Fargo: Episode 1, The Crocodile’s Dilemma

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Wow, that sure was a doozy there.

The first episode of FX’s “Fargo” sure did not beat around the bush. It sucked me in fairly quickly into this fictional Bemidji.

First off, their “Bemidji” is flat, lacks trees and looks like North Dakota. To me, this artistic license did not bother me as it did to other Bemidjians. The show caught the small town, Midwest attitudes, and that Minnesota Nice passive aggressiveness we are too polite to acknowledge.

The first episode takes place about 99 percent in Bemidji. We meet at the start Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) driving at night through Bemidji. He hits a deer, and crashes. A naked man jumps out from his trunk and hightails it.

This was the first couple of minutes.

We then meet Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), a Bemidji insurance salesman who seems to dislike his wife, who with a cheery voice cuts him down in that Minnesota Nice passive aggressiveness.

After an unfortunate encounter with his old high school bully that lands him in the emergency room, Lester meets Malvo. This chance encounter spirals the show and Lester’s world down a blood soaked path that by the end leaves three dead bodies in Lester’s life. His old high school nemesis, his wife and Sheriff Vern Thurman.

Malvo seems to feed off bringing anarchy to this “Bemidji.” He not only starts messing with Lester’s head, he pits the sons of the bully he murdered against one another by pretending to be an estate lawyer and slyly convinces a kid to urinate in his mom’s gas tank, only to call the mother to warn her that some kid is urinating in her gas tank.

The dark humor was fun. The Minnesota accents were toned down from the one’s in the film. The awkward pauses and the “aw jeez’” moments worked just fine.

The show is much more violent than the film. The violence did at times become a little bit much (Lester killing his wife).

I have read from critics that the show relied to much on the formula of the film. I didn’t get that impression. I felt the show brought the film’s ideas to a darker place. I find Lester much less sinister than the film’s Jerry Lundegaard, who purposely sets things in motion for his own greedy needs.

I somewhat felt bad for Lester, though his actions toward the end changed. But I did not find him as conniving as Jerry Lundegaard. But we still have nine more shows to go.

Observations:

* Norm’s Pizza instead of Dave’s or Kieth’s.

* The Bemidji Fire Department apparently has a  ”slippery” sidewalk.

* No signs of Paul and Babe yet.

* JELL-O Salad does not sound appealing.

I will probably update this in the next day or two. Ninety minutes of a story with this many characters is a little much to process right away.

6 Comments

  1. K says:

    Joe – nice analysis of the premiere! Have to say, I’m enjoying the quality of your coverage much more than your counterparts in Fargo, who appear to be making more a spectacle about this than actually covering it with insight.

  2. Joe says:

    The best I can say to the first episode is it will keep Bemidji off the tourist destination list, unless the “strip club” has a draw. That’s good news for those like me who want to keep our community a well kept secret! The show is doing its part!

  3. Joe Butler says:

    Tourism will clearly not be enhanced by the first episode of Fargo. That’s good news for folks like me who want to keep Bemidji a well kept secret!

  4. Avatar of Kari Lucin Kari Lucin says:

    I’ve never heard a Minnesotan call it a “jello salad.” It’s either “jello” or a “salad.” As in, when you’re going to a potluck and someone asks you to bring a salad, she’s (and usually it’s a she) expecting jello with fruit in it. Marshmallows and/or cool whip are optional.

  5. Sue says:

    I saw a few similarities between the episode and movie; for example the kids trying to buy insurance and the couple trying to buy a car from Lundeguard. The dumb brothers and the ditzy college girls. Lester and Lundeguard rehearsing their stories… I hope we actually see OUR Paul n Babe because nothing compares and Bemidji gets slighted by any other representation. I’ll watch it again, definitely.

  6. Karen says:

    I wanted to like this show but I really had a hard time understanding the dialect! If they were speaking the way we speak wouldn’t they be easier to understand? If I see another episode that would be OK, and if I don’t that’s Ok too!!!!

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