Noah Hawley’s Fargo is a sweet romance involving two sweet police officers: Molly (played by Alison Tolman), who also has a sweet father (Keith Carradine) and Gus (Colin Hanks), a widower with a sweet daughter. This is one sweet television show.
Well, okay, that’s not entirely accurate. It’s not a lie, as such, but Fargo is, of course, much more than a sweet romance. And that ‘much more’ is about as far away from all that sweetness as you can get. It is, in fact, a very dark comedy with lots of almost-graphic violence. In other words, it’s very much like the Coen Brothers film from which it derives its name (though not the plot).
Martin Freeman (yeah, Bilbo and Dr. Watson) plays Lester Nygaard, a very nasty insurance salesman in Bemidji who kills his wife with a hammer and pins it on someone else (no spoilers) in the most nasty way. Not that Lester is even one-tenth as nasty as Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton), a hit-man who kills and tortures people without a second thought. Each episode begins with the claim that this is a true story and is shown exactly as it happened. Do not be fooled. The real world is nowhere near this nasty (especially in Bemidji).
The real truth is that Fargo is a nasty thriller involving a couple of very nasty men. But Fargo is also brilliantly-acted, cleverly-written, beautifully quirky (darkly funny) and appropriately slow-moving. And it takes place in northern Minnesota in winter, with lots of snow (I love snow). This is television at its finest. If it wasn’t so nasty, I’d have to give it four stars. But it’s just a little too dark and violent for me to do that. So ***+ it is. My mug is up but the stuff inside is the darkest of brews and has quite a bitter bite (offset somewhat by the sweetener).