FARGO REVIEW: Raising the stakes

"Fargo" on FX

The FX series “Fargo,” inspired by the 1996 Coen Brothers film, is based in northern Minnesota. As northern Minnesota’s leading pop culture, news, entertainment, iron mining and invasive species blog, MinnesotaBrown is here to review the show through Minnesota eyes. Now, to this week’s episode:

Evil schemes thicken right before they fall apart, and as the storyline of the FX series “Fargo” enters its full stride we see a coming explosion. The guilt small-town Minnesota insurance man Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) feels over the murder of his wife is building, as is the increasing notion that his cover story is set to unravel. His mysterious “devil on the shoulder” Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) has moved entirely into a new job, one that he’s now exploiting for even more gain. Still, the echoes of the murders in Bemidji resonate throughout the show.

Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tollman) is rapidly figuring out Lester’s lies and even though she’s “not on the case” she is, by and large, ignoring orders. As all known television viewers suspected, this episode allows for the meeting between Solverson and the Duluth police officer Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) and his pre-teen daughter. In addition to hinting at a very adorable Minnesota love story, this development allows two of the divergent threads of the story to begin weaving around one another. In another example, the Fargo hitmen investigating the death of a man in their organization are now on Lester’s case, too. It’s all coming together.

Without revealing too much plot, here are my “Fargo” Minnesota observations (with my patented “Oh, ya!; Pretty good; Could be worse; Interesting” rating scale):

I was about to say that that first half hour of the show was devoid of over-the-top Minnesota parody … until the lunch Molly has with her friend in the big city. Reminiscent of the movie “Fargo” meeting between Margie and her (ultimately creepy) old high school acquaintance, this conversation dials the patented “Fargo” accent up to “11.” No, not a 100 percent accurate accent, but it’s what the people came to see. Pretty good.

Geez, I hope if Billy Bob Thornton ever comes to my office and drags me out by my necktie that one of my co-workers does any damn thing at all to prevent him from getting me into a trunk in the parking lot. I mean, really. Interesting.

Forgot to mention Kate Walsh as Sam Hess’s widow in the first episode. Have to mention her in this one because she is great. Desperate, sad, resigned, sultry all in one. Oh, ya!

Another great episode for Billy Bob Thornton. Along with Tollman’s Molly, he has the best lines and the best-crafted character in the series. Oh, ya!

During the first episode I was excited to see that Lester wears the exact same hat as I wear (partridge plaid Stormy Kromer). In the second episode I was excited to see that Freeman handles the hat very authentically; balling it on the counter when he walks into shops … just like me! This episode, however, has these facts wearing on me. Will “Fargo” make my hat cool? Uncool? Will my hat make me murder people? I never used to think about things like this. Interesting.

The writers are tying up a lot of back story with Molly’s ex-cop dad and Gus’s boss by implying that Bemidji, Duluth and Sioux Falls police departments would have collaborated on a past case. In reality this is very unlikely. Duluth is the regional center of northeastern Minnesota, where Bemidji often stands alone or with Grand Forks. Both might have a relationship with Minneapolis at key times. Sioux Falls is way down in South Dakota and, while all these cities might look “near” one another on a map in the writer’s room in L.A., their madcap capers are very unlikely to overlap in such a convenient way. Could be worse.

Overall, tight episode. More action and suspense than last week. I’m beginning to think this series can go all the way. My wife and I both like it. That’s a pretty good deal, then. Oh, ya!


Episode 9

Episode 8
Episode 7

Episode 6
Episode 5
Episode 4
Episode 3
Episode 2
Episode 1

See the “Fargo” page

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