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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Fargo’ has stellar cast, lots of potential

    Frederick M. Brown

    Judging by its first two episodes, FX’s 10-episode miniseries “Fargo” looks like it will be one of the next great TV events.
    Airing on Tuesday nights, it separates itself from the great but overcrowded Sunday night lineup. Had it been a Sunday night show, it would’ve been instant DVR material for 99 percent of TV watchers.

    “Fargo” is a spin-off of the legendary Coen Brothers film of the same title. It takes place in Minnesota circa 2006. Equipped with an unbelievable cast that includes Martin Freeman (“Sherlock”), Billy Bob Thornton (“Bad Santa”) and Bob Odenkirk (“Breaking Bad”), it has the potential to be the best movie-adapted TV show since “Friday Night Lights.” It captures much of what made the movie so genius: the goofy accents, funny dialogue and small-town ambiance. Of course, it’s what it does differently from the movie that makes it even better.

    A straight adaptation of the movie, or expansion of the movie’s plot or characters, would’ve been a disaster. Marge Gunderson, the main character from the movie, should always be Frances McDormand. Nobody can or should try to replicate or better McDormand’s Oscar-winning performance. One of many genius elements of the movie is how routine the story is in the grand scheme of life. Hollywood has a tendency to overdramatize the true impact of many of the events it depicts. “Fargo” is a film where the main cop (McDormand) investigates an appalling set of crimes, but at the end of the day, she gets her man and goes home and goes to sleep. It’s business as usual.

    The show moves in another direction altogether. It takes place in the same world, with the same kind of Minneapolis simpletons who speak with the same accent, but it’s in no way the same story. It’s darker, as is evidenced by multiple gory murders occurring in the pilot episode. But like the movie, the show is driven not by its plot, but by its characters.

    Judging by its slower, more drawn-out second episode, “Fargo” is a show that will take its time developing each of its characters. It follows not only the main story, but also the lives of the characters outside of the murder investigation. One of the cops is a single father with a daughter he cares deeply about. She gives him Minnesota Vikings updates over the radio while he’s on patrol; it’s these kinds of small details that capture the essence of a simple life and make the show work.

    As far as the casting goes, Freeman and Thornton are the stars. Not only do they have the accents down to perfection, but they also look the part. Freeman pays homage to William H. Macy’s performance in the movie as the loser whose dabbling in foolish crime makes the story go. He even looks like Macy when he’s bundled up in his orange puffy jacket and hat with earflaps. And Thornton has long been one of the underrated actors in Hollywood. He’s fantastic, despite the fact that he’s worked less in recent years. His dark presence is perfect here, in his role as violent drifter who operates in the shadows.

    There was a lot of skepticism surrounding this show, mainly because the film is timeless. It’s nearly perfect, as many of the Coen Brothers’ movies are. But FX’s version of “Fargo” is much different. Its format, as a 10-episode miniseries, is perfect for this story. This world is funny and interesting, but somewhat limiting. There’s only so much you can do with small-town Minnesota, and multiple seasons would get repetitive.

    Of course, there are eight episodes remaining, and it’s too early to definitively say whether the show will end up a disappointment compared to the movie. But unlike the movie, “Fargo” has the opportunity to spend more time filling in the margins — something TV can do that movies can’t. If you finished the movie and wanted more exposure to Minnesotans saying things like “the heckya mean?” and “you’re darn tootin’,” now you have it.


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