TV Talk with Breanna #13: Fargo Comes to the Small Screen?! Yah, You Betcha!

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This article was originally written in April 2014. Fargo has since been picked up for a second season.

When I reviewed Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I broke one of my self-placed rules that I could not write about a show that had not completed at least its first season. However, that show was well into the season and had already received prestigious awards, so it was clear that it was quality. Now, I’m breaking that rule even further by reviewing a show that has only had two episodes at the time of my writing this. In most cases, I would say that it’s impossible to judge a show based on its first episodes alone, but Fargo has already shown in a couple hours that it holds promise to be the best new show of 2014.

Fargo, which premiered on FX on April 15, had a lot to live up to as the adaptation of a cult classic of the same name. The film was released in 1996 and quickly received critical acclaim (even being called “one of the best movies I’ve ever seen” by film critic Robert Egbert), as well as various awards, including two Oscars. In fact, the movie was deemed “historically, culturally, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress in 2006 and was inducted into the National Film Registry in order to be preserved. Although the film was released almost two decades ago, Fargo is still beloved today, and is probably most remembered for its exaggerated use of the nice, singsong Minnesota accent.

In actuality, though, the television show cannot be classified as a direct adaptation or even a reboot of the original film, as the plots of the two are completely different. The film follows Jerry Lundegaard (William H Macy), a desperate car salesman who hires two men to kidnap his wife in order to get ransom money from his wealthy father-in-law, and Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), the pregnant police officer that is assigned to the case. On the other hand, the show follows a drifter named Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thorton) who arrives in Bemidji, Minnesota and turns the life of troubled insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) upside down when he volunteers to kill the man that relentlessly bullies him. The small town quickly becomes the site of numerous murders, with Lester caught in the middle, and Officer Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) hot on the killer’s trail.

Although the premises of the two Fargo’s are quite different and completely unrelated, they are very similar in tone and atmosphere. The film is known for having hilariously dark humor, and the show is able to replicate that perfectly, making the viewers laugh even though they may feel slightly bad about it. The wonderful campy soundtrack especially adds to this element, perfecting the “black comedy” feel. The Fargo’s both open the same way, too, claiming that “the events depicted took place in Minnesota in 1987 [or in the case of the show, in 2006]. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.” However, it has since been discovered that nothing even remotely similar to the events shown in the movie took place, and there is no evidence that the events that take place in the show have ever actually occurred either. The film and the movie are also alike in that they both have shocking, slightly odd twists that really define them (in fact, it’s hard to describe the two without giving the twists away).

This isn’t to say that FX’s Fargo is not unique in itself, though. The characters in the show are much quirkier than the ones in the movie, and they have much more development as well (though, this is to be expected as the show is already longer than the movie with just two episodes). The show is also much more violent than the film, but it is still comically violent in most cases. Most importantly, the plot of the show is more interesting and entertaining than the film’s, though it is very possible that not all viewers will share my opinion.

Even though you can count the number of aired episodes on one hand, Fargo has already proven that it is living up to the success of its predecessor. Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregate website, has the show at 98%, indicating universal acclaim. It’s obvious that you don’t want to miss what could very possibly become the best show of the year. Fargo airs on FX at 10pm on Tuesdays.