FX’s Fargo The Crocodile’s Dilemma TV Show Review. Fargo: Season 1, Episode 1: The Crocodile’s Dilemma showed that even-though the new series on FX doesn’t share any same characters or plot, the shockingly violent and surprisingly funny spirit of the Coen Brothers‘ original film is alive and well.
The episode begins with titles that read the same as the film, claiming that the events about to be told are true. This is a cheeky reference to the fact that the Coens’ “Fargo” was not actually a true story. I think it’s a safe bet that the events of the show are fictitious as well. Just like the film, “Fargo” doesn’t actually take place in Fargo, but rather Bemidji, Minnesota. Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) is a struggling life insurance salesman who constantly finds himself on the bottom of other people’s shoes. His wife constantly belittles him, backhandedly comparing Lester to his successful younger brother. Lester’s ineffectiveness as a man becomes even more noticeable when he bumps into an old high school bully by the name of Sam Hess. The oversized Sam hasn’t changed much, taunting and teasing Lester on the street, ultimately causing Lester to slam his face into a window.
It’s at the hospital that Lester meets the man that will change his life (likely forever). That man is Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton), who we see earlier driving off the road with a half-naked man trapped in his trunk. Lorne is a soft-spoken, manipulative troublemaker that twists Lester’s words around just enough to decide that he is going to kill Sam. Whether Lester wants it or not, Lorne has taken an interest in his life, and that will likely be the driving force of “Fargo”. They’ll have to tread carefully, as the clever Officer Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) is investigating the crimes that have spawned from the unlikely duo.
Written by Noah Hawley (“Bones”, “The Unusuals”), “Fargo” masterfully captures the delicate balance of brutality and humor that the Coen Brothers are known for. Though his universe is obviously grounded in what they created, Hawley is not a slave to their vision and lets this episode stand on its own. Director Adam Bernstein finds the tension in every moment of Hawley’s script, but knows when it’s time to play things lightly. This hour-and-a-half long premiere flies by thanks to the perfect marriage of these artists’ talents.
Anchoring the show are the performances of Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton. Freeman, a Brit you may recognize as Dr. Watson on the brilliant BBC series “Sherlock”, sports a spot-on Minnesota accent as the floppy Lester Nygaard. He’s a man bullied by life, and now finds that a single moment of rebellion has made him an entirely different person. As the ghostly Lorne, Thornton is hypnotic. He gives a measured, certain performance that doesn’t have much showiness, but plenty of subtle intrigue. His character seems to be in on a secret about life that no one else is aware of, and he likes to exploit that whenever he can. It’s going to be fun watching Thornton work this character more as the series progresses.
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