Just finished watching the Fargo miniseries finale, and all I can say to sum it up is “Masterful”. This was everything a TV miniseries should be. The 10 episode run was the perfect length to tell the story of Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), and his shady misadventures. Because it was a limited 10 episode event, everything mattered – there was really no filler. Everything that happened on screen either furthered the story or developed a character. I wish there were more episodes, but I couldn’t possibly see how it could be more perfect than it was. I feel like I watched a 10 hour movie – something I’ve rarely felt with a series.
I have a very short list of favorite movies, and ‘Fargo’ is in the top five. Needless to say, I was quite skeptical when I heard the news that FX was making a series based on it. The movie – while not exactly a comedy – has just the right balance of serious and self-awareness about the calm demeanor Midwesterners seem to have. This plays very well as a bit of comic relief in the midst of the grisly circumstances of the film. I was extremely worried that the TV series would play this up and overdo it to be quirky. I’m so glad I was wrong.
The series perfectly captured the feel of the movie, and fit right in the continuity. For a while, fans, myself included, wondered if this takes place in the same “universe” as the movie. In episode 4, the creators left no doubt that they do by answering one of the lingering questions the movie left, what happened to the money? I’m really happy with the way they decided to tie the series and film together; it would have felt forced if a character from the movie showed up.
The casting was spot-on. Martin Freeman, known mostly for ‘The Office’ (UK), and his portrayal of Bilbo Baggins in ‘The Hobbit’ franchise, is completely believable as a bungling middle class husband in over his head, akin to William H. Macy’s portrayal of Jerry Lundegaard in the film. One similarity between the two is that they both don’t think of the consequences of their crimes, and they keep digging themselves deeper. Freeman’s Midwest accent sounded great to me (correct me if I’m wrong). He seemed very invested in the character of Lester, and it was really interesting to see him go from the wormy guy at the beginning to the confident salesman later in the series. Seeing things from his perspective has the viewer rooting for him a lot of the time, despite how awful a person he is. He doesn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities, yet he is the main “protagonist” – similar to the dark hero Walter White was in ‘Breaking Bad’.
Billy Bob Thornton portrayed the main antagonist, Lorne Malvo. Even the name sounds evil, wow. He is calm, cool, calculated, and (pretty much) always prepared. He never just does something leaving it to chance, all of his moves are carefully planned, and he can always cover his tracks. We don’t learn much about his past, aside from the fact that he is basically a hitman. He is just there. Like a force of nature wreaking havoc in the lives of everyone he crosses paths with. You can tell the writers had fun coming up with ways for him to get things done. You get lost in this character. You aren’t sitting there thinking, “I wonder what Billy Bob will do next?” He is always Lorne Malvo on screen, and it is amazing to watch him work.
One of my favorite characters was a cop turned postman half way through the series, Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks). A good guy with good intentions that didn’t always seem like the right man for the job. During his time as a cop, he screwed so many things up, you were just waiting for him to die in a spectacularly silly way. Instead, he completely redeemed himself in the finale, and it was so good.
I always like it when comedians get cast in (semi) serious roles, and Fargo delivered on that. Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show, Breaking Bad), plays a police chief with a weak stomach who longs for the days when people were nice. He pulls this off to perfection. It’s no surprise that Odenkirk has the chops for pretty much anything after his stellar performance as Saul Goodman on ‘Breaking Bad’, so it was great to see him do his thing here. And about half way through the series, Key and Peele show up as slightly inept FBI agents. No one was over the top goofy, and the humorous conversations they did have felt like real banter between friends. Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) had a small part for a few episodes, and he was probably the silliest. Although it was hilarious to see a midwestern guy in the snowy weather slathered in bronzer.
I can’t think of a single poor performance from the entire cast. Everyone was on point, and really sold it. I truly wish they would do another season with new characters and a different crime, but all available information points to this being a one time deal. I definitely recommend checking it out. The series was tight, the story was dense, and everyone that deserved it got their comeuppance. Couldn’t possibly ask for anything more.
I’m left thinking about what other movies would work well in the miniseries format. John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ comes to mind, but it would have to be a larger scale than an isolated research station to work for any extended period of time. ‘The Terminator’ could work, too. This was sort of done with ‘The Sarah Conner Chronicles’, but I always felt that the short lived series suffered from too much filler. How about ‘The Matrix’? I think I’m rambling now because I’m all out of ‘Fargo’, and I have nothing else to do. So I’ll end this here.
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