I loved the original Fargo the movie. However I hated the more recent No Country For Old Man, directed by Coen bros too. So my expectations for this remake is 50% hopeful 50% cynical. I'm up to date with the latest episode, here's my feedback...
(edit) 19/06 Just watched the finale. Non-spoiler updated bits at the bottom.
Good news is, Alison Tolman did not disappoint as the female lead. Totally in character, totally giving and unaffected as an actor. Colin Hanks and Bob Odenkirk of Breaking Bad are also well-casted, played their role very convincingly, with just the right note and intensity.
Bad news, Billy Bob's portrait of Malvo, though convincing as the chief villain, is OVERLY painted as a character by the writer and director - too petty and anal in a juvenile text-book sociopath way, like the creative team is trying to jam every psychology textbook bad behaviors onto one Look He Is SO BAD person. End result is a supposedly-vicious and super-intelligent villain who is tedious and over-complicated, who would've self-sabotaged his petty self to death before he turned 30. The movie version of him was a lot more consistent, focused, complicated yet logical, hence convincing, and truly menacing.
Martin Freeman did his accent OK, but overacts like the recent crop of English actors appearing on Newsroom - their animated-ness too English slapstick, and jarring.
More importantly, both the villains are really NOT that interesting, no matter how they try to spin it. Evil, no matter how it complicates people's lives, is ultimately banal, and once the motive is shown, we need to move on to ACTIONS and CONSEQUENCE. The story has two key villains and 2 good guys, but the Noah Hawley team of writers waste 80% of their energy on DESCRIBING the bad guys - their personal habits and obsessions, their lone thoughts and musings, their mundane tastes even toilet habits.
Character description does not a story make. Coen brothers of Noah Hawley don't seem to notice how far they have strayed. They became as pointless as the amount of blood and gore spilled behind their cameras.
Deep into the story we still don't know our lead gal that well, except how passive and reactive she supposed is. Very unlike the movie version of the same character played by Frances Mcdormand, a clearly-defined and fully-grown character who dominated the screen and drove the story from start to end.
Alison Tolman may not be a top-biller but she is clearly an equal - or more worthy of screen presence than Billy Bob and Martin Freeman.
No Country For Old Man, really? Movie and TV land continue to be No Place For Typical Women - even when in the original real life story it was the very pregnant woman who led and changed and fixed and cleaned up everything the men screwed up.
If the movie dramatized the real story by a factor of 2X, this TV version went for 10X total liberty. Failure to be consistently realistic diminished this version of Fargo, and turned into run-of-the-mill cop show showcasing human depravity for the sake of it, and make the disclaimer "respect to the victims and family" yadda yadda totally meaningless, even insulting.
I would have given this a 9 for Alison, Hanks, Odenkirk, and overall "worthy of telling" real life story. But minus 3 points for the excessive grotesque for its own sake images that Coen brothers have taken to enjoy shoving at their audience, the whole writing/directing team's autistic preoccupation with banal and boring baddies, and the minimization of the true driving force of Fargo, the far more interesting lead female character.
The annoying Billy Bob's Malvo villain character got more annoying as the story progressed - more Malvo's petty and passive-aggressive bullying of your average goodie two shoes family sort. More Malvo's impulsive and wasteful killing of his money-scheme victims, more Malvo's irrational killing of people NOT WORTH killing if one is to avoid complicating one's agenda or increasing risk of being caught. And the totally inefficient, totally stupid decision to repeatedly NOT KILL those he's supposed to kill long time ago. Malvo of Fargo remake will go down as the most idiotic "scary" villain ever written for "serious crime" TV.
The last two episodes are classic examples of bad writing...character inconsistency reached fever pitch, plot jumping reached grade-B soap opera level, and I haven't witnessed deus ex machina scenes so tightly packed together in one episode.
If only the writer/ director don't try to take themselves so seriously. The whole thing is so SELF-CONSCIOUSLY orchestrated, from the badly attempted humor to the anal-retentively presented gore, it has no soul left at the end.
I will officially steer clear of anything written by Noah Hawley, and avoid Coen brothers products with a ten thousand foot pole.
If you must watch this, focus on Alison and Colin's acting, the rest, just bunch of anal directors self-consciously arranging their puppets on their self-satisfied stage.