Fargo Season 1 Episode 1 Review: The Crocodile's Dilemma

Spoiler Alert:

With the movie out of the way, we can start the first episode of the TV show.  And boy, does it have a strong start.  How strong?  Let's find out.

The Crocodile's Dilemma introduces us to peculiar hitman, Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton), who gets into a car accident near Bemidji, Minnesota, when a deer runs out in front of his car.  This allows  the man locked in the truck of Lorne's car, Phil McCormick (Dave Trimble) to escape.  Wearing nothing but his underwear, Phil takes off into the frozen wilderness.

The next day, we meet Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), an insurance salesman.  Lester is a very timid man and a total pushover.  His wife, Pearl (Kelly Holden Bashar), doesn't even think of his as a man, and his younger and more successful brother, Chazz (Joshua Close), doesn't respect him.  Lester has a frustrating day, where he loses a sale, and runs into his high school bully, Sam Hess (Kevin O'Grady).  Sam and his two sons bully and belittle Lester, which ends in Lester accidentally breaking his nose.

Lester and Lorne just happen to sit near each other in the hospital waiting room.  When they get to talking, and Lester explains his issues with Sam, Lorne tells him that he would have killed Sam.  Lester jokingly suggests that Lorne kill Sam for him.  Lorne expresses a willingness to do so, Lester tires to stop him, but is called away by a nurse before he can expressly tell Lorne not to kill Sam.  That night, Lorne tracks Sam down to a strip club and murders him.  Unfortunately, Sam works with an organized crime syndicate based out of Fargo, and the syndicate sends out two men to deal with the situation.

Bemidji Police Chief, Vern Thurman (Shawn Doyle), and his best deputy, Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) find Lorne's abandoned car and track down Phil, finding him frozen to death in the woods.  Then they start investigating Sam's murder as well.  They manage to figure out that the cases may be related when they learn about Lester and this "mystery man" discussing Sam Hess in the hospital waiting room.

Lester and Pearl have a fight that escalates to violence when he bashes his wife's head in with a hammer.  Panicking, Lester calls Lorne, asking for help, intending to shoot Lorne and frame him for Pearl's murder.  Lorne agrees to come over.  Before he can, Vern arrives to ask him about his conversation in the waiting room.  Vern discovers Pearl's body and starts calling for backup.  Lorne arrives and shoots and kills Vern with a shotgun.  One shot buries itself in Lester's hand.  As Molly arrives on the scene, Lorne escapes, and Lester rams his head into a wall, knocking himself out, making him look like another victim.

The next night, in Duluth, Minnesota, Police Officer Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) pulls over a speeding driver, who happens to be Lorne.  Lorne threatens Gus, scaring him enough, that Gus let's Lorne drive away into the night.

What Works:

Everything.  This is a fantastic episode of television and one of my favorite pilots ever.  It perfectly captures the tone of the movie, and even improves on it in some ways.  We have excellent actors, especially Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton.  Lester has an absolutely fascinating arc, and Lorne is a terrifying and compelling character.  Both performances are marvelous.

The violence is excellent and unexpected, and each of the deaths is very memorable.  But with the violence comes an excellent, if dark sense of humor.  The writing is on point.

The final highlight of this episode comes from the death of Vern.  He is set up to be the protagonist of the show.  He gets much more screen-time than actually protagonist Molly, and his death is so unexpected and tragic.  It really is a shocking moment and off the bat let's us know that in the world of Fargo, no one is safe.

What Sucks:

Nothing.  I have no flaws.  This is one of the best pilots I have ever seen, up there with Lost and Breaking Bad.  I can only hope the rest of the show continues at this level for the rest of this re-watch.


The first episode of Fargo has absolutely got it going on.  If you haven't seen it, why are you reading this, go watch the show.

 10/10: Amazeballs.  Watch this immediately, if not sooner. 


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