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Solid performances and an astonishing third act make the pilot a winner
Perhaps I've seen the film version of 'Fargo' too many times. The source material for FX's latest new series is a film I know so well I can quote great blocks of its dialogue word for word. My late Dad and I used to routinely quote Coen brothers' dialogue to each other in general conversation. ('Son, you've got a panty on your head!' et al.)
Because I know the film so well, I'm afraid I spent the first half of the pilot episode comparing the television series (unfavorably) to the movie.
What kept me interested enough to continue watching, though, were the top-drawer performances of Billy Bob Thornton as the havoc-inducing psychopath and the outstanding Martin Freeman on loan to the New World from across the pond. Billy Bob never fails to be interesting in any role he plays, and 'Sherlock's Dr. Watson nails both the Minnesota patois and the frenetic desperation of the put-upon everyman-turned-murderer he's playing.
The pay-off for sticking with the pilot despite my reservations was huge. The plot developments in the third act are both heartbreaking and genuinely shocking. I can say that I'm really looking forward now to more excellent work from Billy Bob, Martin Freeman, and the newcomer cast in the role of the young female cop. Film devotee or no, the TV series has now totally got me.
Dense, thrilling, emotionally engaging, well acted, beautifully shot ... Hooked!
I've been craving something of quality along these lines set in this period ever since that magnificent HBO John Adams miniseries of five or six years ago. I feel like failing on my knees and thanking the TV gods that AMC made the shift into television, because BOY do they do it right.
What's so refreshing about this series is the glimpse it gives us into the daily lives of regular citizens on Long Island attempting to negotiate their lives during this turbulent period in our history. Stories of this era often focus exclusively on the political figures and the generals involved.
These are people who have grown up together and in many cases been driven apart due to the respective sides they've chosen in the conflict, Tory vs Patriot. There are no real villains in this equation, since it's possible to make a good faith argument both for the rightness of maintaining allegiance to the Crown and the rightness of seeking independence due to unjust treatment.
It's fascinating to watch these political allegiances play out within the context of relationships, impacting friendships, romantic couplings, even family relations.
The spy angle is intriguing, well integrated into the story, and hooks you from the start. The acting, directing, cinematography, as so often with AMC, all top notch. Hooked, thrilled, emotionally invested, can't wait to see more!