Fargo: “The Crocodile’s Dilemma” Review

“Some roads you shouldn’t go down.”

FX’s revival of “Fargo” features great acting, shocking events and a whole lot of mystery.

Note: The following review goes into detail about the episode. SPOILER ALERT!

Ah jeez, it’s a “Fargo” television show! 18 years after the film of the same name graced cinema screens, FX has decided to roll the dice on a limited event series inspired by The Coen Brothers’ award winning and wickedly comical 1996 offering. This isn’t a remake or a reboot of any kind. It’s very much its own entity which doesn’t require any prior knowledge of the film, even though fans of the film will certainly be feeling nostalgic from the moment the theme song plays.

From the moment we meet Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo, we have a good idea of the kind of ride we’re in for. Driving down a freezing road with screaming and banging coming from his trunk, Malvo is obviously an incredibly shady dude. A few silly deer and a car crash later, events have been set into motion that will wreak havoc across the lives of many different, seemingly unconnected people. One of these people is Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), an insurance salesman who seems to be having the latest in a long run of very bad days. His chance encounter with Malvo comes after he inadvertently breaks his own nose in a run-in with his old high school bully Sam Hess, who is now a successful trucking magnate/possible criminal. Nygaard comes across as a cowardly and weak man who has been pushed around for his entire life.

Malvo and Nygaard’s first interaction is wonderful to watch, as Malvo sets about whispering in Nygaards ear, telling him what he would have done in that situation and finally offering Nygaard a solution: say yes and Sam Hess dies, say no and he doesn’t. It’s fascinating to watch and, rather tellingly, while Nygaard doesn’t say yes to the proposition, he also doesn’t say no either. Pretty soon afterwards Sam Hess is lying dead in the back of a strip club with a knife in the back of his neck, and Nygaard’s life is about to get a hell of a lot more complicated.

(Credit: FX Networks)

“If it were me, I would’ve killed that man.” (Credit: FX Networks)

Billy Bob Thornton is wonderful as Malvo here, playing him with just the right amount of mystique so that the character doesn’t descend into silliness. Malvo seems to be an equal opportunity trickster, willing to offer up a deal to kill someone while also pulling a prank to get some kid fired seemingly just for the heck of it. Freeman does a good job of playing poor Nygaard, who has a wife who resents him, and a younger brother who is far more successful than he is. My only complaint is that they may have laid it on a little thick with just how down on his luck Nygaard is, with blow after blow coming in this episode. Even saying that, it did lead us wonderfully towards that brutal moment in the basement where he takes a hammer to his wife’s head.

That moment was the catalyst for the crazy end we got to the episode, along with setting us up a bit for the rest of the season. Now that Nygaard had kind of been complicit in one homicide and had carried out another, why not go for the hat trick and lure Malvo to his death and pin the whole thing on him? To see how quickly Nygaard hatched that scheme was a great way of showing us the kind of man he really is underneath all that ineptitude. Of course it wasn’t going to go according to plan as the Chief Sheriff arrived and was promptly gunned down my Malvo before he could arrest Nygaard. The whole thing was an absolute bloody mess, topped off by Nygaard knocking himself unconscious before any other cops could arrive, thus sparing himself from arrest, for now…

The Breakdown

This was a jam-packed episode full of enough small moments to fill another couple of reviews, but the focus had to be on Malvo and Nygaard for now. In one single episode, “Fargo” has managed to establish a wonderful, living world full of interesting characters who we want to learn more about, and that’s no mean feat. There were brief appearances from other notable actors such as Colin Hanks, Bob Odenkirk and Keith Carradine who will surely have more of a part to play going forward, but for now I almost wish we could just watch Malvo driving from town to town causing trouble. There are a lot of mysteries bubbling under the surface of “Fargo,” such as the crime syndicate Hess was involved with and who exactly Malvo works for, but I’m sure they’ll slowly unfold over the course of the season. I do wonder though, will a bag filled with $920,000 make an appearance?


About Michael Spring (159 Articles)
Michael Spring is a staff writer for If he's not playing Metal Gear or watching some excellent TV show, he's more than likely asleep. For some witty banter and the occasional rant about football, you can follow him @OldSnake24 on Twitter

3 Comments on Fargo: “The Crocodile’s Dilemma” Review

  1. May I just say what a comfort to find an individual who really knows what they’re talking about on the net.
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  2. Very pleased with this pilot. It absolutely nailed the tone and style of the film without trying to be a retread. Martin Freeman is as charming as he is bumbling and while it’s similar to William H. Macy, I’m glad it’s not a reboot or retelling of the original. And wow did Billy Bob Thornton draw me in. Reminded me very much of Anton Chigur on No Country for Old Men. Very much invested in this series.

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