Fargo “The Crocodile’s Dilemma” Review (1×01)

16 Apr


“What if you’re right, and they’re wrong?”

Fargo was and will always be a classic, and it is a cinematic achievement rivaled by very few. To go into this limited series, we must be of the mindset that it is most definitely not the film and is most definitely not trying to be the film; rather, it draws from elements of the Coen brothers’ work and crafts a new world around them, all the while maintaining a constant foundation in the setting.

This episode is far from perfect, but it certainly has me intrigued. The cinematography is fantastic and the Coen bros. style is all over it. The humor is sharp and weaved in beautifully, balancing out the darkness with elements that are abundant, but never intrusive. The actors disappear into their roles, with Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, and (an unknown, but awesome find!) Allison Tolman anchoring a stellar cast that includes people like Bob Odenkirk and Oliver Platt.

Understandably, though, the majority of the pilot is concerned with set-up, coming across as a bit overstuffed at the end of it all; interestingly enough, the film was around the same length (a bit longer due to the lack of commercials), but it was able to tell a wholly realized and compelling story in that amount of time. Here, our brains can make the adjustment, but that doesn’t mean the show avoids all the standard pilot flaws: broad characterization, a lagging plot, etc.

Nevertheless, there are a plethora of intriguing character moments in this episode. On the surface, Fargo seems to be building up Lester Nygaard as a Walter White-esque character, but it’s so much more than that. Lester Nygaard is Walter White without the intelligence, without the very character aspects that made the latter so good at what he did; the concept of masculinity that Malvo conveys–take what you want, because that will make you a man–backfires on Lester. He isn’t able to get the laundry machine to work for him, and while he gets away with the murder for now, that doesn’t erase the scene in which he runs headfirst into a poster that essentially confirms his delusions. There’s a semblance of intelligence there, as he’s getting away with murder, but there’s an even greater emphasis on just how pathetic he is.

In fact, the episode does a very nice job of turning the audience on him like that. At first, we relate with him and his situation–although hopefully, no one has ever told any of you readers that he tells others you’re dead–but when he repeatedly takes a hammer to his wife’s head, he looks psychotic. Freeman’s excellent there, and the direction conveys this idea by detaching us as an audience; before, we see a close-up of his battered face at the hospital, but here, we see the body of a man who does that battering; we then see the aftermath. Lester has nothing to gain from any of this, and he’s going to have to crawl out of a hole that he dug for himself. Malvo just nudges him along.

Going off that point, we can tell that Malvo’s someone who seems to enjoy toying with people–as exemplified by the scene in which he calls Hess’s son or by the motel scene–but he also recognizes when he needs to exert his control and confidence. He has the same effect on people as Anton Chigurh, and he becomes less and less one-dimensional as the episode progresses; Billy Bob Thornton is stellar throughout, and I look forward to seeing how his character develops.

When all is said and done, just as in the movie, we’re watching bad people do very bad things. We connect with their stories, but just as in the movie with Marge Gunderson, without people like Molly Solverson and Gus Grimly, there’s no sense of morality. The episode’s opening scene is Malvo hitting a deer, and the episode’s closing scene is Molly–keep in mind, the one who couldn’t even find the deer at first–walking toward us in the snow. This is a crime-filled world, but it has to come apart at some time.



-“What do you want me to write for ’cause of death’?” “Put ‘self explanatory'”.

-“Sir, bacteria are not pets.”

-There’s a lot of excellent direction during the scene in which Malvo kills the Sheriff (sad to see Doyle go so soon). Lots of misdirection, suspense, intensity as a result.

-If anything, this is more similar to No Country For Old Men than it is to Fargo.

-I really like the “Special: White Russian 4.95” sign.

-Malvo should just tell Lester that he “Better Call Saul”.

-More accents! Yes! I must admit, I lost it at

-A bunch of other actors and actresses show up for short periods of time. I won’t mention them here, as I’m sure I’ll have a chance to delve into their characters as the series progresses.

-FX is on a roll right now.

-I’ll be covering each episode of the show for the next 10 weeks. Join me, ya?

Photo credit: FX, Fargo


4 Responses to “Fargo “The Crocodile’s Dilemma” Review (1×01)”

  1. louisoc April 16, 2014 at 5:01 am #

    I thought it was just fucking brilliant, and I would put the film in my top ten of all time. This cast is just excellent, big names and unknowns alike.

  2. JustMeMike April 16, 2014 at 9:10 am #

    It was a wonderful episode. No doubt that a lot of peculiar and/or shocking things happened and will continue to happen. Like the opening. car crash and the guy runs off into the cold night in just shorts. I guess he was doomed and knew it. But why?

    I look forward to your continuing reviews.

    • polarbears16 April 16, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

      Ah, yes, I forgot to mention that. We’ll see how it plays out.

  3. Pop Eye April 17, 2014 at 5:55 am #

    Wonderful review. I like the episode more than you did though. As I said in my review/recap: “If this first episode is any indication, FX’s Fargo will be one of the best shows airing at the moment: amazing writing, acting, and a wonderful blend of emotion, dark humor and terror.” Like you I think Thornton’s character is the standout so far, and I’m very intrigued by both Malvo himself and the actor’s performance. I can’t wait to see how he develops.

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