Be open-minded. I know that may be easier said than done, especially if you are a fan of the Coen Brothers, but Fargo the TV miniseries, as least as far as the first episode goes, only uses the characteristics of their 1996 film rather than being a direct extension of it. And it uses them well.
After a similar disclaimer the film used, stating that what we are about to see is a true story with the names changed, although the TV series' events took place in 2006, fate brings together Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) and Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) in a hospital waiting room in Bemidji, Minnesota. Lorne has been injured in a car accident while Lester gets hurt during a run-in with Sam Hess, a bully who used to terrorize him when they were younger.
Lorne offers to kill Sam as retribution, which is, oddly enough, the nicest gesture anyone makes towards Lester. He struggles as an insurance salesman, his younger brother is more successful and lets it be known, and his wife constantly nags him because of her disappointment. Lester doesn’t say yes, but Lorne notices he doesn’t say no, either, and that's where the trouble begins.
In fact, Lorne is the source of a lot of trouble in this town. Some people make very bad decisions after coming in contact with him, like the young man who pees in his boss' gas tank. There's a standout moment in the same vein later on that surprised me because I didn't think the character capable.
From this episode, the theme of the series seems like it's going to about people deciding between what they want and what is right. Lorne obviously represents the former and someone is eventually going to have to stand up and do the latter to stop him. But that comes at a price and not all are willing to pay that price as revealed in the great scene between Lorne and Deputy Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks).
Developed and written by Noah Hawley, there are obvious similarities to Fargo the film. There's the Minnesota setting and the particular dialect from there, the mix of crime and humor, and Lester quickly getting in over his head with the wrong people like Jerome "Jerry" Lundegaard did. Yet, things are different enough that the episode didn't feel like a cheap imitation or limited in its potential.
Fargo is a 10-episode miniseries airing on FX and "The Crocodile's Dilemma" has me absolutely intrigued on what happens next, dontcha know.