When I first heard of FX's Fargo, I immediately thought it would be yet another bland TV series adaptation of a popular movie from the '90s. But soon I gave in to the reviews and massive word-of-mouth recommendations, binge-watched the first season, and I was amazed — I love the TV series way more than I liked the Oscar-winning Coen Brothers movie from 1996. I can't say what it is. Maybe I'm older and wiser; maybe it's characters; or maybe Billy-Bob Thornton is simply fascinating as the most menacing TV villain of 2014. No matter what the draw, folks who missed it the first time around will get a second chance to watch all 10 episodes of the Emmy-winning series when FX (or rather FXM) starts a 10-hour Fargo marathon at 2 p.m. on New Year's Day 2015.
Get this: The pilot and second episode will even be shown commercial-free and those are definitely must-sees. But, at the risk of sounding like a salesman, don't stop there. The rest of the series — about insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), who kills his wife and gets entangled with Lorne Malvo (Thornton) in a small Minnesota town — features so many great moments and performances by Freeman, Thorton, Allison Tollman, Colin Hanks, Kate Walsh, and even a stunning turn by Glenn Howerton, who's mostly known for his comedic roles on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Mindy Project.
If you can't tune into the whole marathon, here are three episodes to speed watch that'll having you say "aw jeez":
Episode 4: "Eating the Blame"
This thrilling episode starts with an explanation of the unwavering faith in God of supermarket king Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt) — which Malvo is using to break and blackmail Milos. Idiot Don Chumph (Howerton) even disguises himself as a plumber to plant the idea in Milos' mind that he's experiencing a biblical plague — first Millos got covered in blood in his Malvo-rigged shower, then Chumph and Malvo release crickets in Milos' supermarket for the owner to think it's a plague of locusts. It's kind of fun to see such a wealthy man be reduced by bugs and see just how cunning Malvo is.
Nygaard tries his best to evade Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench, which even includes punching a police officer and putting him in jail — but the crafty Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench figure out how to end the episode in the same exact cell as Lester.
Episode 6: "Burdian's Ass"
This episode is when every storyline comes to a head and it's deliciously satisfying. Without spoiling too much, there's a snowy whiteout shoot-out, throat-slitting, hospital espionage, a bag of cash in the snow, and a formidable body count, and an intricate shotgun contraption that must be seen to be believed.
Episode 10: "Morton's Fork"
Naturally, this is the finale of Season 1 and, believe me, it's worth the wait. I must note that two episodes prior to "Morton's Fork," the series has a brilliant one-year flash forward that changes everything up for the better. Do good guys Gus Grimley and Molly Solverson prevail, or do Nygaard and Malvo craft another sneaky way out of this mess? Finding out is kind of the best part.
Image: Chris Large/FX