Premieres Tuesday, April 15 at 9pm on FX
The limited series event seems to be the new trend in TV this year, and after the success of HBO's True Detective, it's sure not going away anytime soon. But while the premium cable juggernaut may have gotten all the recent attention, FX is the network that started this craze back in 2011 with the hit anthology series American Horror Story, and now it's giving it another try with the quirky crime drama Fargo, inspired the Coen brothers film of the same name.
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Not a re-make or a sequel, FX's Fargo is more like what you might get if you asked someone who hadn't seen the Oscar-winning 1996 film in years to describe it. The characters and circumstances are similar to those in Joel and Ethan Coen's Oscar-winning screenplay, but just different enough to create something fresh. The major elements that made Fargo work are all there: the small-town quirkiness, the Minnesota accents, the stoic bad guys and, of course, the blood.
Set in Bemidji, Minnesota, in 2006 and claiming to be based on a true story (like the original film, this is a bluff), Fargo follows a series of murders that occur after a shadowy man named Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) passes through town. A career criminal with a passion for igniting chaos, Malvo encounters the snively insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) in a hospital waiting room, and a small conversation ignites a violent turn of events. The ambitious and kind-hearted Deputy Molly Solverson (Chicago native Allison Tolman) struggles to link the pieces of Malvo and Nygaard's crimes together while getting resistance from her naïve superiors.
Creator Noah Hawley has set himself up for quite a challenge as Fargo is constantly begging for comparisons to the original film. Thankfully, he largely succeeds in establishing his own set of characters and situations that avoid feeling too similar to the source material. Thorton's Malvo is especially unique, a powerful anarchic force that blows through the sleepy Minnesota landscape, disrupting everything he touches. While Tolman has her work cut out for her in attempting to fill the shoes of Oscar-winner Frances McDormand's Marge Gunderson, she proves up to the challenge. Adam Goldberg and Russell Harvard are an amusing addition as a pair of mob hitmen known as Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench. As Mr. Wrench is deaf, the communication between the two takes place entirely in sign language which, depending on the context, can be either menacing or hilarious. Freeman's Nygaard is the least distinct from his film character and the series leans hard on the actor's charms to make up for this failing.
Moody and funny, Fargo is an amusing re-imagination of the Oscar-winning film, bolstered by an impressive ensemble cast. It's a refreshing take on the limited series crime drama after the bleak True Detective.