Why you should watch it
Fargo, released in 1996, was one of the many high points in the filmography of the Coen brothers. Billed as a ‘Homespun murder story’, it combined a homely ‘Minnesota nice’ attitude with considerably darker elements, along with some superb characterisation, to make what has become a modern classic.
Why it’s taken 18 years to come up with a spin-off TV series is, when you come to think of it, something of a mystery. But, some things are worth waiting for – and it looks like Fargo the series is one of them.
Adapted by novelist and scriptwriter Noah Hawley, Fargo takes us to the snowy Minnesota small town of Bemidji, where manipulative drifter Lorne Malvo exerts a malevolent influence on local insurance salesman Lester Nygaard. The ensuing events reveal that if you scratch beneath the surface of any community, however friendly and innocent it appears, there often beats a heart of darkness.
Fargo will also introduce us to a number of intriguing characters on both sides of the law, from a deaf contract killer called Mr Wrench and his signing accomplice Mr Numbers, to a trio of good-hearted and committed officers of the law, some of which are nonetheless flawed, like state trooper Gus Grimly, whose mistake helps set the chain of events in motion, and deputy Bill Oswalt, whose inability to conceive that some people can have such malign intentions risks the very murder investigation he is leading.
The combination of comedic elements and murder is what made the original movie so memorable – and this combination promises to keep us all hooked over the next 10 weeks, as the story unfolds, at the same time introducing us to a host of quirky, damaged, scheming, determined, well-meaning and ruthless characters.
Who to look out for
The ensemble cast of Fargo is a panoply of fine actors, who will no doubt bring the required mix of light and shade to the series.
Martin Freeman has grown up on our TV screens: from his breakout role as Tim in The Office to his pivotal role in the blockbusting Hobbit movies, he is always credible. His portrayal of the put-upon Lester Nygaard should be highly watchable – and the addition of a Minnesotan accent to his range should be worth tuning in for.
Similarly, Billy Bob Thornton does sinister very well, so he should be a good fit for Lorne Malvo and his central role as the instigator of the cycle of violence.
The peace officers are represented by Colin Hanks (son of Tom, but who is establishing a solid reputation of his own) as Gus Grimly, promising newcomer Allison Tolman as bright and determined deputy Molly Solverson, and Bob Odenkirk, last seen as shyster lawyer Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad, as deputy Bill Oswalt.
Add the likes of Keith Carradine, Oliver Platt and Adam Greenberg, and we can look forward to a cast full of nuanced, believable characters.
A murder in Bemidji is just the start. The ripples threaten to spread beyond the small town and involve a crime syndicate and the Supermarket King of Minnesota, no less.
For the next 10 weeks, one corner of Sunday night should immerse us in the northern snows and make us forget the spring sunshine.