Fargo, the movie, was a surprise hit when it debuted in 1996. This low budget film was the Coen brothers’ directorial claim to fame. The film took place in the small, quiet town of Fargo where everyone knows each other and crime isn’t really on anyone’s mind. After a series of events, the town is shocked by some recent murders. This dark comedy was not only directed by the Coen brothers, but it was also written, produced and edited by the two. The movie was such a success that, almost 20 years later, FX decided to create a TV series about other events that took place in Fargo, MN. Although this series is only one season long, viewers will be delighted from start to finish.
Welcome to Fargo, MN
Lester Nygaard is played by Martin Freeman, who is better known to many as Bilbo Baggins from the The Hobbit trilogies. People may have been skeptical about whether or not this actor from the UK could pull off a leading role as someone from a town in Minnesota, but surprisingly enough, Freeman’s Minnesota accent is spot on and arguably the best on the show. This really shows that the casting directors made an excellent choice when choosing him to play the main character.
The story starts by showing the life of Lester in his hometown. He’s a small, quiet and gentle married man who has been picked on his whole life by everyone around him. This even includes his own wife. The show does a great job showing the torment that Lester goes through on a regular basis. He’s talked down to by his brother and his wife, and he is even beat up by his high school bully in an alley right in front of the bully’s two nitwitted sons.
Meanwhile, there is a scene of a car traveling into town with something is banging around in its trunk. All of the sudden, a dear jumps out in front of the car causing it to crash, and a man wearing nothing but underwear escapes from the trunk and runs for his life in the cold snow. You will then be introduced to the driver, Billy Bob Thornton’s character. He’s banged up from the crash and lets his captive get away while he goes to seek medical attention.
In the hospital waiting room, Lester meets Thornton’s character who gives him a fake name at the time. Thornton is a straightforward man, and he asks Lester what happened to his face. Lester tries to claim he slipped on some ice, but eventually, he tells the truth. Right before Lester is called back to see the doctor, Thornton asks Lester if he’d like his bully killed. Lester doesn’t say yes, but he doesn’t say no either. You can tell that Lester has had these dark thoughts before, but a person like Lester would never act upon them.
Murders and Mystery
You can’t help but love to hate Billy Bob Thornton in Fargo. Although he is clearly the antagonist throughout the series, he charms the audience with his dark philosophies about life and fearless attitude toward the world.
Soon after Thornton’s talk with Lester, he seeks out the bully, Sam Hess. Hess is the owner of a shipping company and is meeting with some men when Thornton shows up. Thornton doesn’t say much. He merely wants to size up Hess. Later that night, Hess goes to a strip club where Thornton follows him and murders Hess while he’s in a back room with a stripper. Thornton then casually leaves and checks into a hotel where you learn his real name, Lorne Malvo.
You’re then taken to Lester’s home where he is being harassed by his wife once again, but this is the night where Lester decides to stand up for himself. While she is verbally abusing him and taking shots at his masculinity, Lester impulsively takes a hammer and kills her with a blow to the head. In a panic, Lester calls Malvo and begs for his help. Lester is surprisingly visited by his old friend, the police chief he’s known since high school, who wants to ask him some questions about the mysterious murder of Sam Hess.
This situation deteriorates when the chief realizes that Lester murdered his wife and right before he takes Lester into custody, Lorne shoots and kills the chief. One of the shotgun pellets wounds Lester’s hand in the process, which will play a big role later in the show.
Fargo Keeps You Watching
Fargo easily has some of the best writing in a TV show since Breaking Bad. Each episode has multiple storylines, but they all intertwine in a way that helps the story progress as a whole. The audience is constantly kept in suspense about whether or not Lester will be discovered, how Malvo is able to elude the police for so long while hiding in plain sight and who is going to survive.
Officer Molly Solverson, played by Allison Tolmon, is an ambitious young officer who is alone in believing that Lester knows more than what he says. She later crosses paths with Colin Hanks’ character, Gus, who had a disturbing run-in with Malvo, and he is the only one who agrees with Molly that somehow these murders are connected.
Throughout the rest of the season, the audience will have mixed feelings about whether or not too root for Lester, but his questionable decisions are being made while Molly is hot on his trail. Gradually, Lester evolves into a more confident man that manages to manipulate everyone into thinking that he is a struggling widower. He even finds a way to frame his own brother for the murder of his wife, but he is still far from safe when he realizes that Malvo wants him dead.
Watch Fargo online to see the shocking conclusion.