For Hulu users like me, did you know you have the opportunity to view the premier season of the F/X series Fargo. Inspired by the Coen Brothers’ 1996 film of the same name, the story follows a series of murders in the small town of Bemidji, Minnesota. The events revolve around a lowly, belittled insurance salesman by the name of Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman). After breaking his nose, he finds himself discussing his pitiful life in an emergency room waiting room with Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton), a stranger passing through town between jobs. Malvo’s unnerving demeanor has a way of getting under people’s skin as Duluth police officer Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) also finds out. The ripples of Malvo’s visit captures the attention of a savvy young Bemidji deputy, Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman), who’s determined not to chalk all the events up to coincidence.
# of Episodes/Season: 10 ( Season 2 recently ended, picked up for Season 3)
Time/Episode: ~ 54 minutes
Total Series Runtime: 541 minutes (9 hours, 1 minute)
Things to Know: Love of the film Fargo helps, but isn’t necessary to enjoy the series despite being a couple of allusions to the movie hidden within. It’s a crime drama, just set in starker environs than the usual big cities of LA or New York.
Required Prerequisite: None
When Fargo premiered in the spring of 2014, everyone was wondering why I hadn’t jumped on board. As many know, I cut the cable cord a long time ago so my shows come to me via streaming subscriptions and the occasional purchase via Amazon. While the buzz was strong on Fargo, I was hesitant to invest cold hard cash on an unproven show. Having now finished season 1, it is daily effort in self-restraint not to plop down in my recliner and order up season 2. Why? Because, you betcha, season 1 is just that phenomenal.
Let’s talk actors. Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo is infinitely entertaining, even if he is an absolute psychopath. He deftly pushes buttons in those he meets, mostly to his own amusement. he has no qualms over threatening or even killing people is it suits his purpose. You can’t wait to see what he’ll do next, but you can’t help but cringe at the carnage left in his wake.
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard is something else. It’s a definite shift in tone from Sherlock‘s Dr. Watson and not just because of the accents. Lester is a total loser picked on by peers, his wife and even his brother. He’s a kettle slowing boiling kept at bay primarily by what his wintry birthplace has instilled in him as the decent thing to do. The ripples Malvo leaves in Lester’s life set off a transformative reaction that is engrossing to say the least.
Next up is Allison Tolman’s Molly Solverson. I had only recently just seen Tolman in Krampus, but Fargo is a much more demanding role. Molly has the unpleasant task of trying to ice skate uphill. Not literally, but her boss Bill, played ridiculously blank by Bob Odenkirk, is content to chalk the dark events in Bemidji as coincidence. Molly’s a smart and determined cookie, though, and no amount of discouragement is going to keep her from pursuing justice. Her papa Lou (Keith Carradine) isn’t too crazy about her following in his footsteps, but he tries to help even when she isn’t willing to listen.
The last of the major characters is Duluth PD Officer Gus Grimly. A single father, Gus is a good man, but not cut out for the life of a police officer. It’s his ineptitude which plunges him into the middle of Malvo’s mischief. It also connects him to Molly, and the duo form an unofficial team-up although he never questions who is the better officer between them.
Mix these four characters together with a slew of wonderfully funny appearances by Stephen Root, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Oliver Platt and Adam Goldberg and that’s reason enough to see it. I haven’t even touched on the brilliant writing or the intense mood the stark white setting strikes. Nothing like seeing blood in the snow to put you on the edge of your seat. It was all I could do to space out these first ten episodes to let the details soak in. Also, I can’t tell you how many of Billy Bob’s scenes I watched multiple times. I can keep gushing, but you should really stop reading and start watching. Now get with ya!