Last week on the FX channel began the series "Fargo" - an ironic thriller based on the 1996 Coen brothers film. A killer with strange manners (Billy Bob Thornton) visits the snowy backwaters of Minnesota and revives the dull atmosphere of the town, unleashing a bloody crime story for no apparent reason. Today the second episode of ten is on the air, but it is already clear that the idea of making a series based on the cult film is much more successful than one might think.
Today it is often said that all the best scripts are now not in big movies, but on television. Fargo, billed as a television adaptation of a Hollywood movie, should seem like the exception to the rule. But in fact, he confirms this rule: the creator of the show Noah Hawley composed the original plot, adopting from the original intonation, a couple of characters (and even then partially) and the setting (not Fargo, North Dakota, but Bemidji in Minnesota; the Coens had Minneapolis). In general, the series "Fargo" is not a sequel or a remake, but an independent, close in spirit story. Actually, half of the Coens' filmography consists of pictures, in the same way, inspired by some classics. After the first episode, it is too early to say something confidently, but so far the series "Fargo" looks, in its format, worthy of the film "Fargo". The Coens themselves, skeptical at first, approved the script and are involved in producing the show.
Nevertheless, much of what we love the film "Fargo" for has been carefully preserved: wide panoramas of snowy prairies, almost physically perceptible cold, cynical black humor. Again, there is a cheerful simpleton from the police, played by Allison Tolman (in the film, a similar role was played by Frances McDormand, who received an Oscar for Fargo), and a fussy 40-year-old loser (Martin Freeman), although his role in what is happening is somewhat different than it was from the hero William Macy. There are also very small quotes from the Coens that will delight those who remember the film well: from the obvious - the opening title, announcing the story as really happened (in fact, nothing like that). There is also, for example, a diner that advertises the White Russian cocktail - an allusion to another famous film by the brothers.
In many of America's finest TV series, setting plays an important role: in the right hands, geographic circumstances add depth and character to a story. For example, "Twin Peaks" could not have taken place without the nature of the American Northwest - silent mountains, gloomy forests and ghosts of Indian legends. In recent True Detective, a key element is the Southern Gothic tradition rooted in the swampy soil of the Mississippi Delta. Fargo has its own flavor - an almost Siberian climate, deer (live and knitted on sweaters), Scandinavian surnames, a melodious dialect and an addiction to the word heck.
According to a simple retelling of the plot, it may seem that Fargo is an excessively bloodthirsty thriller, in which there can be nothing funny. Indeed, it is already clear that the final number of corpses in the series will be much higher than average, especially if you remember how many characters were killed in the Coens film. But from the very beginning of the first episode, it is clear that the criminal plot will be told in an ironic vein: in the opening scene, a naked fat man jumps out of the trunk of the main villain and runs away through the snow into the forest, and it is such an absurd episode that characterizes the owner of the car - the hero of Thornton - as an extremely dangerous person … In general, humor in the series is not associated with individual characters specially introduced for this purpose - there are some comical features in each of the characters.
The visiting killer Lorne Malvo, played by Billy Bob Thornton, is the main stroke of the script.He looks quite idiotic (stupid bangs and a foppish coat instead of the usual down jacket for local people), but not taking him seriously is a big mistake. In part, Malvo resembles another badly trimmed killer - Anton Chigurah from the Coen film "No Country for Old Men": he also kills without the slightest doubt, considers himself a weapon of fate and is inclined to talk about it with random people. However, Thornton's character is more smiling and witty. Malvo in the series is an agent of absolute evil, a kind of Mephistopheles, pushing people to immoral acts just for the sake of entertainment. He also seems to know how to disappear without a trace from closed rooms, which also makes him akin to the devil.
Thornton is another big actor who came to television from cinema - including, by the way, from the Coens (in The Man Who Wasn't There, Thornton played the main role). Martin Freeman, the second star of the series, is generally one of the most popular artists of the last two or three years, thanks to Sherlock and The Hobbit. In Fargo, he, as the unlucky insurance agent Lester Nygard, fulfills his usual role of the layman in an unpleasant situation, this time with a (carefully rehearsed) American accent. Also present is Bob Odenkerk, aka the chatty lawyer Saul "Better Call Saul" Goodman of Breaking Bad, and Colin Hanks, the son of his father and antagonist of Dexter's sixth season, is expected to arrive. Allison Tolman in the role of police officer Molly Solverson is almost a debutante, but does not get lost against the background of partners. There is a feeling that after Fargo we will hear more about it.
A woman in uniform is not a frequent hero of the screen, especially if she is not at the same time someone's romantic interest. In "Fargo" the forces of law and order are represented by the already mentioned Molly - a provincial spontaneous young lady, less naive than it might seem at first glance. She appears in the first episode as a junior operative, but there is reason to believe that in the future it will be she who will investigate the consequences of Lorne Malvo's visit to the city, destroying the gender stereotypes of police TV shows and films. By the way, in "Fargo" the other side of sexism is also critically examined - the hero of Freeman has problems with male self-esteem, and this will not lead him to anything good.
We all know that terrible things can happen in the most unexpected places, and have seen such stories more than once: remember, again, the history of the glorious town of Twin Peaks or "Blue Velvet" by the same author. Regarding Fargo, one must also understand that the Midwest, to which Minnesota belongs, is considered in America something like a country of hobbits inhabited by good-natured simpletons. There is even the expression "Minnesotanice", which some of the characters in the show successfully epitomize. Well, or personify up to a certain point.
The main plot of "Fargo" is diluted with small side lines from one or two scenes, allowing to distract from the main action. Policeman Verne Thurman with his pregnant wife may not be the best example (it is not yet clear whether this plot will continue in the next episodes), but the story of Lorne Malvo's relationship with the owner of the motel, told in just a couple of minutes of screen time, is excellent. Such micro-plots, almost unrelated to the main line, allow better portraying the characters and giving the Fargo universe additional volume. It is known from the announcements that there will be more of them. We are especially looking forward to the visit to Bemidji of two more criminals, who, apparently, will play the role of frostbitten idiots Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare from the Coen film in the series.
Fargo is conceived in an anthology format, like American Horror Story and the same True Detective, that is, each season will have a new story with a different cast. Therefore, for those viewers who are reluctant to get involved in long-term shows for tens of hours, this is a good choice.On the other hand, if Fargo does not get worse for the remaining nine episodes (so far no prerequisites are visible for this), then it will not be easy to refuse the second season.