WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Murders Up North, There

By on November 24, 2015

‘Fargo’ TV Show continues the spirit of the Coen Brothers classic.

The small screen “Fargo” will please fans of the hit movie. (Photo: MGM Television)

The small screen “Fargo” will please fans of the hit movie. (Photo: MGM Television)

Jackson, WY – Of all the excellent films that came out in the 90s, “Fargo” remains one of my favorites. Set in snowy North Dakota and Minnesota, the film stars Frances McDormand as local police chief Marge Gunderson, who is investigating a series of homicides that have rattled her hometown. Heavy doses of black humor mixed with the ho-hum monotony of Midwestern charm make for a hilarious dark comedy with a surprising amount of heart. The film went on to win two Academy Awards and is No. 84 on the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 Best American films.

Last year, showrunner Noah Hawley (writer/producer of “Bones”) created the first season of a new television show called “Fargo,” which would be a spiritual spin-off of the movie. Other than its tone and location, the show has no relation to the film, but is so well done that it slides into the film’s universe like a severed hand in a mitten.

Similar to the film, each episode of the show begins with the following disclaimer:

This is a true story. The events depicted took place in Minnesota in [year]. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.

The first season, set in 2006, centered on Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), an insurance salesman who seems a long-lost brother to William H. Macy’s character in the film. Bullied by his wife and his high school nemesis, Lester is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But that all changes when a strange drifter played by Billy Bob Thorton carries out a murder on Lester’s behalf, pushing Lester to murder someone as well. Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) takes the Frances McDormand role, and begins trying to piece the strange puzzle together.

The show was wildly praised by critics and won a Golden Globe for Best Miniseries. Billy Bob Thorton also walked home with the award for Best Actor in a Miniseries. Having loved the first season so much, I was thrilled to see what Hawley would do with a second season. Throughout the show, Molly Solverson’s father, Lou, kept mentioning something called “the Sioux Falls incident,” and sure enough the second season travels back in time to 1979 to cover this event.

Starring Patrick Wilson as State Trooper Lou Solverson, the season begins with a triple homicide at a Minnesota waffle house, resulting in the death of a judge from North Dakota. A sweet married couple (Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons) gets involved after Dunst accidentally hits the waffle house murderer with her car. In true “Fargo” fashion, everything gets a whole lot more complicated from then on, including some involvement by Ronald Regan (Bruce Campbell).

As with most excellent television programming, the production value of “Fargo” is incredibly high. Not only do they snag some of the most perfect A-list actors for their respective roles, but the writing (most of the episodes are written by Hawley) is always on-point. Ethan and Joel Coen, writers and directors of the film, act as executive producers for the show, which I can only assume helps with keeping the tone true to its source.

As we settle into winter and finally have some time to catch up on our favorite shows, I cannot recommend “Fargo” enough. Because it’s an anthology show (“American Horror Story”), you don’t need to watch the first season to enjoy the second, but I would definitely encourage that you do. If you’re a fan of the film, you certainly owe it to yourself to return to the wintery northern Midwest with this masterpiece.

Oh yah, you betcha. PJH

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