By Johnny Beaver
Back in 1996, Joel and Ethan Coen released a theatrical masterpiece… and we’re not going to be discussing it today, because every other review of the new Fargo TV series I’ve seen has wasted no less than 50% of its word count talking about it. Because it’s quickly shaping up to be a masterpiece in and of itself, I highly recommend following this example and forgetting about the movie altogether while you watch it.
So. Usually when I’m at a loss for words, it is because I have witnessed something so frighteningly stupid that I have to pause for a bit while experiencing a series of cascading microseizures. In this case, it’s because I just don’t know where to start. It’s really that good. First off, if you haven’t seen the show yet, just finish what you’re doing on the toilet, toss this paper in the bin and go do so. As Hannibal Lecter once suggested, it’s like slipping into a warm bath. In this instance, it’s a warm bath with Dostoyevsky-reading erotic dancers and an endless supply of the best damn peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ever.
Tapping into a similar vein as its unmentionable forebear, Fargo seeks to woo us anti-hero fanatics with the story of an average community with an average population—that just happens to be experiencing the sociological equivalent of a psychotic break. Martin Freeman really proves his worth here as the main attraction, playing the whole average-guy-flips-out archetype at least as good as anyone ever has before. He still possesses all of those Martin Freeman ticks people have come to love (even if they can’t stomach that turd of a The Hobbit trilogy), but the character and subject matter has allowed him to really stretch his legs and level up. Across the aisle, Billy Bob Thornton’s character is basically a misanthropist’s wet dream—a brilliant delivery of a thoughtful sociopath (with a terrible haircut) who also happens to love %$@!# with people for no reason other than to amuse himself. Take your typical Internet troll and place him in real life. I’m not really into being unconditionally mean myself, so I have to get my kicks by watching guys like Thornton’s Lorne Malvo doing it for me.
There’s a handful of other talented folks on tap, including Bob Odenkirk, Oliver Platt, Keith Carradine, and, of course, the almost totally unknown but obviously talented Allison Tolman in the role of the only competent cop within 200 miles. In fact, I’d expect that the lesser known names in this series will become less so over the course of its run. Everyone has a distinct personality and some level of depth, no matter how far in the background they are. It provides an atmosphere that you can really dig into.
I’m not a fan of having nothing negative to say (for balance, of course), but at the time of writing this we’re only about four episodes in. Taking that into account, they might ruin it, somehow, sometime in the future. That’s about the most terrible thing I can think of. Time to go watch TV now… all this reading can’t be good for you.