You’ve got to be pretty bold to take an iconic Coen brothers film and turn it into a series, and we completely understand if you expect this show to fall face first into the snow. But trust Must, Fargo the series is a brilliant homage to its muse.
Set in the frozen desert of rural Minnesota with snow as far as the eye can see and where the locals are known for being meek and mild, we don our snow boots and begin our trudge through a tale full of quirky characters, vicious violence and eccentric misadventures.
Our protagonist is Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), a failing salesman stuck in a miserable marriage, who after an unfortunate encounter with a childhood bully, bumps into the menacing hit man Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) in the ER waiting room. They have end up having a chinwag, and from there, his life isn’t so dull anymore.
Like the film, the series is laced with dark humour and comic horror, taking us on a tour of toxic masculinity, human fragility and violence, all the while having us chuckle in our chairs at the quiet ridiculousness of it all. And it’s as drenched in atmosphere as it is in snow, creating a weird and dreamlike world where mystery abounds.
The critics loved this 2014 series, with the first season winning four Emmys and getting nominated for an additional 15. The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley says “it’s a television adaptation that lives up to the spirit of the original by straying.” The Guardian’s Sam Wollaston calls the show “a respectful homage… same style, same blood, same gory beauty and humour, but something in its own right too; unique.” And The Telegraph’s Patrick Smith agrees, saying “any fears that Fargo-the-TV-series would tarnish the legacy of Fargo-the-great-Coen-brothers-film have now been banished.”
And its success continues through the subsequent two seasons, it’s seems, with The Guardian’s Rebecca Nicholson saying of season three, “sometimes gruesome, often gorgeous, the show’s refusal to have a neat ending made for brilliant television.”
However, the show’s fourth season hasn’t quite been met with the same fanfare, with Mike Hale of The New York Times saying “it’s a more ordinary show… with less of the strangeness and arch surrealism that…kept you engaged with the stories.” And unfortunately, the British critics are with him. The Telegraph’s Gabriel Tate says “it plodded in places, getting bogged down in detail, context, derivative gangster tropes and a very crowded roster of characters.” In The Guardian, Rebecca Nicholson agrees, saying “given that Fargo has always stood out, it is strange that it seems to be settling for blending in.”
First shown April 2014. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.