FX’s Fargo, a television expansion of the Coen brothers’ Oscar-winning 1996 film, reached the end of its first season with this super-sized (90 minutes instead of the usual hour) tenth episode.
With the second wife of Bemidji, Minnesota-based insurance salesman Lester Nygaard having been murdered by professional criminal Lorne Malvo just one year after a life-changing chance encounter with Malvo inspired Lester to kill his first wife, the forces of the law were beginning to close in on the killers.
At the same time as Bemidji officer Molly and FBI agents Pepper and Budge (played by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele of the sketch comedy show Key and Peele) continued to work the cases that had been baffling them for a year, Lester and Malvo also continued to play the deadly game of cat and mouse they started in the previous episode. When the series began, Lester wouldn’t have stood a chance against the resourceful hitman, he would’ve been dead in seconds… But Lester has changed a great deal as the episodes have progressed. At this point, he might be able to give Malvo a run for his money.
Of course, ever since the first episode, the true conflicts at the center of the series were between Solverson and Lester, Duluth police officer Gus Grimly and Malvo. Solverson still has a chance to catch Lester up in his crimes, but the situations caused by the presence of Malvo in Duluth destroyed Grimly’s career. Now that he’s a Bemidji mailman, what chance does Grimly have to finally right the wrong decision he made at the end of episode one?
I won’t go into how the series wraps up, but I will say – the core conflicts were kept in mind, and everything comes to a very satisfying conclusion.
The choice to turn Fargo into a TV show may have been questionable at first, but as developed by Noah Hawley, who also wrote every episode, the series turned out to be unexpectedly brilliant.
The characters were engaging, the cast fantastic. When a series can boast featuring some of the best work of Billy Bob Thornton’s entire career, as Fargo does with his turn as Lorne Malvo, you know it’s something special. Established actors like Martin Freeman, Keith Carradine, Oliver Platt, and Kate Walsh also fared quite well, as did Colin Hanks, who reached a new level of regard for me with his performance as Gus Grimly. But the true standout of the entire bunch was Allison Tolman as Solverson. In her case, this series could be a major breakthrough for her, and in years ahead we may be looking back at Fargo as the show from which a star was born.
Hawley stayed true to the Coen brothers style with his writing of the show, while using the world they created as a foundation for a story and characters that were entirely his own. The Coens may have set the stage, but the things that made the show worth watching, people like Malvo and Solverson, that was all Hawley. He did a commendable job following up a film that is so lauded and beloved, delivering something that is worthy of being paired with it. The Fargo name was not tarnished in any way here, and Hawley’s storytelling was odd, shocking, and always captivating.
There has been no word on whether or not FX intends to greenlight a second season of Fargo, and if they do, whether or not there would be returning characters or if the story of season two would be as separate from season one as it was from the movie. I’m almost tempted to say they should leave it alone, but I would have said the same thing when talk of a series began, and I would have missed out on some excellent television if they had left it alone. So I’m open to the idea of getting more Fargo, and if we do, I’m hoping Hawley will continue to surprise with it.