TV Review: FX’s ‘Fargo’ Season One Premiere

FX’s “Fargo” was conceived as something of a ten-episode “movie” more than a standard television series. In this sense it shares something of a kinship with HBO’s recently completed first season of “True Detective“. And, like “True Detective”, which is already developing a second season, the intent with “Fargo” is to feature one true crime story each season and, as writer/creator Nick Hawley said, “After a season or two of the show, people who see the movie might say that was a great episode of Fargo. Each season is a separate true crime story from that region. The movie now fits into the series as another true crime story from the region.”

The movie Hawley is referring to, of course, is Joel and Ethan Coen‘s 1996 Best Picture nominee of the same name. And don’t go feeling as if that comment, saying the movie could be considered just another episode, is blasphemous — not only does the show do a wonderful job of capturing the tonal aspects of the film, but the filmmaker brothers serve as executive producers on the show.

That said, about 50 minutes or so into the first episode, “The Crocodile’s Dilemma”, directed by Adam Bernstein (“Breaking Bad”), I was already well into wondering just how they were going to turn this into a series of any sort. As soon as I made known this curiosity to my wife who was sitting next to me, watching and enjoying it as much as I was, the answer came in all its dark hilarity.

“Fargo” is steeped in the same dark comedy, murder and drama, matched with “Minnesota nice” that made the Coen’s movie so entertaining. Set in Bemidji, Minnesota, each episode opens with the same “This is a True Story” lead-in that confounded audiences of the film and the innocence (and accents) of small town USA is on display. Some of which are brought to do dark deeds, all while the devil is lurking in every corner, passing on his influence.

Hawley seems to have delicately eased himself into the world developed by the Coens and he’s clearly comfortable. Characters resemble those found in the feature film, but they aren’t altogether the same.


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