FX's 'Fargo' Doesn't Avoid the Movie Comparisons, It Invites Them

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The FX series Fargo, which begins tonight, isn't concerned about being compared to the Coen brothers film on which it is based. In fact, it invites the association. 

"There’s more talk of how can we make this shot look more like the shot from the movie so that we can make a nod toward the movie," star Allison Tolman told The Wire in an interview. "Throughout the season, there’s just more and more, some more overt than others, and some that are basically just Easter eggs for Coen fans."

Colin Hanks, who plays Duluth cop Gus Grimly, concurred. "They filmmakers, the directors, the DP, Noah [Hawley, who wrote the show's 10 episodes]—they would borrow stuff, I think, from a lot of Coen films," Hanks told us. "They’ve got a very specific way of doing things that we sort of borrow from."

The most obvious example of an overt nod to the Coens is in the show's opening. Episodes begin with some version of a very familiar disclaimer. In the premiere, the first seven minutes of which are online already, the full series of title cards reads: "This is a true story. The events depicted took place in Minnesota in 2006. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead the rest has been told exactly as it occurred." Those words are exactly the same as the ones that open the Coen brothers' movie, only the not-true-"true" events to which the Coens are referring took place in 1987. 

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A viewer can recognize the world from the film—Martin Freeman's Lester Nygaard is a schmuck not dissimilar to William H. Macy's Jerry Lundegaard, for instance—but the show doesn't feel like a crass copy. (The Coens are executive producers but remained mostly uninvolved.) Tolman plays Molly Solverson, an earnest police woman not completely dissimilar from Frances McDormand's Marge Gunderson, the role which won McDormand an Academy Award. But while Marge is already a police chief, Molly is struggling to be taken seriously. "She’s really smart, but she really has to fight up stream to get anywhere in this department," Tolman said. "So she spent the whole season try to get these things done and you don’t have to watch Marge struggle like that, you know." 

That's not to say the show doesn't engage in fan service and will perhaps hint at more connections between the show and the movie as the series continues. The fourth episode begins with a flashback to 1987, when a man finds a stash of money buried near a fence by the side of the road.  

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.