Release Date(s)2014 (October 14, 2014)
Studio(s)FX (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: B
If you were to tell me that an upcoming TV adaptation of Fargo would equal in integrity and entertainment value to the original film I would have told you that you were out of your mind. Fargo, the film, is a masterpiece, and arguably one of the best films to come along in the last twenty years. Fargo, the TV series, continues that legacy and gets everything right in all respects, and I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised by it.
The best thing about Fargo as a TV show is that it doesn’t try to recreate the characters from the original film. Instead, it’s a completely new set of characters set within the same universe, and what a great set of characters there are. There’s Martin Freeman’s Lester Nygaard, a pushover of a person who is eventually driven to some dastardly deeds, becoming both odious and likable at the same time. The same can be said of Billy Bob Thorton’s character of Lorne Malvo, a truly despicable person who just enjoys causing chaos wherever he goes and sitting back to enjoy it as it plays out in front of him. Then there’s newcomer Allison Tolman as Molly, the young detective who is out to prove herself, knowing that certain things are happening around her that none of the other policemen in the department are taking very seriously. To add to that is Colin Hanks as Gus Grimley, a fellow officer who constantly makes mistakes but with the best intentions. Surrounding these four main characters are Bob Odenkirk as the police chief, Oliver Platt as Stavros Milos, Keith Carradine as Molly’s father/ex-cop, and Key & Peele as two dethroned FBI agents. It’s a terrific ensemble of characters all around with a powerhouse of great performances, especially from the three main leads.
Getting into the show’s story almost seems pointless to me. Not that it’s imperative that you not know anything about it prior to watching it, but it makes it that much more satisfactory when you discover it and its story as it’s laid out before you. Every twist and every turn has been carefully thought out and serves a genuine person to each of the characters and the overall story being told. And despite each episode having different directors, they never really stand out from one another in either a negative or a positive way. Everything fits perfectly. And the show’s look, that stark and snowy landscape, helps to set the tone of the show beautifully.
Fargo is also a show that pays homage to its source, but also to other films from the Coen brothers as well, but never in an overt way where it takes you completely out of the moment. The only moment that comes close to sticking out like a sore thumb is Oliver Platt’s discovery of the briefcase of money on the side of the road as seen in the original film. It’s a story point for the character, however, and doesn’t serve merely as a reminder of past events. A jumping off point, if you will. All of the characters have these types of quirks to them. They’re rich and fully-formed with proper motivations, as well as payoffs or justified ends.
The show also serves, at least from my viewpoint, as a sequel to the original film, a really terrific sequel of which The Empire Strikes Back is the closest I can come up with as a proper example. It takes all of the elements from the film and does something different with them while never forgetting its roots. It’s a very difficult thing to accomplish and Noah Hawley and company have excelled in creating one of the best seasons of TV in recent memory. In other words, they knocked it out of the park.
As for the show’s complete first season debut on Blu-ray, it’s a home run in the A/V department. Every ounce of visual detail that could be squeezed into this presentation is on full display with almost no problems whatsoever. The muted colors still manage to stand out beautifully with rich hues and some surprising life to them, especially as they pertain to skin tones, which are flawless. Contrast and brightness levels are quite acceptable with some very deep black levels that preserve an enormous amount of detail. The only flaw that I could find was some minor crush in the blacks from time to time, but otherwise, this is a perfect presentation and a delight to finally see in 1080p, as opposed to a 1080i broadcast. And while the original film was never meant to have a complex sound design, its TV show counterpart indeed does with an English 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack. Simply put, it’s a sonic masterwork with perfect dialogue, score, and sound effect levels and an enormous amount of activity, plenty of sonic booms, and excellent directionality from speaker to speaker. It’s a very enveloping experience, and one that almost seems unnecessary because of how excellent the show is and how it draws you in without the track. Be that as it may, I more than appreciate having it as it’s a stellar sound experience. Also included is a separate Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack and subtitles in English SDH, Spanish, and French for those who might need them.
The only place that this set falters a bit is with its extras selection. None of it is bad, but it feels incomplete. We’re only treated to three audio commentaries for three episodes out of ten: one on the episode The Crocodile Dilemma with director/writer Noah Hawley and actor Billy Bob Thornton, one on Eating the Blame, also with Hawley and Thornton, and one on The Heap with Hawley and actress Allison Tolman. On each disc you’ll also find deleted scenes from each episode, and on the last disc you’ll find three featurettes that go into a bit more detail about the making of the show and the characters that inhabit it: This is a True Story, Greetings From Bemidji, and Shades of Green. All of these extras are well-produced and worth your time, but I can’t help feeling like we should have had more. For starters, a commentary for each episode would have been good. Also, the show’s bumpers that recapped the previous episode and the commercials for the show that were made specifically for advertising it are not on this set. And not that the featurettes included don’t go into a lot of detail, but I would have liked to have known more about the making of the show. And a gag reel wouldn’t hurt either. Like I said, it’s a perfectly acceptable and enjoyable set of extras, but I think a little bit more could have really made this set well-worth the effort. And as of this writing, the Blu-ray is only available in a small box with a beanie which has Fargo embroidered on it. The DVD version isn’t available in this form, but carries the same amount of extras, so take your pick.
I think I’ve raved about this show about as much one Fargo loving fan could possibly rave about it. I didn’t know what to expect when sitting down to watch the first episode, but it’s one of those shows that I watched loyally on a weekly basis. I was glued to the TV and I was enthralled by it, and that’s not something that comes along very often for me these days, which is really saying something. If you’re a fan of the film and you were on the fence about seeing the show, see it. Pick up this Blu-ray set and experience it for yourself. It’s a masterpiece of well-crafted television.
- Tim Salmons