Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad), Rachel Blanchard (Peep Show) and Colin Hanks.
If you are missing Breaking Bad or any other crime dramas this could be a good replacement if the first episode has anything to go by.
US Viewers: Tuesdays at 10pm on FX
UK Viewers: Sundays at 9pm on Channel 4