When Fargo the television show was announced, I already knew that I would like it. If it remotely resembled the film it was named after, then odds were television audiences were in for a darkly funny, bloody good time. The only way, in my book, that Fargo the TV show could screw up was if the show only mirrored or repackaged the essential parts of the film for cable and a more PG-13 audience.
When I finished the first two episodes, I was a bit worried. Yes, the show was doing many things right and taking its own liberties here and there, but we had the same bumbling idiot at the center of our story, another screwy, funny looking hitman, and a noble, true north female police officer. It was as if the attachment to the name Fargo and the responsibility to pay homage to the source material was keeping the show from exploring its true potential. J
ust as I was getting exasperated by comparing the similarities and differences between the two, FX’s Fargo exploded into new terrain. Lorne Malvo became a TV villain for the ages, Lester proved to be far more adaptable to the criminal lifestyle than Jerry from the movie, and Molly and Gus began an incredibly adorable romance amidst the chaos.
Not only that, but the show began to find interesting ways to connect to its source material other than just imitating. Instead of sharing the same genes, the show decided to share the same universe. Carl Showalter’s briefcase of money becomes Stavros’ in an ingenious move, bits of dialogue are lifted for comedic effect, and landmarks like the Gustafson Parking Garage reappear. Fargo the show tapped into its roots, then grew its own branches, becoming even darker and more unpredictable in episodes like “Buridan’s Ass.” Out of the blue, Fargo became one of my favorite programs on TV.
This week the show employs my least favorite television trick, yet somehow manages to pull the move off. The time jump, in most cases, is a lazy device used by writers when they don’t want to deal with the ramifications of big story events. Usually if an integral character dies or something of the like, and the writers are too lazy to write the emotionally hefty shift from the status quo, they’ll jump ahead in time to where that status quo has returned.
On Fargo though, no big event happens. Molly hits a roadblock in the case laid down by her superior, Lester buys a washer and some new snazzy clothes, and even sticks up for himself a bit. He’s got confidence, and with Bill’s stupidity helping, his freedom. New characters Agents Pepper and Budge are sent to the file room for letting a massacre happen. Instead of getting back to a status quo, Fargo uses the time jump to get away from one. Sure, it makes the first half of the episode seem like a bit of a waste, and the episode is another place setting moment like last week, but the time jump means we’re heading into foreign waters, and that’s where this show thrives.
Yes, we move ahead a year and find Gus and Molly are married, and Molly is pregnant, finally fully becoming the surrogate for Frances McDormand’s character from the movie. She still hasn’t given up on the case, calling the FBI until someone will take interest. Budge and Pepper seem to have forgotten, but then they discover the old photo of Malvo on their wall. Surely they’ll be put in contact with Molly. Meanwhile in Las Vegas, Lester, with new wife Linda, is named Insurance Salesman of the Year, and is given a fancy award to compliment his fancy new haircut and swagger. Life seems well, and as he goes to the bar to troll for some strange right under his wife’s nose, he catches sight of something more dangerous than the affair he was looking for: Malvo.
From here, we could be headed anywhere. With two episodes left, Fargo has the freedom to continue to forge its own path within the Coen brothers’ sandbox. I can’t wait to see which sand castles come tumbling down.