Fargo season 1 is Great, there’s no doubt about that. This review or say, dissecting analysis is about what makes it so great. Some spoilers ahead for this is the long version.
Not that I’m going to be on a story-telling spree here but to appreciate the nuances and the subtexts in depth, there got to be some inclusion of plot elements.
Fargo is story of a sore loser turning into a big-di*k player after being initiated by an Alpha Wolf in Jungle-law 101, and also one of the Alpha Wolf failing to see past his egoistical proclivities, also a few love stories entwined and a spellbinding meditation on the state of humanity, or the lack thereof. Actually it’s not a made-up “story”, every episode reminds us in the start that “THIS IS A TRUE STORY”, out of respect for the dead, told exactly as is.
Truth is always stranger than fiction, I say. Fiction is still constrained by the social-construct we are accustomed to, however outrageous or “monstrous”. A story still has to be something heard of or anticipatable. More often than not, the reality that matters is too perverse and unacceptable to be included into anything of mass circulation. Fargo is not entirely a true story; rather few criminal chain of events sewn together. It succeeds astronomically though, in exposing some of the primal realities of existence.
All the greatest masterpieces, whether of cinema or TV have this neutral directorial approach amassing multiple characters equally fascinating and important but just as dispensable in the bigger scheme of things. Unlike typical mainstream, delusional and placating fantasy fiestas where whole universe revolves around some single “Hero”/”Heroine”. In such popular adaptations of mass media the confused and hopeless viewer finds an escape, a momentary relief from the sheer burden of existence, a reinstated hope into humanity and the “untapped” potential of his life.
Idealists would say installing false hope is a sin, realists on the other hand would say false hopes and dreams are the elixir of life. I say hopes based on realistic assumptions are desirable. The basic hypothesis of how things actually work in real life is to be developed in every child as soon as possible. Every great work of literature/cinema/tv endeavors to deliver just that as subtly as possible.
Another noteworthy aspect of masterpieces is the in-the-face cinematography. Breaking bad has it, so does Better Call Saul and Fargo. The drama is actualized through nuances in the facial expressions of the characters and the director isn’t afraid to go up close. Partly because they’re shooting accomplished actors and partly because the script is so lucid and powerful that even the mediocre actors imbibe the theme wholeheartedly.
Here is Lester, our sore loser. Bullied all his life, humiliated regularly by his wife. A feeble and stuttering insurance salesman, a butt of all jokes. After achieving “catharsis” in the guidance of our Alpha Wolf, Lester achieves his true potential and becomes a “winner” aka big-dik-playa. Now, there was nothing inherently wrong with Lester, no one is a life-time loser per se. He was downtrodden so much and so often that he forget he had any say in his own life. Deeper the issues, larger the cathartic release.
We often hear stories of couples/close relatives killing each other for trivial stuff, forcing us to think who in their right minds kill their “loved ones” for some appliance dysfunction.
There is always so much shit between them, pilling up behind the wall of “normalcy” that sudden quick escalation of conflict of interests can prove to be devastating.
After the cathartic realease Lester goes on an unbridled power trip, banging women left and right, manipulating everyone, punching policemen, being the salesman of the year, setting his brother up for life-imprisonment, and setting up his second wife to die as a decoy. How monstrous! This is how the world works, you only win when someone lose. Winners are sinners who get away with it.
The distress causing question remains; how long?
Our Alpha wolf loren malvo tells a parable to the super-market-king of Minnesota, explaining his philosophy of “No saints in the Animal Kingdom” succinctly. I’m only mentioning it because in the end malvo’s egoistical proclivities caught up to him, he was untouched while on the prowl. Being a human after all got the better of him, wolves know when to stop taking it personally. It's only breakafast and dinner for them.
He died on his own terms, drawing parallels from another parable of a bear chewing through its foot to be free from a bear-trap and dying shortly after. No one is perfect, everything is relative. But Billy bob Thornton is almost perfect as Loren malvo. The range, depth and finesse he bring to the table is otherwordly. You have to see him, full of confidance and charisma in every frame.
In a community of inbred small-town fellas, a sharp individual can bring havoc of biblical proportions. notice the self-procliamed "king"dom of stavros; afraid only of the God who can bring down a plague of loctuses (as written in bible), notice the suggestive position of Malvo, above all as the God.
Not all bulbs are dim in Bemidji, Molly solverson for example is an impeccable policewoman. She is restrained though, by incompetent institutional superstructure. No one is Bemidji or Duluth p.d has the brains or the balls to work the pilling up murder cases. She sure did try ceaselessly but in vain. Another parable of “the man who gave it all” fits here, the conclusion of which was "only a fool thinks he can solve the world's problems". Fargo never runs short of parables and interseting characters to tell them.
The retorts going on between molly and her dad, Lou Solverson are rather insightful and of intellectual nature, they both understand the world as is and still chose to be on high moral grounds. Point being, being a decent human being should be a mutually beneficial moral choice. Being nice and forbearing because of stupidity and lack of courage is not noble.
The level of detail in the making of Fargo is phenomenal if you care to notice. I’m just providing some insights gathered from the first few episode here to avoid too many spoilers. For example; The two boys of Sam Hess (whose murder started it all aka the bully who tortured lester) are known to be stupid throughout the town.
The dumber of the two can’t form a sentence of his own, he only repeats what his brother or father say. Notice the Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in him. Moon face, poor coordination, low intelligence, and behavior problems due to mother binging on alcohol during pregnancy.
Here is the ex-stripper Mother living under the assumption that flashing tits and giving blowjobs are the panacea of every problem known to mankind. No wonder the other son is dumb as well despite the lack of fetal alcohol abnormalities.
Look at this random couple in Lester’s shop. Notice the rather masculine features in the pregnant female. Thick eyebrows, solid chin, lack of breasts etc and what she says about little girls. A classic case of undiscovered or closeted homosexual predilection. Majority of the people pass their lives without ever realizing what they really are.
I can go on and on and on about how much detail is packed in every episode of Fargo. Best thing is that Fargo doesn't force our attention on these little peculiar things, if you care to notice, it's your easter egg to enjoy. Seriously, i've still 100s of screenshots with a paragraph of "hidden-meaning" tucked in my brain but i’m of the opinion that everyone should choose to create their own realities.
Peek in the “dark corners” only if you have the stomach for it. This nugget of wisdom from Lou can close this analysis nicely.
All the philosophical perfection could have only made Fargo an arthouse critical success of indie variety, the thing which sets apart it from everything else is the perfection is every aspect of it. Take The trade-mark melancholic strings in the background for example. Once you've heard them, only thinking about the melody can induce goose-bumps. How can i forget to mention the pitch black Humor.
Show me a show as dramatic, as poetic, as hilarious, and as gorgeous as Fargo season 1 and i'll put it right there in the annals of cinematic perfection; along with Fargo.
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