How odd that two of my favourite ever movies have both spawned TV shows this year. A few months ago Netflix introduced us to a TV version of From Dusk till Dawn and now, the FX channel (and creator Noah Hawley) gives us their adaptation of brilliant 90s crime thriller Fargo. And in passing, I’d just like to add that both original films came out in 1996. A-not-so-amazing coincidence that I just wanted to mention.
So is TV Fargo any good? Short answer – yes. The first episode was strange at first, it was a little weird watching Fargo, but not really watching Fargo if you know what I mean. But fifteen minutes later I was well and truly sucked in.
The writing is polished, both the dialogue and story. It was simultaneously funny, shocking and unpredictable. And in that ‘Breaking Bad’ type way, you can’t quite second guess where the story is going to go. Speaking of which – I was so delighted to see Better Call Saul in this! I know, I know, Bob Odenkirk. But he’ll forever be Saul to me.
It is important to mention that really, this show is nothing like the original film. Even the characters are different though you can find similarities between them. For instance, there is no Marge Gunderson (sad face) but there is a police officer called Vern – who’s wife is heavily pregnant. So where From Dusk till Dawn was tweaked for television, this has just been rewritten entirely. But there are three things that will remind you, you’re definitely watching Fargo –
- The accent. Aw heck. (and Martin Freeman is doing it perfectly, thank you)
- The backdrop. Freezing, snowy Minnesota with its acres of dark field and highway will be familiar.
- The music. Though a different composer was used to Coen brothers fave Carter Burwell – the familiarity is hard to ignore. Jeff Russo did a great job, making the score his own but also keeping the dark, loud and dramatic edge that the OST had.
But apart from that and quite cleverly done indeed, it’s an entirely new story told during 2006 (Fargo the film was set in 1987).
The first episode centers around insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (played by Martin Freeman) who is introduced to us as a meek and mild victim of life. Bullied literally by the same man who bullied him through high school and mentally tormented by his wife who compares him to his more successful brother, Lester is essentially the ‘Jerry’ character who we all fondly remember from the film. Martin Freeman plays him brilliantly.
A chance meeting with dangerous drifter Lorne Malvo (sounds like someone out of Harry Potter) sends Lester’s life spinning into a different direction and we watch gleefully as the outlandish events unfold.
If I had to choose the stand out thing for me that really made this great, it is definitely the characters. Don’t you think that characters can really make or break something? I hate one dimensional characters – good guys, bad guys, the ‘scarlet woman’. I like real people in shows and films, people with good and bad sides to their personality. Well thankfully, Fargo is full of these. For example the aforementioned Lorne Malvo is plainly a confident and dangerous man. Yet he makes the viewer laugh and plays fair (albeit to his own rules).
So give it a try, as far as television goes stuff like this really is the cream of the crop. Brilliant performances through-out, clever casting, writing and a fantastic storyline that really draws the viewer in.
And am I looking forward to episode two?