‘Fargo,’ the TV show based on the widely beloved 1996 Coen Brothers movie of the same name, premiered last Tuesday. Created by Noah Hawley, it seems like the 10-episode series on FX will ultimately feel like a mini-movie, not unlike HBO’s ‘True Detective,’ and with one episode out of the gate, it’s already been well received.
In the first episode, “The Crocodile’s Dilemma,” the desolate cold is palpable as Billy Bob Thornton makes a compelling mystery man named Lorne Malvo whose Sedan collides with a deer, full-on crashing on a rural thruway outside Minnesota. What happens then? Oh, just some near-naked dude jumping out of the trunk and running into the snowy woods. Okay, I’m in.
Marge (Frances McDormand) in the movie is Molly Solverson on the TV. Deputy Solverson, played by newcomer Allison Tolman is instantly likable and we’re ready for her to get on the case and solve some weirdo Coen-esque crimes. (It’s definitely the new Fargo, but there’s also something reminiscent of ‘Twin Peaks’ here.) Solverson tracks footprints from the scene of the accident and finds the half naked man by a tree, dead-frozen, with an icicle of a tear on his cheek.
Lester Nygaard, played by Martin Freeman from ‘Sherlock,’ with a face that’s utterly watchable, is the Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) of the film; he’s hapless and bumbling and we desperately want something, anything, to work out for him, though we know it’s hopeless. Nygaard has a chance meeting with Malvo at the hospital where Malvo is recovering from the car accident and Nygaard’s being treated for a bloody run-in with his old high school nemesis, Sam Hess. Malvo relies (and we’re guessing thrives) on the power of suggestion and suddenly “two fellas just talkin’” ain’t just talking. Of course, things get messy from there. Malvo kills Hess and Chief Thurman who was investigating the car wreck and Hess’s death with Solverson. Nygaard kills his oppressive wife and Malvo slips away. In a wickedly gleeful moment for Fargo fans, Nygaard beats the shit out of himself to make the deaths look like a home invasion situation.
As Solverson’s father, it’s nice to see Keith Carradine. It’s been a while. Bob Odenkirk of ‘Breaking Bad,’ is the Chief Deputy who could take a lesson or two from underling Solverson. We’re also introduced to Deputy Gus Grimly (oh, the names!) played by Colin Hanks, near the end of the episode, who will surely play a pivotal role in weeks to come.
I kept waiting to hear those overwrought, yet totally believable, accents that Frances McDormand and William H. Macy made so unforgettable in the film (we don’t), but what we do hear and see are references to the film from the first take, whetting the appetites of Coen Brothers fans everywhere. Oh yah, and the language is much the same. You betcha.
“The Crocodile Dilemma” leaves enough dangling questions to keep us anxiously looking forward to episode two. For one thing, what the hell is the crocodile dilemma?
Just a side note: if you want to revisit the movie ‘Fargo,’ that’d be a fun thing to do. Watch the credits at the end carefully. Prince is listed as one of the extras. Yes, that Prince. But, no, he wasn’t actually an extra. He wasn’t in the movie at all. Coen Brothers just like to fuck with us like that.