Fargo (TV): Finding Sense in the Senseless

by Daniel Giorello | Staff Writer

Whenever the Coen Brothers release a new film, there’s always an intense circle of discussion, not necessarily around the film specifically, but more on how best to understand it. Many of the Coen Brothers’ works, especially the original Fargo film, are about learning how to make sense out of what often feels senseless. With this spiritual successor to Fargo, the Coen Brothers, while still executive producers, lend more of a guiding hand to the “true crime” anthology stories told in each season. Their influence is made obvious throughout each episode, and perhaps is what allows Fargo to stand out so well amidst a fictional genre that feels plagued with lookalikes is its willingness to take a story that’s so often built around reason and force the viewer to draw their own understandings about morality, motive and the very nature of existence.

To be clear, while each episode will start claiming it is based on a true story that has changed the names of the characters “out of respect for the living,” this is mostly a fabrication. The creative team has stated they want the show to feel as authentic as possible, thus the inclusion of the phrase, “This is a true story.” While the events of each season are based on true events, lead writer Noah Hawley has said he is more interested in deconstructing how we view that statement based on how often he writes the story the way he wishes to tell it.

Thus, the narrative becomes far more compelling based on the fluid nature of each chapter. It’s a show that’s best gone into with no expectations. The less you know at the outset, the more you appreciate the bigger picture that’s drawn through each season. The largest setback with adapting non-fiction to the screen is finding the right balance between entertaining and fair storytelling, but Hawley’s quiet removal of that constraint allows for a more nuanced exploration of the human condition, something that Fargo deals out in spades with each episode. Despite excessive violence or a touch of black humor, this is a character drama at heart; one that can be taken as literally or as ridiculously as you choose to perceive it. Yet this is the show’s finest achievement; that through the lens of either interpretation, the show finds a way to mystify and draw someone in, similar to the way Breaking Bad’s comic book realist atmosphere was always able to place something in each episode for any kind of viewer and still construct a near-immaculate narrative.

I’m obligated to remind the reader Fargo has its small imperfections, as there’s the odd occasion when the show believes it’s being more clever than it thinks. Yes, its willingness to embrace its inherently preposterous concepts pave the way for a piece of art that’s almost as self-aware as the individual watching the show. In this way, a case could be made that Fargo is one of the highest forms of art, that it could inspire the mind yet allow individual conclusions to be drawn about how highly truth and morality are valued in places where these two ideals have yet to be truly tested. Bottom line: this is one of the best shows I’ve had the pleasure of viewing and likely my favorite show on television right now. It’s 10/10 pinecones. Go watch it.