Fargo - TV Review

'whenever I see a poor reboot or remake there will be a new question forming: haven't these people watched Fargo?'

When I wrote about Gareth Edwards' Monsters, after watching it for the second time in 2012, there was a question that I couldn't escape: why weren't more low budget Indie films this good? Whenever I see an Indie that's technically dubious or unsound in its message, I still find Monsters and that question popping to the forefront of my thoughts. Has no-one seen and learnt from Edwards' film?

Now, whenever I see a poor reboot or remake there will be a new question forming: haven't these people watched Fargo?

Writer and showrunner Noah Hawley has hit upon a model that the Stars Wars spin-off team (which now features Edwards), for example, would be wise to follow. Sometimes we don't need to know all of the detail from around a narrative. We don't need to know what happened to Marge Gunderson. We certainly don't need to see her several years later. We don't need to see anyone else play the role in order to further a story that has already finished.

What might be interesting though is to see what's happening in that Universe, several years after the events of the film that inspired this series. In Fargo and its surrounds, surely things have quietened down, surely the inhabitants still say 'aww, shucks' a disarming amount, surely there are still several very stupid people living there?

Hawley can't maintain his model all the way through the show and there is a link revealed with the film at about the halfway point. It's telling that the character who reveals the link is dropped pretty quickly: he's just not needed and neither is that development. Fargo is a show that can stand on its own two feet because it takes an incredible original idea (The Coen Brother's film), disassembles it and makes an entirely new original idea out of the pieces.

Hawley's new idea is, in a way, a chilling indictment of the world this Fargo inhabits. His major changes in terms of narrative progression, style, tone and characterisation are this Fargo's bleakness and the presence of someone that knows what they are doing, other than the lead police office (Allison Tolman's Molly here). There is no Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) equivalent in The Coen's Fargo. Arguably, there is no Lorne Malvo equivalent anywhere. Sporting an Anton Chigurh haircut and a salesman's charm, Malvo is a character at one moment scaring small children and at another doing a 'favour' for Martin Freeman's Lester Nygaard, this version of Fargo's stupid husband.

Nygaard though shows why this show is bleaker than The Coen's vision, why its world is a pessimist's dream; cynical and broken. More than the simpering, greedy Jerry (William H. Macy), Lester is nasty. At the start you might root for him but Hawley is clear that by the end you should not. The finale of A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage (S1E9) is the show hitting a new bleak point you didn't think it could make it to. How far will Lester go to save his skin and profiteer on his actions? That episode answers the question. This feeling of new bleakness is repeated throughout. Prepare yourselves for Buridan's Ass (S1E6) and a stunning conclusion in the blizzard of Duluth: Hawley telling you that you can't exactly root for Malvo either, just in case you had any doubts at that point.

Not quite everything works. The Heap (S1E7) makes a jump that not everyone will be willing to go with. Certainly I'm not sure about it. It allows Hawley to essentially start parts of the narrative again, to get people out of the archives where they have been trapped and to reintroduce characters at chance meetings. It feels very convenient for a show that is otherwise clinically written.

From there, the series never quite hits the high points of the rear end of Buridan. Managing a narrative where two of the leading characters are horribly, violent individuals is difficult, admittedly, and even more difficult to end satisfactorily: there is still a little part of you that wants them to succeed. In the end, Hawley goes for something perhaps a little too neat when you consider how bluntly vicious the rest of the show has been. You can perhaps see why. Do we really need another season of this? Then again, who thought a TV show spinoff of a much-revered film would be any good?

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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