As you may or may not be aware, FX recently released the first episode of a new television series based on the Cohen brother’s 1996 film Fargo. This was a pretty big deal to the city of Fargo – the Fargo Theater hosted a premiere party complete with a cocktail hour before, and a Q&A with actor Tom Musgrave after. The new series is an adaptation of the original film rather than a remake or a sequel. It’s a crime drama that keeps the creepy tone and small-town Minnesota setting from the movie (which is called Fargo, but is set in Minnesota. As someone who lives in Fargo, this has always irritated me a little bit), but introduces a new cast of characters and a different plot.
In the pilot episode, “The Crocodile’s Dilemma,” we meet Lester Nygaard, an insurance salesman who seems to be living a quietly miserable life in Bemidji. Work isn’t going well, he is still being bullied by an old classmate, and his marriage seems deeply unhappy. While at the hospital being treated for a broken nose, Lester meets Lorne Malvo, a fascinatingly disturbing individual, who offers to take care of Lester’s problems. Needless to say, all hell immediately breaks loose, and the audience is left wondering what exactly just happened.
I will admit that North Dakota/Minnesota “ya, sure, you betcha” stereotypes are a pet peeve of mine, so I was a little skeptical about the show from the second I pressed play. I groaned out loud when the very first action of the episode involved a greatly exaggerated car collision with a really awful CGI deer. I cringed at the painfully stereotypical Minnesota-Norwegian accents, the redneck, gun-toting portrayal of more than one character, and what I call the “church basement lady” language – “for Pete’s sake”, “heck”, “darn”, “doofus”, and, of course, “uffda.” Once I got past all that – and reminded myself of the validity of several of the aforementioned stereotypes – I started to really enjoy myself.
These characters are fascinating. Martin Freeman does a spectacular job portraying the complexities of Lester’s character – awkwardly insecure, jealous, and slightly emasculated. But he wraps all that up in an outer layer of Minnesota nice. Listening to the British actor do a Minnesota accent caught me off guard for a bit, but his is, surprisingly, one of the more accurate ones, which is bonus points in my book!
Billy Bob Thornton also deserves special kudos for his portrayal of hit man Lorne Malvo. I found myself really intrigued by his macabre attitude. He exudes a sense of lawlessness that is also strangely charismatic. I am really interested to see how that character develops – there was a brief mention of his involvement in a Fargo-based crime syndicate!
I have always had kind a love/hate relationship with the original Fargo movie. The concept of small-town crime drama is really interesting to me, but the stereotypes always put me off just a little bit. Overall, the pilot of this new series had a similar effect on me, but you can’t really compare the two, since nothing but the concept and the setting were kept from the movie. I’m intrigued by the plot enough, so far, that I’ll probably keep watching and see how the show develops. Disappointingly, the infamous wood chipper did not make an appearance in the pilot episode. We’ll have to stay tuned and keep our eyes peeled for it! The second episode aired this week, and the third will air on FX on the 29th.
Meg Hanna ’15 is a Vocal Music Education major from West Fargo, ND. She is a member of the Concordia Chapel Choir and a self-proclaimed “music nerd.” With her degree, she hopes to conduct choir at either the high school or college level.