And Now For Something Completely Different: Fargo (FX) and the Art of Spinning-Off

“This is a true story.”

Fargo is a masterpiece. No, I’m not talking about the Coen Brothers film, though that is a masterpiece as well. I’m talking about the FX series by the same name which debuted in 2014.

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18 years after its release, Fargo was still beloved, and there wasn’t any need for it to be anything more than it already was. Why have a show? The primary concern was how the show would relate to the film. In a world full of sequels and remakes that reflect poorly on the things that came before them, fans of Fargo had every right to be skeptical. Here, the word “spin-off” sounded a little too close to “sequel” and “sequel” sounded a little too close to “unnecessary.” And not a Coen Brother around? there was plenty of cause for concern.

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But just the opposite happened; the show distanced itself from the plot of the movie. Here, viewers had an entirely new story. (There is one shared plot point between the two, but other than this, each exists in their own right.) The show and film are linked thematically, look similar and have similar characters (rather, character-types, such as a wise and hardworking female detective, a common man who gets involved with illegal activity, and criminals both comic and psychopathic). At surface level, the show bares a resemblance to the film, but manages to feel fresh and tell a new story, without depending on the same characters. By transporting the midwestern noir from an hour and a half film to a ten-episode series, it allows for a larger story to be told. When showrunner Noah Hawley pitched Fargo, he pitched it as a 10-hour movie in the style of the Coen Brothers original.

The show struck an important balance of paying homage to the source material while moving on to do different things. Viewers saw this with Mad Max: Fury Road. In Fury Road, they brought back the title character, but put the spotlight on a new character, in order to tell a new story, which all sequels should in some way strive to do. Otherwise, what’s the point?Fargo 6

The first season of Fargo was a critical acclaim; receiving an 85 on MetaCritic, a 9.0 on IMDb, and 98% acclaim on Rotten Tomatoes. It received the Emmy for best Miniseries. Fans of the film were pleased, and a second season was ordered. Overall, Fargo is a well-made show, and by not worrying about doing all the same things that the film does, it was just that much better.

With Fargo FX returning on October 12th, the only thing that remains to be seen is if the show will continue to live up its first season.

Also, for the record, I think the show is better than the movie. There, I said it.

Fargo 3
“Did he just say the show was better than the movie?”

Additional Reading:

Interview with Noah Hawley, by Lesley Goldberg of the Hollywood reporter

Egoraptor’s Sequilitis: Super Castlevania IV

“Aww jeez”

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9 thoughts on “And Now For Something Completely Different: Fargo (FX) and the Art of Spinning-Off

    1. It could almost be argued that their is a difference between a sequel and a continuation. The first example that comes to mind is Lord of the Rings; Since Fellowship, Towers, and Return all involve the same characters doing the same thing, is it really a sequel? (Lord of the Rings is actually a bad example because Tolkien intended it to be one story, but you get the idea.)
      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was just going to correct you about Tolkien but I get your point. I’m just tired of sequels sucking because effort is not paid to having a good story. The makers expect that the name will bring the fans they don’t have to deliver on the promise. Marvel’s latest movies and the newer Stat Trek movies bucked that trend much to my joy.

        Like

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