FX’s much-hyped event series Fargo debut last night. We’ve been discussing the hows, whys, and whos surrounding the show for weeks now, so let’s breeze right by that today and get right into it. Here are five things I took away from the premiere.
1) It’s good! At least so far! Turning a beloved, off-beat film into a television series almost 20 years later is some choppy, shark-infested waters to try to traverse. It just reads like a horrible idea on paper, which sets the degree of difficulty even higher because it means dummies like me see the news break in a dryly-worded report on Deadline or whatever, and then get all “WHAT? THEY’RE REBOOTING FARGO? FOR TV? WHYYYYY?” in a post that ends with a GIF of someone flipping a table. There’s a cycle, is what I’m saying.
But once you get past that and actually, like, watch the show, you can make a more fair assessment. And the reports from the critics who have seen the first four episodes — a group I am not a member of — have mostly been very positive, with the general consensus being that after last night’s table-setting pilot, the series will really start grooving in the coming weeks. I can dig that, especially seeing as I already enjoyed the premiere quite a bit. My only real complaint was that that the pacing and cinematography felt more like a movie or a True Detective-style premium channel show, and it made the commercial breaks kind of jarring at times. If the biggest bone you have to pick with a show is “I don’t like when it goes away for a few minutes,” you’re doing pretty okay, all things considered.
2) R.I.P Sam Hess, Chief Thurman, Frozen Guy, Deer in Trunk, and, course, Pearl Nygaard. You will be missed. Probably. Maybe. I don’t actually know, since none of you made it out of the pilot. Either way, you’re all dead now. Bye.
3) It’s pretty dang Coen-y. Writer Noah Hawley and director Adam Bernstein did a really nice job getting the feel for the Coen brothers style. The violence was uncompromising and the humor was dark as hell. (Something about Lester Nygaard running headfirst into a motivational fishy poster to knock himself unconscious — moments after brutally murdering his wife with a hammer and watching his new buddy riddle the Chief of Police’s body with buckshot — cracked me up. This is a very Coen brothers thing.) You don’t wanna turn the whole thing into a kind of Coen brothers fan-fic, but you do want to take some of the zest of that particular lemon and incorporate it into your own dish, which appears to be the case here. If this show can keep doing that, it should be a lot of fun.
4) Billy Bob’s doing work. TV has been gloriously littered lately with big-name actors swinging through and chewing up scenery like they’re at a Vegas buffet. (I mean that in the best possible way.) Kevin Spacey on House of Cards, Matthew McConaughey on True Detective, James Spader on The Blacklist, etc. After last night, please add Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo: Bringer of Chaos to that list. I haven’t fully figured his character out just yet, but I will say this: there are not nearly enough hitmen on television who spend their spare time convincing motel employees to urinate in their boss’s gas tank and then rat them out moments later, just for a laugh. He’s inching deliciously close to peak Billy Bob, which brings me to my final takeaway…
5) I’m definitely gonna try that “Some roads you should’t go down” thing next time I get pulled over. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?
[ends up in jail with multiple bullet wounds]
I want more like this!
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