And the cast! Billy Bob Thornton’s malevolent Lorne Malvo is both comically terrifying and menacingly funny, with a terrible haircut to match his terrible nature. Martin Freeman, who proved his ability to convey a wealth of emotion with just a single glance in The Office, is at it again here: head cocks and winces say more than his words ever could. The entire cast is so fantastic that watching the episodes turned me into Lucille Bluth spotting Gene Parmesan, joyfully shrieking when someone I loved popped up on screen: Colin Hanks! Glenn Howerton! Bob Odenkirk! Oliver Platt! Adam Goldberg!
There are some problems, such as the aforementioned lack of originality within the genre, but it’s easy to shrug that off and enjoy Fargo for what it is. I also can’t help but worry about the Breaking Bad-like, “Let’s praise Walter White but hate his wife” reactions that this show may provoke in viewers. Because FX is seemingly scared of women, there is a not-so-surprising lack of them in Fargo that only stands out more in contrast to the movie (good thing think-pieces are always in style!). But for the most part, the women here aren’t empty set pieces. They are well-written and interesting, with smarts that put the men to shame. Relative newcomer Allison Tolman as Deputy Molly Solverson is strong and intelligent, and will become an instant favorite. Young Joey King as Greta Grimly stands out in every scene she’s in.
There are times within the first four episodes when the story feels a bit too crowded, but it’s still apparent that everything on the side is building to something stunning. While I liked all of what I saw, it’s the pilot episode that sinks its hooks into you. It’s superbly crafted and attention-grabbing, clocking in at a whopping 97 minutes with commercials — for reference, the movie is only 98 minutes long — but there isn’t a boring moment. The pilot is full of bleak hilarity, sudden violence, and character reversals. It’s shockingly funny, with humor often used as a clever tension breaker (I surprised myself with laughter many times). But outside of the Minnesota niceness and the comical accents — drinking game: one sip for every “Ya!” or “You betcha!” — there is still a cold and unspeakable horror that runs throughout Fargo, dark and gruesome.
Here’s the biggest tip I can give for watching Fargo: If you’re looking to see a television version of the movie, do yourself a favor and just watch the movie. If you want an engaging, smart, and gorgeously snowy TV thriller, clear your mind and watch the show.