FX is on a roll. The network has consistently put out quality original television, like Justified, The Bridge, and The Americans. (But let’s ignore Charlie Sheen’s Anger Management.) They take risks in programming and allow the show runners to control their product without too much interference. That’s why it’s safe to start watching any new FX series with high expectations. Fargo, which is loosely based on the Oscar-winning 1996 film, is the newest addition to the stellar FX roster.
Characters Worth Remembering:
- Lester Nygaard: As King of the Sadsacks, Lester (Martin Freeman) is meekness personified. He’s terrible at his job as a low-level insurance agent, his younger brother has succeeded everywhere he has failed, and his wife constantly takes cheap shots at him (even dissing the tie that she bought him.)
- Lorne Malvo: Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) is a hitman and a new chaotic element to the sleepy, small town of Fargo, Minnesota. He connects instantly with Lester, perhaps feeling sympathy for his inability to stick up for himself. His ruthless killer mentality is coupled with his blasé reaction to the world around him. Clearly, there’s nothing more exciting to him than f***ing with people.
- Vern Thurman: Shawn Doyle plays the beloved police chief with a child on the way. He spends the entire pilot dispensing ominous foreshadowing about his fate.
- Molly Solverson: The good natured police officer and partner of Thurman, as played by Allison Tolman.
- Gus Grimly: Collin Hanks plays a police officer and devoted father from Duluth who doesn’t get much screen time in the pilot but will clearly be an important character. In his limited presence, he pulls over Malvo in his car and gets intimidated into letting him go. He has a daughter who doesn’t show up on screen but still manages to be the most annoying character of the series.
When Lester Nygaard is first introduced, it’s instantly clear that there may not be a more pathetic character to ever appear on television. His average life is made even more mediocre by the fact that everybody is always pointing out how terrible he is at living. This point is made all the more obvious when his high school bully, Sam Hess, confronts and bullies him on the street, in front of his equally brutish sons. Lester can’t bring himself to defend himself or even to wipe the accommodating mid-western smile off his face as he’s intimidated by the overbearing Hess. While in the hospital for a pitifully self-inflicted broken nose, Lester runs into Lorne Malvo.
Lester jokingly brings up that his problems with Hess would be solved if he were to just kill him. Unfortunately, he is joking with the completely wrong audience. Malvo takes the suggestion completely to heart and stabs Hess in the back of the head with an ice pick. Later, just because Malvo is a massive (and hilarious) asshole, he messes with Hess’s sons as well. Since Hess has an illegal gun running business, the suspicion lies down that avenue. However, when investigation-savant Molly Solverson (really with that name, though?) gets word that Lester spoke with a mysterious man in the hospital about Hess, the investigation points towards him.
Meanwhile, Molvo’s interference in Lester’s life has lit a new spark in him. When his wife yet again goes in on him about not being a man, being a loser, and regretting marrying him, he snaps. He beats her to death with a hammer. Lester then calls Molvo to help clean up his mess. However, Police Chief Vern Thurman gets there first, trying to follow the thread that Solverson introduced. Thurman sees the dead body of Lester’s wife and calls in backup. That’s when Molvo shows up, killing Thurman with a shotgun, and then fleeing so Lester is left with an even bigger mess.
Lester knocks himself out so that it looks like he and his wife were both attacked. Molvo steals his car (which looks like it may be important later) and gets pulled over by Gus Grimly, a police officer in Duluth. Without a moment’s hesitation, Molvo implies that Grimly will die if he does his duty and that going back to his car is his best option.
Oh, and it’s a comedy.