MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md., May 8, 2014 – The summer replacement show for “Justified” appears to be more than suitable. Fargo, Tuesdays 10:00 PM on FX, takes place in Bimidji, Minnesota in 2006. It is loosely based on the 1996 movie of the same name. Apparently the fourth episode will show closer links between the two.
The stark, cold scenes help one understand that we are not in a friendly and fun urban environment. People here are rugged, direct and naïve to the ways of the current century in the rest of the country. In the first episode a nearly naked man is seen escaping from the trunk of a car that has just gone off the road.
We later learn that he has frozen to death running away from something that he had to believe was even worse. At the beginning of the episodes you are informed that the actions depicted are not based on a true story, but are in fact true. Only the names have been changed.
The plot revolves around a drifter by the name of Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) who is driving the car in question. When he appears in the town the mid-winter lethargy of its inhabitants is gone. Worthy of Fargo the movie and in fact a Tarantino movie, the black comedy doesn’t disappoint.
Soon there are multiple homicides in the town revolving around a meek insurance agent named Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman). His abusive wife, a town bully and the chief of police are soon killed. Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) appears to be on the ball and soon starts making progress in solving the crimes, only to be thwarted by the stupidity of the new chief of police.
Ironically Nygaard is asked to meet with the wife of one of the persons killed. She tries to influence his decision on awarding the insurance money, not realizing that Lester is not the decision-maker. While in the house we are also witnesses to the antics of her less than bright two teenaged sons, which could be put in an episode of Jackass.
A police officer in nearby Duluth, Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) has an encounter with the drifter who has the ability to instantly turn his courage and mind into mush. He lets him go realizing later that the car he was driving had been reported stolen. He later identifies the drifter in a surveillance camera video taken while in the process of abducting the near naked/frozen man.
Gus courageously arrests Malvo later and takes him into the police station in Duluth. Needless to say his management is no better than the law in Bimidji and the drifter turned killer is allowed to go free over the objections of officer Grimly. He leaves but not before telling Grimly a riddle – “Why does the human eye sees more shades of green than any other color?”.
Malvo is not wasting time. He takes over an extortion that he was asked to investigate for a client. He uses physical and psychological weapons to try to obtain one million dollars from his former client. He appears completely sure that the great minds in the town will not figure out what he is doing.
But don’t despair, Grimly has formed an alliance with the only other smart law enforcement officer deputy Solverson and they are on the way to solve the crimes, or are they?
The whole atmosphere of the show is reminiscent of the movie. The cadence of speech of the protagonists is more like a Scandinavian language than English. Also the naïve thinking of the people and the difficulty of most to be deceiving is endearing. Even a prostitute that is interviewed related to a murder is very direct and matter of fact about her actions.
This show is not for those looking for pretty faces and simple plots. It is raw and while most of the violence is not explicit, it is not for those just looking for simple entertainment.
In short it is weird and wonderful. Any watcher of quirky, interesting, fascinating and surprising shows like “Breaking Bad” should enjoy it. It is also a very suitable replacement for the great show “Justified”, based on characters created by the most prolific fiction writer in the world, Elmore Leonard (RIP).
Let’s hope the rest of the season doesn’t turn into another Holli-fornication just to attract more average viewers.
Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist is an avid television viewer and addicted to black comedies a-la Tarantino. You can find him on Twitter (@chibcharus), Facebook (Mario Salazar) and Google+.