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Sunday, 20 April 2014

Fargo: A pleasant surprise for Sunday Night.

Films that have made the transition from the big screen to the small screen are becoming much less rare nowadays. With the recent announcement that Peter Weir’s glorious cult classic The Truman Show may make its way onto the idiot box it seems topical that Fargo, the Coen Brothers’ deliciously dark masterpiece has become a TV show and it’s made its way across the pond.


It’s the likes of Martin Freeman (Watson off Sherlock), Bob Odenkirk (soon to be returning to the world of Breaking Bad at the end of this year in the spinoff, Better Call Saul) and Billy Bob Thornton (recently seen in the iffy historical drama, Parkland) that would have drawn viewers to Fargo this evening. The show has also been trailed rather heavily on our tellies – and, might I note, in our cinemas. Clearly, Channel 4 are proud to be importing it but, the question is: how did it fare?

Very well, is the answer. While, I’ll admit, that it took me two watches to really come round to its charm, I thoroughly enjoyed Fargo. It might not win the ratings war between itself, The Crimson Field and Endeavour, it’s blackly funny stuff. The Coen Brothers, who executive produce it, have either had a lot of influence on the script or writer, Noah Hawley is exceptional at mimicking the dark tone of the original film.

Freeman is the star performer of tonight as mumbling, browbeaten insurance salesman, Lester. A standout scene for me would have to be when that truculent ex-bully approached him and, for no apparent reason, socked him one. Freeman’s varied talents as an actor shone throughout – he’s great at being completely unshrinking in Sherlock but equally good as someone as meek as Lester.

Thornton, too, was excellent as the muted, mysterious wanderer who descended on put-upon Lester. In a great opening scene (just like when William H. Macey stumbles into that roomy bar in the original film), Thornton’s character, Lorne knocks down a deer and crashes his car. The boot pops open and out comes a man in his underwear, blundering through the snow, away. It was gripping, intriguing, dark and funny – exactly what made Fargo such a hit back in the nineties. Lorne’s concern for newly punched Lester in the hospital waiting room felt tangible and, perhaps, he was a nice guy. His double-crossing of the young boy in the motel – who he himself spurred on – was what proved to us that Lorne was, in fact, downright nasty. Clearly, he is someone with a cruel agenda.

While I’m on it, the plot may not take all that much from the source material it still follows in the morbidly comic vein as the Coen Brothers. A strange vagabond descends on the small town of Bemidji, Minnesota and slowly shapes the townspeople with his ill will. It’s something that would definitely come out of their mind.

All in all, I have little to fault with Fargo. The “Minnesota nice” behaviour that was a dominant theme in the original movie as maintained, the performances were superlative (particularly from Freeman, who said he didn’t want to do more TV and it’s no surprise he was swayed by Hawley’s script) and, overall I enjoyed it. With just over two months left it seems Fargo is what will fill the particularly long gap from now until summer. Roll on next week!

Fargo Continues Sunday's at 9.00pm on Channel 4

Contributed by Patrick Sproull

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