I had mixed feelings when it was first announced that the movie Fargo was to be turned into a ten-part TV series.
On the one hand, I was pleased that one of my all-time favourite films was being given a new lease of life via the small screen but, at the same time, I was worried the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece would somehow be tarnished in the process.
I was intrigued to see how this self-contained story would be adapted. Was it going to be a sequel or was it going to be the same story told in greater depth? As it turns out, it is neither of these.
Noah Hawley’s take on this “homespun murder story” begins with the bogus ‘This Is A True Story’ caption and it is quickly apparent that this is a respectful homage to the original, faithfully recreating the look and mood of the movie without sticking slavishly to the plot.
The Minneapolis based characters are recognisable but different. The henpecked and hapless car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H.Macey) is now Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) who is equally inept at selling life insurance.
Freeman has the same verbal mannerisms as Macey (“Oh Heck!”) and it takes some adjustment to hear the star of The Office, Sherlock and The Hobbit speaking American. One you get used to the idea, he looks like a good choice for the role.
The star of the first episode though is without doubt Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo. He is as detached as his role as Ed Crane, the barber with a secret in The Man Who Wasn’t There and as cold blooded, cruel and methodical as Jarvin Bardem’s killer in No Country For Old Men. “The mistake you make is in thinking there are rules in life”, he tells Lester.
Frances McDormand’s Marge Gunderson was central to the movie and Alison Tolman as Deputy Molly Solverson seems to have been groomed to play a similar role in the TV version.
With four deaths in the first episode, I wonder how the series will keep up the pace but now my fears have been mollified I can’t wait to see how the story unfolds.
Fargo can be seen on Channel 4 in the UK and on FX in the U.S.A.