This Week marks the beginning of the TV series Fargo, based (in spirit) on the film of the same name. The series stars Billy Bob Thornton as a stranger passing through town who becomes something of a twisted guardian angel to a Milquetoast insurance agent named Lester Nygaard.
We quickly see that Lester has backed his way away from conflict into a pathetic life with no power at work or at home. His wife openly questions the wisdom of ever marrying him in the first place and constantly compares him unfavorably to younger men who have surpassed him in every way. When he meets his old high school bully, Sam Hess, on the street, he is already having a bad day. But that day worsens when Sam insults him, intimidates him and then reminds him that he used to ‘date’ Lester’s wife years ago. As a final insult, Sam feigns a punch and Lester dodges only to break his nose on a plate glass shop window.
All this is our set-up to place Lester and his guardian angel side-by-side in the hospital Emergency Room for a life-changing conversation.
Fargo comes as a one of a new breed of Series. More mini series that plans to deliver a self-contained story over the course of one season. What does this mean? It means the series can score the best actors who needn’t feel obligated to an undefined term contract. It means a new angle every season. It means next season can pick up viewers who don’t have to go back and binge-view season 1 before they can start watching season 2.
If episode one is typical of the series, then I’m hooked. The characters are brilliant. The story is well crafted. And the pacing is powerful.