It should go without saying, but just in case it doesn’t: SPOILERS FREAKING ABOUND.
I don’t know if I need to preface this review by saying I love the movie Fargo, but I do, so I will. I really love the movie Fargo. I’m not sure when I first saw it, I was probably only fourteen at the time and I was instantly in love with everything about it. Movies didn’t take place in climates like the one I lived in. No one wanted to see snow and ice and more snow and more ice and the constant, perfect, blinding white of a frigid winter. I don’t live in Fargo, but winter where I live looks so much like the movie Fargo that I was instantly transported. It was finally a movie that felt, to me, a Canadian girl stuck inside on a freezing cold January day, like it took place in my home.
That’s not the only reason. The movie itself is amazing, the performances are fantastic and Frances McDormand can do no wrong after Fargo, as far as I’m concerned. I already had a weird infatuation with Peter Stormare (Based on Armageddon, okay, but come on, I was a teenager!) and every little nuance of his performance in this movie solidified it for me. To the point where now, as a thirty year old woman, I’m still completely in love with him. Plus, it’s beautiful. Despite the fact that every scene feels cold (except the ones in Marge’s home, because her husband is a perfect human being), it’s a stunningly beautiful movie. For the first time, I appreciated the stark, endless white of a farm field. I saw it as something that could be beautiful instead of just a place where I’d probably freeze to death if I stood there for longer than thirty seconds.
Basically this all adds up to the fact that I thought I’d be a pretty hard sell on the TV series. I didn’t go in expecting to hate it, but I wasn’t sure I’d love it the way I wanted to. I’m pretty indifferent toward most of the actors in it. Billy Bob Thorton mostly gets a resounding ‘meh’ from me when people ask my opinion. I don’t watch Sherlock, haven’t seen The Hobbit and I saw the US Office first, so Martin Freeman isn’t an actor I care much about either. I was super psyched about Glenn Howerton, despite knowing it would be a small role, because he’s awesome. But the fact that he’d be in it and my love of the movie were basically the only reasons I watched the series at all.
And to be honest, I was pretty disappointed at first. It felt like a retelling of the movie, just not done very well. It was too similar, but it wasn’t right. Part of what I loved so much about the movie was the choice to put this hugely pregnant woman right in the middle of it. As the hero. Marge Gunderson is a goddamn hero and I remember being a teenager and feeling so… proud. So pleased. And all of the sudden the Chief in the TV series was a man. A good man. A character I actually enjoyed. But it suddenly lacked part of what was so special to me about the movie.
The atmosphere was still right, though. Filmed in Calgary and Strathmore, Alberta, it’s really nice to see a show where the snow is real. Dirty roads, dirty cars, snow clumping and sticking to boots and hats and hoods. It felt real and that was a nice touch. If the show had been filmed somewhere warm and covered in fake snow, I would have felt cheated. And I probably would have stopped watching. It’s hard, as someone from a cold climate, to be convinced of the cold when the people creating the media clearly have no idea what it’s like. (The Grey, for example. IF IT WAS REALLY THAT COLD, LIAM NEESON PROBABLY WOULD HAVE JUST DIED AFTER FALLING IN THE RIVER, OKAY? Goddamn movie.) So I loved the effort put into actually making the series look cold. There’s just something about being from a place like this that makes the cold personal. I complain about it. I hate it. But it’s still part of who I am and seeing it represented well makes me feel weirdly pleased.
So it had a good atmosphere. It was okay. I wasn’t super entertained and I’m not sure at what point that changed, but it did. All of the sudden, about halfway into the pilot episode, shit started going really, really wrong for Martin Freeman’s Lester Nygaard. And when the Chief was murdered, I suddenly realized they were still setting it up to have a strong, smart female police officer at the centre of everything and I felt excited. (I was sad he was killed, though, because I really did like him.)
What I like most about what I’ve seen so far, though, isn’t in the big names attached. I mean, Martin Freeman is fine. Billy Bob Thorton is actually pretty great despite my general indifference toward him usually. He’s creepy, he’s had some funny deliveries. But for me, the stand out stars are Allison Tolman as Deputy Molly Solverson (except her name makes me laugh…), Keith Carradine as her father and Colin Hanks as Gus Grimly. And while they’re all great, while the three of them are the reason I’m excited to keep watching, it’s Tolman who’s got my attention completely. Her deadpan and dry delivery of completely absurd lines is perfect. It’s exactly what the movie was about and yet she’s making it all her own. She’s not Marge Gunderson and that’s a good thing. But she’s creating an amazing character I’m looking forward to following through this series.
The main difference I notice between the film and the series is one I’m genuinely enjoying. Where the film is a comedy of errors in a lot of ways, terrible plans just failing one after another, creating an unavoidable domino effect for Jerry Lundegaard, the series has much more purpose. The violence, the crime, none of it is accidental. Perhaps spur of the moment in some instances, perhaps when Martin Freeman bludgeons his wife to death it’s a crime of passion, but in Thorton’s criminal, we see someone gleefully planning fall after fall of the people around him. He skillfully manipulates and masterminds plans, taking advantage of those too stupid to really know what they’re doing. And it’s amazing. It’s weirdly satisfying and as much as I want Tolman’s incredibly persistent character to bring him down, I can’t help but find myself having fun with each new horrible thing he does.
I have a new episode to watch tonight and to be honest, I’d rather be doing that right now than anything else I have to finish first. That’s how I know I’m enjoying a show. I WANT MORE RIGHT NOW.
This review turned out to be a lot more gushy and sincere than I intended it to be. So I can end it by saying AHAHAHA FUCKING GLENN HOWERTON, SO BRONZED, SO HANDSOME WITH YOUR RIDICULOUS GOATEE~