Fargo - Season One

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday October 22, 2014

Fargo - Season One

Though "Fargo" shares a title and, generally speaking, a setting with the highly lauded 1996 Coen Brothers film -- and the Coens have put their name on there series as executive producers -- the FX series is not, in fact, an adaptation of the movie. Rather, it's a riff on a theme: The constant stubble of decency against malice, and wit against stupidity.

As was the case in the movie, not all of the characters here share paired traits in a predictable manner: "Good" and "smart" don't necessarily go hand in hand. Some of the good guys are smart, some are moronic; some of the bad guys are dumb (one of them literally: He uses sign language to communicate), and some are highly intelligent.

The smartest baddie of all is Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton), a hit man who, while passing through the tiny town of Bemidji, Minnesota, on another assignment, takes an interest in the plight of meek, bullied Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman).

Lester is an inept insurance salesman whose recent encounter with an old nemesis names Sam Hess (Kevin O'Grady) has left him with a broken nose. Taking Lester in with little more than a glance, Malvo tells him, "Your problem is you've lived your whole life thing there are rules. There aren't." That tiny push (and an episode of revenge against Hess) suffices to nudge Lester over the edge and into a free-fall of personal liberation: From fear and insecurity, but also from morality and conscience.

Nagging wife and handy hammer soon connect in Lester's basement, and though there's a rough patch immediately following Lester's lapse, he begins, instinctually, to take charge of his life even as the law comes sniffing around -- along with assorted bad guys. Like "Breaking Bad"'s Walter White, Lester soon realizes he has a knack for criminal shortcuts through life's difficulties, and he flourishes in the dark soil of his misdeeds.

This, it turns out, is Malvo's specialty. He deals not just in death doled out for dollars, but in temptation, identifying those susceptible to his corrupting message. If Hannibal Lecter, over on NBC's "Hannibal," is a fallen angel partaking in all the sensual, and sinful, delights of the flesh, Malvo is Satan on Earth, giving out assurances at the cost of human souls.

But the devil's promises are invariable spiked with comeuppance: Hess' death piques the interest of his partners in illicit activities, and prompts a visit from a pair of chilly hired guns played with frosty élan by Adam Goldberg and Russell Harvard.

The ten episodes of this Season One Blu-ray release delve with as much irresistible surety into the elaborate and icy consequences of Lester's surrender to Malvo's influence as a victim, trussed, gagged, and tossed through a hole in the winter's ice and into the frigid depths beneath.

Creator, writer and executive producer Noah Hawley appears all over the special features, from the commentary tracks on sleeked episodes to the featurettes on the series' conception and execution. Thornton appears, too, as do series stars Freeman, Colin Hanks, Keith Carradine, Oliver Platt, Bob Odenkirk and Allison Tolman -- the latter playing Molly, the deputy who won't let go of her suspicion that Lester is connected to the rash of deaths in sleepy Bemidji. (The show unfolds across a number of cities, including St. Paul, Duluth, and, yes, Fargo.)

The series carries a charge of Coen-esque absurdity mixed with crime drama, making it a mixture of morality play and thriller, but it also takes on a "Twin Peaks"-ish edge in its languor, its visual palette, and its dry, tongue-in-cheek stylings.

The extras:

- Audio commentary on selected episodes
- "This is a True Story" featurette
- "Welcome to Bemidji, MN" featurette
- "Shades of Green" featurette

"Fargo - Season One"

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.