TV Corner: Fargo

[Content Note: Misogyny. Spoilers from the first few episodes of the TV series Fargo.]

Last September, I mentioned that FX was making a TV series based on the 1996 Coen Brothers' film, Fargo. At the time, I said it didn't sound particularly appealing to me, and, frankly, it still didn't sound appealing to me when it premiered a few weeks ago, but then some friends who have similar taste in television as I do recommended it to me, so I tuned in.

The show, which is set primarily in Minnesota, not Fargo, has a whole new slate of characters and a whole new cascading series of crimes, also allegedly (but not really) based on a true story. It's a similar flavor to the film, in that a bumbling jackass decides to solve his domestic and vocational problems by committing a crime directed at his wife, the consequences of which quickly spin his life out of control.

The show is more violent, and its plot more complex, than the film. The story is set against the same sort of snowy, austere backdrop as the film, with the actors doing their best to approximate Minnesota's cadences, to varying degrees of success.

There are plenty of things to criticize about the show (and criticism is totally on-topic for this thread), first and foremost that the cast is comprised almost exclusively of white men.

But I am less interested in writing about what I don't like about the show than about what I do. Specifically: Deputy Molly Solverson.

image of actress Allison Tolman, an in-betweenie white woman with brown hair, in character as Deputy Molly Solverson in Fargo

Deputy Solverson (see what they did there?) is played by Allison Tolman, who is fucking amazing in this show. She fully inhabits her character, a competent small-town cop who loses her rightful place as chief of the department through an unfortunate series of events that I won't spoil, leaving her at the mercy of the aggressively incompetent Bill Oswalt, played to frustrating perfection by the always-terrific Bob Odenkirk.

Basically, Solverson knows what the fuck is up. But she is incessantly thwarted by Oswalt, who is the embodiment of white male privilege and the fraternal assumptions of Good Guyism that render him incapable of even imagining that a white man who appears to be a Good Guy could be anything different.

Tolman plays to perfection all of the things that we know Solverson is navigating: Feelings of frustration, balancing her fierce integrity against subverting the rules that undercut justice, the subterranean slow-boil of anger at the confluence of patriarchy and stupidity that repeatedly stymies her momentum.

Solverson is a great character, and Tolman is a great actress. I can't wait to see where we go with her, the struggling hero, in the second half of the series.

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