Fargo—Season 1

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9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Smart spin-off to the original film

If you didn't like Fargo, I doubt you'd like the series.

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Blood begets blood

Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) has his life turned upside down when he has a chance encounter with a killer named Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) at the hospital.  Now, the blood is flowing and nothing seems to be able to stop it.  Lorne is a killer who likes to play games and now Lester is a part of them.  Hunted by a deputy named Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) and another officer named Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks), Lester is trying to keep one step ahead of Malvo…but Malvo has been playing the game for a long time and takes no prisoners.

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So…what type of policy should I buy?

Fargo—Season 1 aired from April 15, 2014 to June 17, 2014 on FX.  The series is a spinoff of the award winning Coen Brothers 1996 film and the Coen Brothers serve as executive producers for the series.  The series was released to critical acclaim and won Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special (“Buridan’s Ass”), Oustanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special, and Outstanding Miniseries with nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie (Billy Bob Thornton), Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie (Martin Freeman), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (Colin Hanks), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie (Allison Tolman), Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special (“The Crocodile’s Dilemma”), Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special (“The Crocodile’s Dilemma”), Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie (“The Crocodile’s Dilemma”), Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie (“Buridan’s Ass”), Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Original Dramatic Score) (“The Crocodile’s Dilemma”), Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie (“The Crocodile’s Dilemma”), Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (“The Crocodile’s Dilemma”).

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I just want a hug

Fargo is one of my all-time favorite movies.  With this in mind, I was excited and horrified to learn that they were making a TV series of it…the danger of wrecking it was possible.  A previous potential spin-off starring Edie Falco was made in 2003 and didn’t take off…fortunately, this Fargo is worth watching.  Due to an interesting plot twist, I’m issuing a *****Spoiler Alert***** for the rest of the review just to not spoil a fun little thing the creators did.

Fargo has a weird parallel to the story of the original film.  Sequences in the film mirror the original film sequences and have a similar feel.  The movie however is revealed to be a sort of sequel to Fargo in the fourth episode when Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt) reveals how he made his fortune.  One of the most frustrating things about Fargo was that no one ended up with the money, but it made sense that it would have been found…and here it is.  This twist adds a nice level to an already complex story, and almost something like Battlestar Galactica where you learn that everything has happened before, you feel you know the story, but you don’t…which is also kind of the point of the actual season’s story.

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Nice shootin’ tex!

The acting for the series is also top notch.  There aren’t any weak links in the cast.  Billy Bob Thornton is great as the creepy killer who feels like a combination of Fargo and No Country for Old Men, but Martin Freeman sheds his English accent to play the schmuck turned cold blooded killer Lester Nygaard.  I’m not always a Colin Hanks fan but he works her and works great as a foil to the eager deputy played by Allison Tolman.  Bob Odenkirk continues his rise to fame as the goofy chief Bill Oswalt and Keith Carradine has a nice supporting role as Allison’s father.

The show also looks great.  I never can fault any of the film version of Fargo, and it doesn’t quite have that level of cinematography, but it does look fantastic.  The coldness is captured on screen, and it is odd since so many of the characters are warm.

Fargo is a fun series and a quick watch.  I don’t know how second season will line up, but I’ll be anxious to see where Fargo goes.  The weird tone of the series seems to almost feel like Twin Peaks with interpretive stories being told throughout the series which almost have a Zen-like approach.  Fargo is a fun series that keeps the odd blend of drama and humor that made the movie a success…it is worth another trip up north, yah.

Fargo—Season 1 Complete Episode Guide:

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“The Crocodile’s Dilemma”

1.1       The Crocodile’s Dilemma Airdate:  04/15/14

Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) is a beaten man.  His wife Pearl (Kelly Holden Bashar) nags him, his brother Chazz (Joshua Close) looks down on him, and even his old bully Sam Hess (Kevin O’Grady) continues to harass him.  When he has a chance encounter with a travelling hit man named Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton), Sam ends up dead.  As Chief Vern Thurman (Shawn Doyle) and his deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) investigate Sam’s murder, Lester makes a bloody decision that takes him down a deadly path.

