“Fargo” (2014- )
Tuesday night’s best show quickly turned into the best show on television, and it’s still getting better. That’s “Fargo,” the Coen Brothers-produced but otherwise unrelated spinoff of their beloved 1996 crime-comedy of the same name. The always-phenomenal Martin Freeman (“Sherlock,” “The Hobbit”) plays Lester Nygaard, an insurance salesman whose nagging wife leads him to do the unthinkable. A hit-man (Billy Bob Thornton) who’s passing through Nygaard’s small Minnesota hometown (like the movie, the series isn’t set in Fargo) gets caught up in Lester’s predicament, and also in a separate (but interrelated) crime involving a grocery store owner (Oliver Platt) who owes some money. Cops Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) and Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) are always just one step behind this chaotic web of small-town crime. Just when they think they’re close to cracking the case, another bizarre turn knocks them tumbling into the snow.
As complex and non-linear as the story is, teleplaywright Noah Hawley (“Bones”) delivers it to us with relative ease. The dialogue is honest and real, compelling and witty. Each unpredictable turn is followed without trouble, each linear disturbance is outlined in a way that we can understand. No pandering, mind you…just easy enough for us to follow without losing the real focus – the compelling stories of the characters involved.
And with a cast like this, we like knowing that we don’t have to worry about struggling through soap opera-worthy plot twists. Freeman on a cable program is music to my ears. His humorous Minnesotan accent is the perfect example of the subtle comedy of “Fargo” – everything we love about the Coens’ influence, nothing we hate. Billy Bob Thornton is at the top of his game, and Colin Hanks is a marvel. As a young, single father of a teenage daughter, Hanks shows us the vulnerabilities of Grimley. His dad should be so proud! But in her first big role, Allison Tolman steals the show as a rookie cop trying to crack the big case. She goes against the grain, since Nygaard is a friend of the police chief. In this small town, red tape is frequent and thick. And glass ceilings? Apparently shatterproof. Still, Tolman delights. Her mix of humor and gravity creates a dynamic character that cable television (especially crime TV) isn’t used to. I’m starting to get used to it.