It is often a huge risk to adapt a beloved film into a television series is tricky, and that’s without the fact the film in question is a multi Oscar winner, The Coen brothers’ darkly comedic tale of murder amidst Minnesota’s frozen landscape in (1996) would be tough to follow or emulate. I find it amazing how many big name actors over the past few years have transitioned into TV, mainly cable TV as there is less of a risk of cancellations and there is money for the shows in cable.
Noah Hawley who created the FX limited event series, has certainly taking the essence of the film and transformed it into something fresh and enigmatic, episode one “The Crocodile’s dilemma” introduces viewers to a landscape and environment they may be somewhat used to, all the while being inviting and intriguing. This is not a “reboot or a “remake” it has entirely new characters enacting tales of undercurrent violence, humour, grounded sentiment and flows of anger and aggression that boil under our polite exteriors.
The opening scene on an icy motorway immediately introduces us to Billy Bob Thornton’s character Lorne Malvo, who after the show has ended seems to be so fascinating and has the capacity to be great, Malvo crosses paths with Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) which sets this 10 part series in motion, Malvo in discussion with Nygaard enlightens him in the way he looks at the world and offers him a new vision and a new way of thinking.
Malvo seems to have morals, whether they are skewed or somewhat acceptable all depends on viewer’s perspective, Malvo wants Nygaard to do what he believes “is what a man should do” to stand up for himself when crossed, the show is clever in the sense it doesn’t want to guide you to their opinions it wants you to form your own, to some Nygaard will seem like a victim as he’s with berates him, his younger brother outshines and patronises, even at work Nygaard is failing to make any headway, he commands no respect from anyone and this brings into question his sense of self, his freedom, his identity and his virility, however others might not be so sympathetic as his weakness, ineptitude and cowardice are always on full display.
Nygaard has seemingly been boiling under the surface for years and it seems that it took someone like Malvo to say “well if someone did to me what they did to you then I’d kill them” so simple yet complicated, these nuances and excellent character idiosyncrasies make for a strong and compelling story.
Overall I feel this will be an amazing show, the cinematography and superb landscapes set a cold backdrop with a warm feel to a creative story, I have seen the second episode so I can say without doubt it goes from strength to strength, Freeman and Thornton are inspired casting choices and make for reverting characters. Whether you can sympathise with Nygaard or you appreciate Malvo’s simple but warped world view, this series will be sure to have you questioning your elegancies and whether you should like this person or root for them, or you should be against them. I feel that the show has more than done justice to the film franchise, it’s funny and emotionally charged yet subtle yet somewhat relatable, each character whether main or seemingly just supporting have their own stories and everyone’s tale seems to mesh together.
I feel this could be “the show” of 2014.
****1/2 Stars (out f 5)
Channel 4 (UK)
20th April 2014
Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Joey King