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“The Rooster Prince”

1.2       The Rooster Prince Airdate:  04/22/14

Mr. Numbers (Adam Goldberg) and Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard) are called in to Bemidji to investigate the death of Sam Hess and question if it could be a hit.  Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk) is promoted to chief (despite Thurman’s recommendation that Solverson should be chief) and Oswalt and Solverson question Nygaard about the events leading up to the death of his wife and Chief Thurman.  Lorne Malvo gets a new assignment to find out who is blackmailing the Supermarket King Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt).  Officer Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) learns that the man he pulled over could be tied to the murders.

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“A Muddy Road”

1.3       A Muddy Road Airdate:  04/29/14

Solverson finds herself pulled off the death of Thurman and put on the man frozen to death…learning that he could have links to the man seen with Nygaard.  Nygaard work on the Hess murder leads him to a compromising position with Mrs. Hess (Kate Walsh) and puts him in the targets of Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench.  Malvo discovers who is behind the blackmailing of Milos and sets out to get the money himself.  Grimly and Solverson find their cases cross paths and set out to find Malvo.

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“Eating the Blame”

1.4       Eating the Blame Airdate:  05/06/14

The origin of Milos’ fortune is revealed and Malvo uses Milos’ belief in God against him.  Investigating the death of Milos’ dog leads Grimly to a chance encounter with Malvo, but his hope for a break in the case falls apart during questioning.  Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench decide they have to get to the bottom of Nygaard’s involvement with Hess’s murder and set out for their own type of interrogation.

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“The Six Ungraspables”

1.5       The Six Ungraspables Airdate:  05/13/14

As the condition of the infection in his hand worsens, Nygaard is forced to give up Malvo’s name to Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers.  Solverson digs up new evidence on Malvo’s ties to Nygaard and the murders and tries to convince Oswalt to investigate.  Malvo prepares to make the money pick-up from Milos but has plans for his partner Don Chumph (Glenn Howerton).

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“Buridan’s Ass”

1.6       Buridan’s Ass Airdate:  05/20/14

A snowstorm bears down on Minnesota as people are ordered to stay off the roads.  Milos’ paranoia continues to grow as he has a revelation on what he should do with the money.  Malvo prepares for the meeting but sets up Chumph for a rendezvous with the police.  Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench locate Malvo during the blizzard and attempt to take him out…leading to a dangerous situation for Solverson and Grimly.  Nygaard finds himself at the hospital and tries to find a way to clear his name.

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“Who Shaves the Barber?”

1.7       Who Shaves the Barber? Airdate:  05/27/14

Solverson learns that Grimly has accidentally shot her and that the man she shot is being held in the hospital.  Nygaard makes his big move when a gun is discovered in the bag of his brother’s son…and it could be his big break.  Malvo seeks out revenge on the men who sent Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers after him and turns the lives of FBI agents Pepper (Keegan-Michael Key) and Budge (Jordan Peele) upside down as a result.  As Solverson tries to finally nail down the series of events in the murders, an unexpected arrest throws her scenario in jeopardy.

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“The Heap”

1.8       The Heap Airdate:  06/03/14

With Chazz Nygaard’s arrest, the case seems closed, and Lester has a new lease on life.  Malvo has freed Mr. Wrench from hospital and disappeared once again.  A year passes and things have changed in the lives of Molly Solverson and Gus Grimly who are married and expecting a child.  FBI agents Pepper and Budge find themselves sentenced record keeping and Lester has a new wife Linda (Susan Park) and a successful business.  When Lester and his wife have an awards banquet in Las Vegas, Lester has a reunion he doesn’t expect.

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“A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage”

1.9       A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage Airdate:  06/10/14

Lester Nygaard’s wife is dead and Nygaard once again is under suspicion.  With the police and FBI now realizing that Malvo is a threat and in Bemidji, the search for Malvo is on…but Malvo is also on the hunt for Lester…it is only a matter of who will find whom first!

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“Morton’s Fork”

1.10     Morton’s Fork Airdate:  06/17/14

Lester Nygaard’s wife is dead and Nygaard once again is under suspicion.  With the police and FBI now realizing that Malvo is a threat and in Bemidji, the search for Malvo is on…but Malvo is also on the hunt for Lester…it is only a matter of who will find whom, and the truth may finally be revealed!

Related Links:

Fargo (1996)

Fargo—Season 2 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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